Published: November 28, 10:30 a.m. ET
Updated: December 7, 4:40 p.m. ET
Anyone who has been watching LAFC’s MLS Cup Playoffs run has been witnessing the man who should be Canada’s No. 1 showing off his credentials.
Max Crépeau is Canada’s best goalkeeper right now. The fact he is not yet recognized as such at the national team level is a failure to evolve — one partly born out of circumstance, admittedly, but a failure nonetheless. Every game that passes with him not elevated to No. 1 in place of Milan Borjan is another instance of that failure to evolve.
We may never know whether Crépeau would have got his chance to stake his claim as CanMNT’s full-time first-choice goalkeeper already had he not suffered a horror leg break in extra time of last year’s MLS Cup Final. He would certainly have gone to the World Cup as a well-respected member of camp and, at worst, a quality back-up to Borjan.
But what Mauro Biello — or whoever is in charge of the men’s national team come March — needs to recognize with some urgency is that the time for debate about whether Crépeau has the credentials to take Borjan’s place in goal has come and gone. Crépeau is a core part of the future of CanMNT in goal. The time is now.
Crépeau has kept clean sheets in all of his last three playoff games in recent weeks, making five saves against the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place, seven (many of them stunning) against the Seattle Sounders, and another five last weekend as LAFC won the Western Conference. It’s been a stunning multi-episodic show, and one that any onlooking Canadians would have looked at with a mixture of envy and disbelief; envy that there’s a goalkeeper out there who could have been doing that for Canada this fall, disbelief that he wasn’t.
None of this is intended to denigrate Borjan, who has been a great servant for this national team. He really has. From the late-2023 standpoint, it’s all too easy to remember the numerous superb saves he made during Canada’s World Cup qualifying run, many of which preserved vital points on the road to finishing top in the Octagonal.
But that was then, and this is now. If you’re only as good as your last game (or even your last half-dozen), it’s become clear that CanMNT could feasibly have moved on from Borjan as the starting goalkeeper any time in the last 11 months and potentially been better off for it. Crépeau, in particular, is not so much “making a strong case” to be the first pick as he is standing up and asking outright “why is it not already me?”
As well as being a strong shot-stopper and reliable when it comes to dominating his own penalty area, he’s also in a prime age for a goalkeeper and is a better tactical fit for this Canada team, more adept at playing out from the back with his feet. We’ve seen Borjan try to do that on occasions recently and, frankly, we’ve seen it go wrong.
This is not to say Borjan has to be ditched entirely; ask anyone within the CanMNT program and they’ll say that Borjan is an experienced veteran who is as valuable for his character and his leadership as he is for his physical presence between the posts. Keep him around (as long as he wants to stick around after being displaced as No. 1) for those intangible qualities.
But between Crépeau age 29, and Minnesota United’s Dayne St. Clair, age 26, Canada have two safe-hands goalkeepers ready to push each other for the next couple of World Cup cycles. That’s a healthy position to be in, even before factoring in the likes of other contenders such as Jonathan Sirois and Tom McGill, but Canada need to take advantage of it sooner rather than later to maximize its benefit.
Canada don’t play again until March, when they’ll face a crucial last-chance Copa América qualifier against Trinidad & Tobago they need to and absolutely should win. The national team may well have a new head coach by then. It should have a new starting goalkeeper, too.