Canada's interim men's soccer coach to rebuild team
Squad has friendlies against Denmark and the U.S. later this month
A handful of veterans and a bevy of youngsters will take Canada's first soccer steps away from the humiliating 8-1 loss in Honduras last October.
The young squad starts assembling in Arizona on Saturday for friendlies Jan. 26 against Denmark in Tucson and Jan. 29 against the U.S. in Houston.
Goalkeepers: Lars Hirschfeld, Valerenga (Norway); Roberto Stillo, Genoa (Italy); Simon Thomas (unattached).
Defenders: Ashtone Morgan, Toronto FC; Nana Attakora, FC Haka (Finland); Dejan Jakovic, D.C. United; Doneil Henry, Toronto FC; Mason Trafford, IFK Mariehamn (Finland); Andres Fresenga, Racing Club de Montevideo (Uruguay).
Midfielders: Nik Ledgerwood, Hammarby (Sweden), Philippe Davies, Richmond Kickers; Terry Dunfield, Toronto FC; Kyle Bekker, Toronto FC; Russell Teibert, Vancouver Whitecaps; Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgault (unattached); Emmanuel Gomez, Club Atletico Griffa (Argentina); Matt Stinson, Toronto FC; Evan James (unattached).
Midfielder-forward: Dwayne De Rosario, D.C. United.
Forwards: Tosaint Ricketts, Sandnes Ulf (Norway); Frank Jonke, FF Jaro (Finland), Kyle Porter, FC Edmonton
It could be a tough trip.
"Let me tell you these two games are going to be no easy task in any way, shape or form," said interim coach Colin Miller.
Miller, a former Canadian international who was put in charge after most of the roster was selected, will lead a 22-man squad that features 10 newcomers to the senior side.
The roster totals 193 senior caps, with attacking midfielder Dwayne De Rosario (71) and goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld (45) accounting for 60 per cent of them.
De Rosario and Hirschfeld are the greybeards of the team at age 34.
Half of the squad was born in the '90s. The Canadian Soccer Association says, with an average age of just under 25, it's the youngest Canadian team since May 2006.
Eight played for Canada's under-23 team at the CONCACAF championship last year. Several are currently without clubs. One, former Vancouver Whitecaps defender Mason Trafford, is taking part in his first national team camp at any age level.
Only four players in Miller's squad saw game action in Canada's recent failed World Cup qualifying campaign: De Rosario, Hirschfeld, Nik Ledgerwood and Tosaint Ricketts.
De Rosario missed the 8-1 debacle in Honduras through injury. Dejan Jakovic and Terry Dunfield were on the bench but did not play.
Ashtone Morgan was a substitute in earlier matches.
Canada dressed 20 players during the six-game round of World Cup qualifying who do not figure in this squad.
Some wanted to come to the national team camp but were between clubs or looking to make inroads with a new team, Miller said.
Still he welcomes the youth movement.
"I think the future looks fairly bright for Canada," he told a media conference call Friday.
Miller says he will probably bring up the loss in San Pedro Sula that knocked Canada out of World Cup qualifying play at his first team talk in Arizona.
"The 8-1 loss — and it's been well-documented — was a disastrous result for Canada, but also a freak result," he said. "This is an entirely different squad, with a view to looking towards the future. And we want to be as positive now as we can.
"There's an opportunity for these young guys to go and establish themselves as the future of the national team program."
The Canadian camp will also serve as an audition for this summer's Gold Cup.
"I don't accept too much fluff on my teams," said Miller, who is in charge while the search continues for a permanent coach. "I want guys that are prepared to fight and battle."
Canada is currently ranked 64th in the world.
Miller says he expects the Danes, ranked 23rd in the world, to also field a young side.
"I know if you wear a Denmark strip, that you obviously have real quality," he cautioned. "They're a very well respected country in Europe."
The 28th-ranked Americans will be looking beyond the Canada friendly to their Feb. 6 game in Honduras, which marks the start of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
The U.S. will call in its big guns for the World Cup qualifiers. Only two of the 11 starters in the Americans' last World Cup qualifier are in the current California camp.
American coach Jurgen Klinsman has called 25 players into camp: 21 from MLS and three from overseas (one is currently without a contract).
So Canada will see a younger, largely domestic U.S. side.
Eight on the U.S. January camp roster are 23 or under and eight are looking for their first senior cap.
Still there is genuine MLS quality on the U.S. camp roster with the likes of defenders Omar Gonzalez of Los Angeles and Matt Besler of Sporting Kansas City, midfielders Brad Davis of the Houston Dynamo, Graham Zusi of Sporting Kansas City, and Kyle Beckerman of Real Salt Lake, and forwards Chris Wondolowski of San Jose and Eddie Johnson of the Seattle Sounders.
"There's no question they're taking this game very seriously. He [Klinsmann] was disappointed with the result in Toronto [a 0-0 tie in June]," said Miller.
"We know it will be a difficult proposition," he added.