ANALYSIS – The Canadian Men’s National Team revealed their 23-man roster for the upcoming Nations League Finals in Las Vegas, Nevada between June 15th and June 18th. While there were a couple of surprise omissions, there were more relieved inclusions in what will be Canada’s first opportunity for silverware after their disappointing early World Cup exit.
No Aidan Morris, No Problem?: CanMNT Roster Reveal Analysis
There is no real surprise for goalkeepers in this roster, as Milan Borjan keeps his status as Canada’s #1 for now, but has an able deputy in Dayne St. Clair. Many fans might still not recognize the name of Tom McGill, however, as the Belleville native joins up for only the second time.
Borjan is coming off a fresh domestic double with his club team Red Star Belgrade, winning the Serbian Cup as well as the league in his second home. Meanwhile, St. Clair is in decent club form in MLS, keeping five clean sheets in 15 appearances for Minnesota United, who currently sit seventh in the Western Conference. 23-year-old McGill was last playing for Brighton Hove & Albion’s U23 side in the Premier League 2 in 2022, but this season has found himself in the first-team picture, although he has been kept on the bench and has yet to feature for the senior side.
Given that Max Crepeau is still out after the long-standing ACL injury he received last fall, it is no surprise Head Coach John Herdman has gone as expected for the men between the sticks.
Red Star Belgrade recently clinched a 6th consecutive Serbian SuperLiga title, and once again, #CanMNT GK Milan Borjan played a big part as captain
Having had this run of success at Red Star, he’s eager to bring that experience to this summer
— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) May 2, 2023
It is another strong lineup for defenders as well, as Herdman has called upon many of the World Cup defenders in Steven Vitoria, Kamal Miller, Alistair Johnson, Richie Laryea, Sam Adekugbe, and Derek Cornelius. To fill out the defence, Herdman has included former CPL star Dominick Zator, as well as Calgary’s own Scott Kennedy.
Many of these defenders have had stellar seasons since the World Cup, headlining with Alistair Johnson, who has won a domestic treble with Celtic in Scotland and was an integral part of his side’s success. Meanwhile, Sam Adekugbe won the Super Lig with Galatasaray after his mid-season moves there following the terrible earthquakes in Turkey. Steven Vitoria is coming off his most prolific season in Liga Portugal, as he scored seven goals for his Chaves side this year, finishing the season as their joint-top scorer. Cornelius and Zator have both had positive impacts in their new European teams after moving abroad, with Cornelius being a staple in his new Malmo side in Sweden, while Zator has made several Team of the Weeks in Poland for his Korona Kielce side.
Some defenders, however, have had mixed seasons, like Richie Laryea, Kamal Miller, and Scott Kennedy. Laryea and Miller are both struggling to bring their respective teams into the playoff picture in MLS, as Laryea’s Toronto FC currently sits 12th in the Eastern Conference (although he is due to return to his parent club Nottingham Forest in July) while Miller’s new side Inter Miami sit rock bottom in the East. Kennedy’s 2. Bundesliga side Jahn Regensburg, meanwhile, suffered in their domestic league and finished the season in 17th place, sealing their decision into the 3. Liga, Germany’s third-tier league.
Question marks were placed around Cornelius, who seemingly went down injured with a no-contact injury just a couple of days ago, but it seems that the team thinks he will be fit in time for the Finals.
The #CanMNT man now has 7 goals in Portugal’s Primeira Liga this season
Not bad for a 36-year-old central defender! pic.twitter.com/plax72NhRJ
— Canadian Soccer Daily (@CANSoccerDaily) April 29, 2023
Herdman has chosen a good mix of experience and youth in his midfield, calling upon veterans like Atiba Hutchinson, Jonathan Osorio, Stephen Eustaquio, and David Wotherspoon, and recent newcomers Ismael Kone and Victor Loturi.
Hutchinson, who reached 100 caps for Canada in the World Cup against Croatia, comes into the team after finishing his 10-year career at Besiktas in Turkey, where he capped off his final appearance with a penalty goal. Another player to leave his longstanding team is David Wotherspoon, who leaves his hometown club of St. Johnstone also after ten years, where he scored 27 times in 356 appearances. His fellow countryman in Scotland, Victor Loturi, is coming off a relegation battle with his side Ross County, where they just scrapped safety in a relegation play-off penalty shootout win.
Meanwhile, Stephen Eustaquio adds a couple of trophies to the list of Canadians with honours this season, as his FC Porto side won a domestic cup double while narrowingly missing out on the league title to Benfica. Jonathan Osorio, much like Laryea, has struggled to inspire his Toronto FC side in what is turning out to be a very tumultuous time in his province’s capital but has done his part by scoring once and assisting three times in eight appearances this season. Ismael Kone, on the other hand, is still settling at his new side Watford, registering only one assist in 16 appearances for the English side, as they missed out on the chance to go back into the Premier League this season by failing to qualify for playoffs.
Given the personnel in this midfield, we will likely be seeing another midfield three in the starting XI of their first match against Panama.
— beIN SPORTS Türkiye (@beINSPORTS_TR) June 7, 2023
It’s a star-studded forward line for Canada as Herdman calls upon the red-hot strikers Cyle Larin and Jonathan David, while starboy Alphonso Davies returns to the roster as well. Junior Hoilett, Lucas Cavallini, and Tajon Buchanan round out what will be a very direct and dangerous forward line.
Jonathan David is coming off his most prolific season ever in the top flight, finishing his season with 26 goals across all competitions for LOSC Lille and coming third in Ligue 1’s scoring charts, behind the likes of Alexandre Lacazette and Kylian Mbappe. Cyle Larin has found his club form once more, scoring eight goals in 16 matches for Real Valladolid, but could not save them from the heartbreak of relegation on the final day of La Liga. Another teammate who suffered relegation for his club side was Junior Hoilett, whose Reading side finished 22nd in the English Championship after a tough run of games in the last third of the season.
Meanwhile, Lucas Cavallini has had a positive return to Liga MX as he has scored two goals and two assists in eight matches for Club Tijuana, while, on the other hand, Tajon Buchanan finished a disappointing season in Belgium for Club Brugge, scoring only once and assisting only twice as his team finished fourth and well off the mark for the league title. Conversely, Canada’s golden boy Alphonso Davies finished a strong season for Bayern Munich, winning the Bundesliga on the final day of the season, scoring three goals, and providing seven assists across all competitions.
Many fans will be hoping to see the likes of David and Larin continue their red-hot form in this competition, to be able to fire Canada to their first Nations League trophy.
Jonathan David this season for Lille:
An excellent season for the 23-year-old Canadian pic.twitter.com/tHcP0WFUuj
— PurelyFootball ℗ (@PurelyFootball) June 4, 2023
There were three notable omissions in this roster reveal. The first was Mark Anthony-Kaye, who has had a difficult start to life in Toronto FC and has not shown the same quality and finesse that we have seen from him in recent months. Another was Luca Koleosho, the dual-national who has yet to make a competitive appearance for Canada. Koleosho is another Canadian player whose side was relegated this season but scored for Espanyol in their last La Liga game before their drop into the Segunda Division.
Aidan Morris, however, was the most surprising of all omissions, as the US and Canadian dual-national was formally invited to the team in the preliminary roster earlier this month. There is no word yet on whether his omission reflects his decision on which national team to represent.
— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) June 7, 2023
Photo Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports, of December 1, 2022, of a Milan Borjan Headshot.