Canada faces Cayman Islands in its second game of 2022 Qatar World Cup qualifying Sunday after beating Bermuda 5-1 Thursday. (Note: Canada vs Cayman Islands match has since been postponed to Monday, March 29.)
Here are some talking points and some updates from Canada head coach John Herdman:
No injury absences but Hutchinson returns to Turkey
Thursday’s captain Atiba Hutchinson has returned to Turkey, Herdman confirmed Saturday. The departure was not unexpected and was something all parties had previously agreed to.
Herdman didn’t have any other absences to report. Though, he and his leadership team have been cautious with some squad members due to a lack of recent playing time.
“We’re managing players, that this is there first competitive minutes since November, some of these guys,” said Herdman during a media conference Saturday. “So, there are some players we’ve got to manage – just managing the recovery now. That’s been the critical part.”
And at least two unnamed players were taking a little longer to recover than the rest of the squad.
“A couple of guys are a little bit leggy today,” said Herdman. “But hopefully with the sleep tonight, they’ll be ready to go tomorrow. And that excitement of game day will kick in.”
Canada players asked to compete against themselves
Finding motivation playing against teams who are ranked much lower than Canada can be challenging, admitted Herdman. But he has asked his squad to find and apply that motivation from within.
“This group have been clear on what their mantra is,” said Herdman Saturday. “It’s a ruthlessness and to outwork themselves. That was one of the key statements. Regardless of the opponent, it’s about them pushing a level of performance that is about them playing against themselves to some degree.
“Just to keep driving the standard, they believe, this country has to set every game.”
Davies is becoming the player and leader Canada dreamt he’d be
Thursday’s performance provided more evidence that Alphonso Davies is living up to the hype.
The Canadian superstar was deployed further up the pitch than where he usually plays at Bayern Munich. He tallied three assists with his skill and trademark speed as a result. And he would have earned more had some of his teammates been more clinical in front of goal.
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But Davies is not only bringing his skill to the Canada squad. Evidently, the 20-year-old is taking on a leadership role for his country. Against Bermuda, he took responsibility for most attacking set pieces – delivering balls into the box from either side of the pitch. He wants to control the match. And it looks like coach Herdman agrees.
With his talent, speed, leadership and his obvious infectious enthusiasm and pure joy for the game, Davies is becoming the heart and soul of this team. As every Canadian soccer fan hoped he would.
Is it time for a goalkeeper switch?
Milan Borjan has been Canada’s number one for years. And rightly so. There are no Canadian keepers who can match his experience and level of competition. The 33-year-old has and features regularly in Europe for club side Crvena zvezda, earning multiple personal honours along the way.
But is it time to let the likes of Maxime Crépeau, of Vancouver Whitecaps, to get an appearance in a competitive Canada match?
The question would be asked even if Borjan hadn’t made that dreadful mistake that led to Bermuda’s lone goal Thursday. But the error did happen and it’s not the first major gaffe committed by Borjan for club or country.
Borjan will likely continue wearing the number one jersey as 2022 World Cup qualification continues. But maybe Crepeau deserves an opportunity in these early rounds against the likes of Cayman Islands or Suriname, with an eye on the future and for when the transfer of power in goal is eventually required.
Canada face Cayman Islands Sunday, March 28 at 4 p.m. (ET) and can be watched at OneSoccer.