Monday, May 21, 2012

Preliminary roster for USA friendly, WCQs

Stephen Hart announced last Thursday the 22 players that will be in camp in preparation for the June 3rd friendly against the USA, and World Cup qualifiers June 8th in Havana and June 12th against Honduras at BMO Field.

The elect will be gathering today in the southern USA (I'd assume their usual training ground of Sunrise, FL) for 3 days before moving north for a week.

Twitter was abuzz with the novel way the roster was introduced: a youtube video!

While youtube is so 2005, and the big dance floor groove is very 1993, it's still light years ahead of most CSA communications (the player and match data on the website has still not been recovered) so it gets a thumbs up from me.

As to the roster itself:

# Player Pos. Team League Age Caps Gls
1 Lars Hirschfeld GK Vålerenga Norway 33 38 0
18 Milan Borjan GK FC Vaslui Romania 24 6 0
22 Kenny Stamatopoulos GK AIK Stockholm Sweden 32 8 0
2 Nik Ledgerwood D SV Wehen Wiesbaden Germany 27 15 0
3 Mike Klukowski D Manisaspor Turkey 31 34 0
4 Kevin McKenna D FC Köln Germany 32 56 11
5 Andre Hainault D Houston Dynamo MLS 25 24 2
15 David Edgar D Burnley FC England 25 8 0
19 Ashtone Morgan D Toronto FC MLS 21 2 0
21 Ante Jazic D Chivas USA MLS 36 29 1
6 Julian de Guzman M Toronto FC MLS 31 53 4
8 Will Johnson M Real Salt Lake MLS 25 24 1
11 Josh Simpson M Young Boys Bern Switzerland 29 43 4
13 Atiba Hutchinson M PSV Eindhoven Netherlands 29 56 4
16 Pedro Pacheco M CD Santa Clara Portugal 27 5 0
20 Samuel Piette M Fortuna Dusseldorf Germany 17 0 0
23 Issey Nakajima-Farran M Brisbane Roar Australia 28 24 1
7 Iain Hume F Preston North End England 28 34 5
9 Tosaint Ricketts F Politehnica Timişoara Romania 24 10 3
10 Simeon Jackson F Norwich City England 25 26 6
14 Dwayne De Rosario F DC United MLS 34 65 19
17 Olivier Occean F SpVgg Greuther Fürth Germany 30 23 5

Goals 66

Avg age 29.52

Avg caps 26.5

Summary numbers
The 22-man squad, from which an 18-man game day unit will be selected for the WCQs, includes 3 keepers, 7 defenders, 7 midfielders and 5 forwards.  There are 6 MLS players, 3 each plying their trade in England and Germany (4 if you count Samuel Piette, see below), 2 in Romania, and the remainder from a scattering of other European leagues.

Disputed data?
The CSA release has a few errors: Milan Borjan is incorrectly listed as playing for Turkey's Sivasspor, a team he left in January.  He's made 15 consecutive starts for Vaslui, a team that looks likely to earn a place in Champions League qualifying.  Issey Nakajima-Farran is listed as playing with Australia's Brisbane Roar, but is rumoured to have signed with AEK Larnaca of Cyprus.  Sam Piette, who trained with FC Metz this past season, will be spending the next with Germany's Dusseldorf, despite being listed by the CSA as unattached.

It does not smell like teen spirit
The team's average age is 29 and a half.  Due to the vagaries of spreadsheets and calculating with dates, it is likely actually half a year older.  Remove "just there for the experience" guy Piette, and it is well north of 30.  There should be no illusions about the fact that this is the last kick at the can for most of these players, possibly even relatively youthful stalwarts like Atiba Hutchinson and Josh Simpson.

Back problems?
There has been some not-inconsiderable handwringing about the situation at left back.  A dismal performance by Mike Klukowski in his most recent friendly appearance has some fans concerned about that position.  Klukowski has been a personal favourite for some time, and I was indeed concerned by that performance, and his recent unsteady club situation.  But I think he'll take the opportunity to bounce back and with youngster Ashtone Morgan and the steady Ante Jazic waiting in the wings (see what I did there?) left back should be well taken care of.

The greater concern for me is the opposite flank.  Nik Ledgerwood is a Hart favourite, for some reason, and has started 6 of Canada's last 10 matches in that spot. This does not inspire confidence.  I recently went to great lengths to explain why Atiba Hutchinson should be played in that position, but barring this unlikelihood, the man for the job is Andre Hainault.  Hainault is one of the top players for Houston Dynamo.  He is not a Dani Alves-like attacker from the right side, but such a mentality is probably the last thing Canada needs.  The only concern is that Hainault is also a leading candidate for a central spot, and with David Edgar and Kevin McKenna the only other centre halfs in the squad, it looks a bit thin.

Am I being too forward?
What I am most interested to see is who will be leading the line for Canada.  The obvious candidate is he of the terrific Bundesliga promotion season, Olivier Occean.  He is not quite the target forward in the Rob Friend mould, but hey, he all know how well that worked out for Canada anyway.  He is strong and can hold up play but his goal highlights show a decent combination of speed and technique to complement that strength.  However, I've recently developed the notion that Dwayne De Rosario should be Canada's central forward.  To my mind, it's the only position where he can have some effectiveness without being a liability defensively.  I certainly prefer him there than in a traditional #10 role.  Lets also not forget that De Rosario's next goal will put him alone atop Canada's all-time list (let's not worry that fully a third of those goals, including his last 4, are penalties).

Of the remaining forwards, I like Josh Simpson and Simeon Jackson best.  Iain Hume and Tosaint Ricketts do similar things, but at this stage in their respective careers I think Ricketts does them better.  Issey Nakajima-Farran is listed as a midfielder, but expect to see him as wide-playing super-sub, if he see him at all.

4-3-3, yeah you know me!
Don't expect Stephen Hart to depart too far from his preferred 4-3-3 (4-5-1) lineup.  Here's what I expect to see (if you read the 'graphs above you'll know this isn't the lineup I'd choose).

Simpson - Occean - Jackson 
De Guzman - De Rosario - Hutchinson
Jazic - McKenna - Hainault - Ledgerwood

Put me down for the following players, however:

Simpson - De Rosario - Jackson
Johnson - Hutchinson - De Guzman
Klukowski - McKenna - Edgar - Hainault

This all kicks off in 13 days.  Crazy, right?  See thee rise, taste the soup, allez les rouges, and all the rest!


Diego R. said...

Playing Hirchfeld over Borjan would be really unwise, IMO. Not only is Borjan clearly the future based on age alone but with FC Vaslui's recent form considered (which I believe included 5 clean sheets for Borjan), I don't see how he doesn't get the start.

J said...

Hirschfeld is far from perfect, and we saw this recently for Canada when he let in a long range shot against St Lucia. But Borjan has also had some memorable flubs, most notably against Panama at the last Gold Cup. I don't trust Borjan (or the Romanian league, for that matter) enough at this point. For me Hirschfeld's experience is enough to overcome his more limited physical talents.

But I hope Hart lets them have an honest competition in camp and gives them each a half against the Americans. Hopefully one of them will take the bull by the horns.

Anonymous said...

Simpson is now out, so that leaves it more of a guessing game.

Don't see us qualifying, though it we'll probably go down to the last day in Honduras before we are officially out. Just not seeing it with this underachieving veteran core, jono.


J said...

You're probably right. But I have far less hope for the next go 'round, unless Canada somehow lands a quality international manager, so I can't afford but to be all in on this round.