Well, folks! It’s been a while since we have had a CanMNT roster to debate. Since the Gold Cup to be precise. With the ignominious cancellation of any men’s soccer activity for the September window, Wednesday’s roster reveal is the first one in nearly four months.
Adding to the intrigue was the fact this would be the first roster chosen by interim Canada head coach Mauro Biello since the resignation of long-time gaffer John Herdman at the end of August. Would it be more of the same or would Biello embark the national program in a new direction? With just one game to play in this month’s international window there does not appear to be much opportunity for experimentation.
It is a solid squad with a few surprise inclusions, and of course, a few surprise omissions. By far the biggest bolt out of the blue was the inclusion of young defender Luc de Fougerolles, currently with Fulham’s U-18 team. De Fougerolles, who will only turn 18 next week is a versatile player lining up as an outside back and central defender. It’s likely De Fougerolles has mostly been called in for acclimatization purposes.
Harry Paton is another surprise in the Canadian midfield. His last call-up was for the 2021 Gold Cup where he failed to find the pitch. His inclusion appears to come at the expense of a pair of promising young MLS midfielders in Ali Ahmed of the Vancouver Whitecaps and CF Montréal’s Nathan Saliba. Ahmed in particular showed much promise in this past summer’s Gold Cup, Herdman’s last tournament in charge.
Between the posts Biello has gone with the tried and true in veteran Milan Borjan. The soon to be 36-year-old will be joined by Dayne St Clair and the returning Max Crepeau. The latter has just recently returned to first team action with Los Angeles FC after a horrific leg break in last year’s MLS playoffs. Missing out yet again is CF Montreal’s Jonathan Sirois. Should his club make the MLS playoffs much of the thanks will be to Sirois’ hot gloves.
The core of the Canadian defence has been selected by Biello, with 36-year-old Steven Vitoria and Kamal Miller holding down the middle, while the outside backs are represented by the ever-present trio of Sam Adekugbe, Alistair Johnston and Richie Laryea. A welcome addition is Malmo’s centre-back Derek Cornelius. Cornelius missed out on this past summer’s Gold Cup with an injury but has been solid for his club all season.
Surprisingly absent on this roster are recently recruited dual national centre-back Zac McGraw. It appears Biello had some tough choices to make on the back line and opted to go with the young de Fougerolles and Moïse Bombito in his stead. However, both of the latter players have been lining up as left-backs for their clubs of late.
There is considerable familiarity among Canada’s midfield contingent, along with a sprinkling of change. Canada will be anchored by the steady Stephen Eustáquio, as well as veterans Jonathon Osorio and Sam Piette. Ismaël Koné has, in a short period of time, become another core piece to this midfield. Despite his lacklustre start with Watford FC in England’s Championship this season, Biello will be counting on Koné’s presence on the pitch.
As already noted, the selection of Paton was somewhat unexpected. However, the choice of Mathieu Choinière, at long last, was no surprise given his strong play and importance to his club CF Montreal over the past couple seasons. Although Choinière was called into camp last November by John Herdman he was an unused substitute in the friendly with Bahrain.
Notwithstanding the international retirement of legend Atiba Hutchinson, and the virtual retirement of David Wotherspoon, there remains much competition to join the Canadian midfield. With so many choices available to Biello, the likes of Mark-Anthony Kaye, Liam Fraser and Victor Loturi find themselves on the outside looking in.
Tajon Buchanan misses out this window as he is still recuperating from a hamstring injury suffered early last month. With Alphonso Davies locked down for the left wing, whether in a more advanced role or in a deeper role that Biello has hinted at, the right flank will be assigned to Liam Millar, now of Preston North End in the English League Championship, or veteran Junior Hoilett.
Despite being off to a good start with Zurich Grasshoppers in Switzerland’s top flight, Theo Corbeanu was not extended an invite. With his current form it may just be a matter of time before Corbeanu gets the national team call again. Luca Koleosho would have been a nice addition too, but he is nowhere near ready to make his international commitment just yet, and is highly coveted by the U.S. men’s national team. With a dysfunctional federation Canada may no longer be near the top of his list, as the Italian youth international also has the Azzurri and Nigeria to consider.
Canada’s strike force is anchored by the dynamic tandem of Jonathan David and Cyle Larin, the top two goal scorers in program history. Larin has had an uneven start to the season with new club RCD Majorca but his spot on the team is assured. David and Larin are joined by Sparta Rotterdam’s Charles-Andreas Brym. Brym, too, has had an uneven start to his season, going cold after an early season brace. But so too have been the fortunes of Ike Ugbo, Jacen Russell-Rowe, and veteran Lucas Cavallini.
The make-up of the roster is heavily dependant upon the tactical plans and the formation Biello has envisioned for this one game window. Any criticisms of the roster’s construction appear to be two-fold. Firstly, it appears to be a bit heavy on defenders, even if some of the selections are there to become familiar with the national team set up. Secondly, this team needs to begin trending younger. It is questionable whether some of the veterans invited back to this squad will be serious contributors to the program as it approaches co-hosting the 2026 World Cup.