Thursday, February 09, 2012

Confirmed selections for Armenia friendly

It may not feel like football weather where you area (it's currently -34 C with the windchill where I reside) but Canada will be kicking off in a friendly against Armenia in under 3 weeks. The February 29th match will be held under more pleasant conditions on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus.

National team head coach Stephen Hart held a conference call yesterday and discussed the Armenia friendly, among other topics. Not surprisingly, he stated that the roster for the match at the end of this month would consist mainly of Euro-based players, with North American players only to be selected as a last resort.

Given the state of the Euro player pool it would not be difficult to name at least a dozen of the 16 or 18 players that will be selected. However, I prefer not to deal in speculation. Instead, I track player tweets and club press releases and provide you only with selections that have been confirmed from other sources

So far we have one name: Burnley mainstay and central defender David Edgar. Edgar received mixed reviews for his performance in the first group stage of CONCACAF qualifying, but has been having an excellent season for his Championship club. With the likes of Jakovic and Hainault not likely to be selected, and Adam Straith having dropped a level down the German pyramid to a 3.Bundesliga side, expect him to start against Armenia.

Update 14:30 12 February 2012: added Olivier Occean

In an audio interview with the excellent and heretofore unknown to me French blog Le Soccer Plus, striker Olivier Occean confirms that he will take part in the Armenia match. Occean is the in form attacker at this moment, having scored at midweek in a Cup match against 1.Bundesliga side Hoffenheim, and adding a goal for his Greuther Furth side in a big 2.Bundesliga victory over Paderborn. His 11 goals are second in the German second tier, and he ranks first in the combined table for goals and assists. Occean has not enjoyed the same goal scoring success with Canada; his tally of 5 goals in 23 matches was padded by scoring 3 goals over the last round against St Lucia and St Kitts.

Update 22:00 12 February 2012: added Pedro Pacheco

With Hart stating that he would try to avoid calling MLS players for this friendly, Canada was bound to encounter some depth issues. Midfield, in particular, would be short of talent with the likes of Julian de Guzman, Dwayne De Rosario, Will Johnson, and Patrice Bernier being allowed to stay with their clubs in pre-season. The selection of Pacheco as published on the CD Santa Clara site, the quasi-Canadian, from the Portuguese second division suggests we should be on the lookout for some other less than overwhelming selections to fill spots in the middle of the park.

Update 08:15 14 February 2012: added Tosaint Ricketts

Tosaint Ricketts has earned a reputation as a supersub, and has scored twice for Canada coming off the bench. One goal came in a friendly with Ecuador and earned Canada the draw, and the second was an insurance marker in the Puerto Rico away match that was close to that point. He also scored while getting the start in Canada's last WCQ against St Kitts. For me, he's a bit down the depth chart, especially with Occean scoring at his current clip, and isn't really in the discussion as a starter, but with his speed he'll always be dangerous late on in matches.

Update 22:40 15 February 2012: added Adam Straith

Defender Adam Straith was a major contributor in 2011's WCQ qualifying round and has long been considered a defender with some promise. He is versatile -- he can play in the centre or at right back -- but recently dropped to the German 3rd tier on a loan spell in order to get more playing time.

Update 16:40 22 February 2012: added Julian de Guzman

Midfield was always going to be a depth concern as long as Stephen Hart was sticking to his rule about sticking with a European-based squad for this match. After the only-recently-healthy Atiba Hutchinson, who else is there, really? De Guzman had an underrated season last year for TFC and seems finally to be recovering from an ongoing knee injury. He will be a big player in the upcoming qualifying campaign and it will be good to see him in action. TFC fans should have no complaints, as he is suspended (yellow cards) for the March 7th CONCACAF Champions League clash. If anything, they should be grateful he's getting live action.

DDavid EdgarBurnley2470[source]
FOlivier OcceanGreuther Furth30235[source]
MPedro PachecoCD Santa Clara2750[source]
FTosaint RickettsPoli Timisoara2493[source]
Adam Straith
1. FC Saarbruecken
Julian de Guzman
Toronto FC


Anonymous said...

How good is Pacheco if he couldn't beat out a herniated Dunfield for a starting mid job at last year's Gold Cup? Not sure he's as good as some want to make him out as. Get the feeling that Fonseca lobbies for him (and hence his throwing of Di Chara under the bus with his comments last fall) whereas Hart sees him as stopgap.

Speaking of hernias, Johnson's surgery will make him a definite no show for Armenia. I still thinking that Hart mainstay DeRo will get the big Air Miles flight call up.


J said...

I'm skeptical of Pacheco's ability as well. He probably offers a bit more in the way of passing vision and technique, but if he can't play ahead of a player as flawed as Dunfield, he's no answer for Canada.

I'm skeptical that we have enough depth at certain positions, especially in midfield, that Hart can avoid calling up MLS players, though it would be nice if he that were the case. If it weren't for the fact that Straith and Edgar are already confirmed, and that McKenna is healthy and playing, I'd have wanted to see another DC United player, Dejan Jakovic, get the call.

I half expect De Ro to be there as well, but I'd prefer to see what guys like Simpson can do when they don't constantly have to defer to Dwayne.

Anonymous said...

Re: DeRo.

I agree with your last paragraph but I have said this before, on here as well as on the Vs board, that if DeRo is fit, willing, and available, Hart will call him. DeRo's his guy, for better or for worse. If fact, I see our starting midfield/forward situation for the Cuba game (and likely the follow up Honduras match) as being the same as always (unless the two coveted hold outs come on the scene, which suddenly changes the game):

------------------De Ro---------------

Johnson to patrol the right side like he did vs the US in GC 11 as well as during all his matches in GC 09 in order to provide stronger defensive support for the RB (likely Ledgerwood).


J said...

I'm not in a location right now where I can properly update the post, but it appears that Julian de Guzman has been selected for the Armenia friendly.

Sensible enough. The European-based midfielder pool is shallow (Atiba and then ...?) and JDG is banned for TFC's CCL match on March 7th. Aron Winter probably would like for him to face live bullets before stepping in for the 2nd leg of the Galaxy series.