Sunday, December 18, 2011

National team debuts in 2011

One of the rituals in these parts at year's end is to have a look to see how the player pool for our men's national team has evolved. It's not always easy to say which players may have had their final kick of the ball for Canada in a given year (though I can't imagine we'll be seeing Paul Stalteri again in a Canada shirt), but it is possible to recognize those who had their first taste of the soup in. This will be the fifth year running wherein I carry out the exercise on this blog.

Have a look at previous years' debutants:
Before we get to the list of Canadians to receive their first senior cap this year, let's quickly look at how involved the 2010 first timers were in Stephen Hart's setup in 2011:
  • Adam Straith: 5 matches, 450 minutes
  • Terry Dunfield: 6 matches, 532 minutes
  • Pedro Pacheco: 4 matches, 87 minutes
  • Nana Attakora: 1 match, 20 minutes
  • Marcus Haber: 1 match, 8 minutes
  • Massih Wassey, David Monsalve, Randy Edwini-Bonsu, Gavin McCallum, Gianluca Zavarise, Carlo Rivas: no appearances
Being a non-Gold Cup year, and far away from critical WCQs, 2010 was used by Stephen Hart to see a number of players, with a total of 11 new selections. Of those 11 only two, Adam Straith and Terry Dunfield, were regular players in 2011. Haber and Attakora suffered from injuries and might otherwise have been more involved, while Randy Edwini-Bonsu is still one to watch for the future.

Now for 2011's debutants, first opponent, caps, and minutes played:

PlayerDebut againstCapsMins
David Edgar
Greece7489
Milan Borjan
Greece5405
Tosaint Ricketts
Greece9225
Ashtone Morgan
St Lucia
2109

Unlike 2010, where a lot of fringe-y players were given a chance, in 2011 Hart seems to have focused on those who he felt would be able to make an impact in important matches.

Here's a closer look at their contributions:

David Edgar (24 years old / Burnley FC, England)

It has been quite gratifying as a Canadian supporter to see the always-promising Edgar finally make his mark in 2011. One can only imagine how much more gratifying it must be for the player himself. On the club side, he had a handful of Premiership appearances and a memorable goal to his name years ago, but it took until this year for him to settle into a regular role in the Championship for Burnley. For Canada he was captain of the disastrous 2007 U20 side, but did not make an appearance for the senior side until February in Greece. His playing time was probably inflated by injuries to regular centre-halfs Kevin McKenna and Dejan Jakovic, but he's likely one of the first 3 or 4 names pencilled at the position for Canada. He also showed some versatility by deputizing at right back in one match, with mixed results.

Milan Borjan (24 years old / Sivasspor, Turkey)

Milan is a guy most of us probably hadn't heard of 18 months ago. For me, he is the most exciting of the players to get their first cap in 2011. Not because of any standout performances -- in fact, he had a memorable and costly gaffe in the Gold Cup match against Panama -- but because he provides quality at a position of little depth. Until Borjan's emergence, there wasn't much behind Lars Hirschfeld on the 'keeper depth chart; the minutes doled out to Kenny Stamatopoulos recently are evidence of that. Add Borjan's frequent statements of appreciation and devotion to his adopted country and you've got yourself a popular guy.

Tosaint Ricketts
(24 years old / Politehnica Timisoara, Romania)

Somewhat of a super-sub under Stephen Hart, Ricketts made the most appearances of all new faces in 2011, featuring in 9 of 11 matches, but garnering only 225 minutes. He was also the only newbie to score, notching goals against Ecuador, Puerto Rico and St Kitts. He has speed to burn, but is unlikely to play a regular starting role until he can learn to better fit into the team concept. This much was in evidence in that final WCQ against St Kitts in Toronto, where his one goal disguised a bevy of squandered chances.

Ashtone Morgan (20 years old / Toronto FC, MLS)

The youngest man to make his debut, Morgan featured in late WCQs against St Lucia and St Kitts. He is the first product of the MLS academy system to make his Canada senior debut, which is itself an exciting development. At left back, he'll face continued competition from veterans Mike Klukowski and Marcel de Jong, both of whom play at a much higher level. Still, he looked adequate for Canada and his strong showings for TFC in MLS and CONCACAF Champions League suggest he is one for the future at the international level. One can only hope that his career continues to progress; he should look at Nana Attakora's 2011 season as a cautionary tale of how quickly a promising start to a career can become derailed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A thoughtful piece, J.

Cheers and happy holidays!
BearcatSA