Canada names roster for soccer friendles
Coach Stephen Hart relying on European-based players
Interim coach Stephen Hart will rely mostly on European-based players for the Canadian national team's two upcoming exhibition matches in Macedonia and Poland.
Hart's 17-man Canadian roster, which was released on Friday, features 15 players who play for European clubs, but it also includes Toronto FC midfielder Julian De Guzman and D.C. United defender Dejan Jakovic from Major League Soccer.
The more notable names on the Canadian team include goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld (Energie Cottbus), midfielder Atiba Hutchinson (FC Copenhagen) and forward Rob Friend (Borussia Monchengladbach).
Canada is scheduled to play Macedonia on Nov. 14 in Strumica, and four days later, it will meet Poland in Bydgoszcz. Hart is looking at the possibility of adding an 18th player to the roster.
Canada hasn't played a game since the CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer, when it lost to Honduras in the quarter-finals. Thirteen players who took part in the Gold Cup have been named to the roster for the European matches.
One player who won't suit up for Canada on this European trip is Vancouver native Jacob Lensky.
The 20-year-old defender, who plays for Dutch club FC Utrecht, accepted an invite from coach Stephen Hart to play against Macedonia and Poland.
But Lensky, who has yet to make an appearance for Canada's senior team, turned down the offer so that he can play for the Czech Republic's under-21 side.
In theory, Lensky, who has represented Canada at the U-20 and U-23 levels, could still turn out for Canada's senior team sometime in the future, as a player's international and World Cup eligibility isn't determined until he plays in a qualifying game for a country's senior team.
But Lensky's decision appears to be a clear statement that he intends to represent the Czech Republic, his father's birth nation, and not Canada in international play.
Hart was informed of Lensky's decision Thursday afternoon via email.
"It was shocking," Hart told CBCSports.ca. "I spoke to him before. He agreed to come in. We issued a [plane] ticket to him, and up until today, as far as we were concerned, he was going to play for Canada."
Lensky's choice to play for the Czech youth team, and the way it was communicated, left Hart more than a little disappointed.
"The manner in which it was done, right now I have a sour taste in my mouth," Hart admitted.
"We haven't played since July, and basically, this is an outing which will allow me to see the players that are based in Europe," Hart told CBCSports.ca.
"This gives them an opportunity to work together and play together and see how they stand up against some good international competition."
If De Guzman plays against Macedonia, it will mark his first game for Canada since joining Toronto FC in September. The native of Scarborough, Ont., signed with the MLS club after spending the previous four years playing in Spain with Deportivo la Coruna.
De Guzman and Jakovic weren't in Hart's original plans for this European trip, as he thought both players would be competing in the MLS playoffs with their clubs.
Luckily for Hart, they became available for duty when their teams didn't qualify for the MLS post-season.
"Originally, my thoughts were to go all with all European-based players because I honestly thought Toronto FC and D.C. United were going to be in the playoffs, so I had no intention of using any MLS players," Hart admitted.
"But due to injury problems and some difficulties getting players released from their pro clubs, I decided to call up Julian and Dejan."
The Poland match is a special event for Canadian striker Tomasz Radzinski, who will have the opportunity to play in the country of his birth.
Hart said it was "important" to call up Radzinski for the game against the Poles.
"We always get bad press about players jumping from Canada to play for another country, and here's a young man who came here in his teens, had the opportunity to represent Poland and chose to play for Canada. That needs to be respected," Hart stated.
Even without playing a game in the last month, Canada moved up 13 spots to No. 53 in the latest FIFA world rankings, published on Oct 16. It is Canada's highest ranking since October 2007, when it was No. 51.
Poland is ranked No. 56, Macedonia at No. 66.
Under Hart, Canada has compiled a 4-1-1 record this year, including a 1-0 win over Cyprus in May.
The Poles won the most recent encounter with Canada, in Toronto on July 15, 1988.
Canada defeated Macedonia 1-0 in Toronto on May 18, 1998, in the only previous match between the two countries.
Canadian roster (pro team in brackets)
- Goalkeeper — Lars Hirschfeld (Energie Cottbus, Germany)
- Goalkeeper — Josh Wagenaar (Falkirk, Scotland)
- Defender — Mike Klukowski (Club Brugge, Belgium)
- Defender — Kevin McKenna (FC Koeln, Germany)
- Defender — Paul Stalteri (Borussia Moenchengladbach, Germany)
- Defender — Richard Hastings (Hamilton, Scotland)
- Defender — Dejan Jakovic (D.C. United, MLS)
- Midfielder — Julian de Guzman (Toronto FC, MLS)
- Midfielder — Atiba Hutchinson (FC Copenhagen, Denmark)
- Midfielder — Patrice Bernier (FC Nordsjaelland, Denmark)
- Midfielder — Ian Hume (Barnsley, England)
- Midfielder — Marcel de Jong (Roda JC, Netherlands)
- Midfielder — Jaime Peters (Ipswich Town, England)
- Midfielder — Josh Simpson (Manisaspor, Turkey)
- Forward — Simeon Jackson (Gillingham FC, England)
- Forward — Tomasz Radzinski (Lierse, Belgium)
- Forward — Rob Friend (Borussia Moenchengladbach, Germany)