Wednesday, January 02, 2013

National team debuts in 2012

Over the past 5 years as the calendar turns over I have made a point of noting on this blog the players that have made their first appearance for the Canadian senior national team during that year.  It's a nice look at how the player pool has evolved, and to see which once-promising youngsters from various Canadian youth teams have actually panned out.  With a veteran team crashing out of WCQ and a new coach eventually on his way, 2013 will likely see some more new faces, but we also had several in 2012.

However, before we move on to 2012's first-timers, here's a look at how involved the 2011 debutants were in the national team setup this year:
  • David Edgar: 8 matches, 697 minutes, 1 goal
  • Tosaint Ricketts: 9 matches, 619 minutes, 2 goals
  • Milan Borjan: 4 matches, 206 minutes, 1 clean sheet
  • Ashtone Morgan: No appearances
Three of these 4 have became regular members of the team.  David Edgar was a fixture of Stephen Hart's WCQ defense, playing out of position at right back. Milan Borjan served as the first-choice backup to Lars Hirschfeld. Tosaint Ricketts was either in the starting lineup as a wide player, an emergency central striker, or the first attacker to come off the bench.  Ashtone Morgan was selected to a number of camps but did not play, being fourth in line for the left back spot behind Ante Jazic, Marcel de Jong and Mike Klukowski. With that list due to shorten this year due to expected international retirements, expect to see more of him in 2013.

Now for this year's first timers, including first opponent, caps and minutes played:

Player Debut against Caps Mins
Doneil Henry T&T 1 45
Lucas Cavallini T&T 2 41
Russell Teibert T&T 1 28
Samuel Piette USA 1 4

With an early-season friendly against Armenia being played by a selection of mostly European-based players and a "glamour" centennial friendly against the Americans right on the eve of World Cup qualifying proper, Stephen Hart did not do much experimenting in 2012, as one would expect in a WCQ year.  In fact, the combined 118 minutes played by newbies are the fewest since I began tracking the number in 2007.

A closer look at the debut players:

Doneil Henry (19 years old / Toronto FC)

Along with Russell Teibert, Henry's only appearance for Canada was in August's 2-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago in Florida, of which only highlights exist. He played in the first half of what ended up being a clean sheet. Before he establishes himself with the national team he will need to become an MLS regular, which would be no mean feat for a centre half who is still a teenager. Kevin McKenna's international retirement opens a spot on the depth chart but for the time being Henry would find himself behind Andre Hainault, David Edgar and Dejan Jakovic, and possibly others.

Lucas Cavallini (20 years old / Club Nacional, Uruguay)

Cavallini also featured as a sub in the Trinidad friendly, and a more extended relief appearance in that Honduras match we don't talk about because 8-1.  From what I've seen of Lucas in youth matches for Canada, Cavallini could be the robust central forward with a nose for goal that Canada has often been missing.  The problem, of course, being that it is far too early tell.  What evidence we have on offer from his club career (he currently is on loan from Nacional, one of Uruguay's biggest clubs, to a much smaller side, Juventud) comes by way of grainy youtube video highlights of goals scored against opponents of dubious quality.

Russell Teibert (20 years old / Vancouver Whitecaps)

Like Henry, Teibert will need to work his way into an MLS lineup before he can expect to be a regular for Canada.  Under new Vancouver boss Martin Rennie, Teibert actually played fewer minutes for Vancouver in 2011 than he did the previous year as an 18-year old. However, should he take a few big steps forward in his professional career over the next few seasons it will be of tremendous benefit to Canada.  He offers a skill-set on the left side that was sorely lacking during WCQ, particular with injuries to Josh Simpson and later Dwayne De Rosario.  He was heavily involved in the late-going of the Trinidad friendly, generating (and missing) several goal chances.

Sam Piette (18 years old / Fortuna Dusseldorf, Germany)

Piette was a surprise inclusion in the squad that gathered prior to the USA friendly and the first two World Cup qualifiers against Cuba and Panama.  It was an even greater surprise when he came on in the dying stages of the 0-0 USA draw, the third youngest ever to do so for Canada. He is in a good professional environment at Dusseldorf and his currently working his way up the youth ranks there.  Canada is not starved for defensive midfielders, but he could be a good one by the time the next WCQs roll around in 2016.

Previous editions of this annual post are available for the year's 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.

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