Sunday, December 26, 2010

National team debuts in 2010

It has become an annual exercise here to list those players who made their national team debut within the last calendar year. More often than not these players make one or two appearances for Canada, never to be heard from again. But every year there are one or two who quickly become important cogs in the Canada machine. See for yourselves by looking at past years' editions of this post:
Before we get to the list of Canadians to receive their first senior cap this year, let's quickly look at how involved the 2009 debutants were in Stephen Hart's setup in 2010:
  • Simeon Jackson: 5 matches, 357 minutes
  • Eddy Sidra: 2 matches, 103 minutes
  • Tyler Hemming: 1 match, 90 minutes
  • Dominic Imhof: 0 matches
  • Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgault: 2 matches, 84 minutes
While 5 players does not exactly represent a bumper crop of fresh caps, all but the immortal Dominic Imhof impressed Hart enough to earn at least one more invite in 2010. Simeon Jackson has established himself as a squad regular, while Beaulieu-Bourgault and Eddy Sidra provide depth, although the latter needs to find himself a new professional gig, and soon.

Now for 2010's debutants, first opponent, caps, and minutes played:

Player Debut against Caps Mins
Adam Straith Argentina 5 369
Terry Dunfield Venezuela 2 153
Massih Wassey Jamaica 2 151
David Monsalve Jamaica 1 90
Pedro Pacheco Venezuela 1 81
Haidar al-Shaibani Venezuela 1 20
Nana Attakora Jamaica 1 19
Marcus Haber Ukraine 1 16
Randy Edwini-Bonsu Jamaica 1 14
Gavin McCallum Venezuela 1 9
Gianluca Zavarise Venezuela 1 6
Carlo Rivas Jamaica 1 2

More than any year in the last four, 2010 was a year for trying out new players. Some got a longer look than others, and it is clear which players are likely never to pull on the Canada shirt again. A rundown:

Adam Straith (20 years old / FC Energie Cottbus, Germany)

Straith fending off Shevchenko in Kiev.

Hart clearly has faith in this young defender, giving him his first minutes as a late substitute against Argentina. Straith played each subsequent match in 2010 and his ability to play in central defense or at right back is an asset, particularly with Paul Stalteri slowly but surely on his way out. He seems to have lost his starting spot at Cottbus for the time being which is a concern, but I don't expect that to become permanent.

Terry Dunfield (27 years old / Vancouver Whitecaps, MLS)

One-time prodigy, and now successful reclamation project, Dunfield earned his first call-up as a member of League Two side Shrewsbury Town. Soon after Stephen Hart angered the Shrewsbury Town manager by suggesting the team's level wasn't high enough for an international hopeful, he moved to Vancouver and earned a second cap. Dunfield's strength is a steely midfielder with good instincts, something Canada has lacked in the past. He did not look out of place in either of his matches and I expect there will be a role for him in 2011 as well, though likely not as a regular starter.

Massih Wassey (22 years old / FC Schalke, Germany)

Favourite of the Jamaican announcers, Wassey made his debut as part of the January camp, and made a second appearance in May against Venezuela. The midfielder suffers from the familiar curse: lack of first team minutes with his club. At 22, if he wants to continue to get chances to play for Canada, he needs to find himself a club that will offer him competitive playing time.

David Monsalve (22 years old / FC Inter Turku, Finland)

Monsalve tended goal for the match against Jamaica, allowing a single tally in the loss. Again his problem is familiar: lack of first-team minutes. At 22, he is still young in keeper years (see my Onstad post from earlier this week) but considering the relatively low level of play in Finland he should be getting more time in 2011 or looking for a new opportunity.

Pedro Pacheco (26 years old / C.D. Santa Clara, Portugal)

Pacheco quickly became the subject of Voyageurs lore when the complete unknown was named to the squad for the friendlies against Argentina and Venezuela. He reportedly played well in midfield against Venezuela, and Hart must have thought so as well, calling him into the squad for the Ukraine friendly, though he didn't play in Kiev. He only played a handful of club matches in 2010, that Canadian curse, though injuries were partly to blame.

Haidar al-Shaibani (26 years old / Nimes Olympique)

It's not often you see a 'keeper enter a match in the 70th minute in a non-injury situation, but such is the world of cynical capping we live in. As the backup for a French second tier team, Haidar hasn't seen a lot of time, but such is the state of Canada's goalkeeper depth that he is the putative #2 unless Milan Borjan joins the fold in 2011.

Nana Attakora (21 years old / Toronto FC, MLS)

Of all the players to debut for Canada in 2010, Attakora might have had the most impressive year professionally, anchoring what was a stingy Toronto defense in the first half of the MLS season. It remains to be seen where Hart sees Attakora fitting into the murky centre-back picture, which also includes Kevin McKenna, Dejan Jakovic, Adam Straith, Andrew Hainault and possibly even Adrian Cann.

Marcus Haber (21 years old / on loan to St. Johnstone, Scotland)

Forward Marcus Haber parlayed a 2009 USL rookie of the year season into a deal with EPL side West Bromwich Albion, who immediately loaned him out to St. Johnstone in Scotland for some seasoning. He struggled at the start, but seemed to hit his stride, culminating in the call-up for the Ukraine match. Soon after, however, he suffered a season-ending injury. Canada does not have a great deal of forward depth, and Haber is still young, but I don't expect him to move beyond the fringes of the Canada setup.

The remainders make up the "Will Never Play for Canada again" all stars:

Randy Edwini-Bonsu
(20 years old / Vancouver Whitecaps - released)
Gavin McCallum (23 years old / Lincoln City, England)
Gianluca Zavarise (24 years old / Iraklis FC, Greece)
Carlo Rivas (25 years old / club unknown)

Beyond Straith and Dunfield, it is hard to imagine any of the stable of 2010 debutants making a major impact for Canada in 2011, though I've certainly been wrong before.

Players I'd like to see make their debut in 2011: David Edgar and David Hoilett (not the first time they've made this wish list), and Milan Borjan. Who's on your wish list?

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