Injecting a touch of youth with veteran savvy has been the modus operandi for the Canadian men’s soccer team so far this World Cup qualifying campaign and that trend continued Thursday.
Canada announced its 18-man roster for the upcoming home and away games against St. Kitts and Nevis and included on the list was Toronto FC teenager Matt Stinson.
The 19-year-old midfielder joins 20-year-old defender and TFC teammate Ashtone Morgan, who was again named to the national team squad.
With PSV Eindhoven midfielder Atiba Hutchinson still out of the mix with injury, Canadian coach Stephen Hart also selected veteran midfielder Patrice Bernier for the St. Kitts fixtures.
1 point to advance
Canada plays in St. Kitts on Nov. 11 and hosts the Caribbean nation on Nov. 15 at Toronto’s BMO Field.
Canada needs only one point to advance to the next round of qualifying in CONCACAF region, the region covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.
Stinson, a speedy 19-year-old midfielder, figured into 13 matches with Toronto FC this season, including five starts.
National team assistant coach Tony Fonseca says the coaching staff has been impressed with both Stinson and Morgan’s play this season and the St. Kitts series will give them more exposure on the international stage.
“I think over time, they will be a great asset for our teams,” Fonseca told reporters on a conference call Thursday. “Right now, it’s just [about] … making them feel comfortable.
"As you can imagine, for a young player coming in, it’s quite a challenge. It’s completely different dynamics, but we’re trying to do that slowly but surely and give them the tools necessary to perform.”
Bernier last played for Canada in October 2010 and returns to the team after an extended injury layoff. He’s been playing solid minutes for his Danish club team Lyngby BK and has returned to form, according to Fonseca.
“It’s great to see Patrice performing again and him being involved with the national team again all had to do with his performance with his club," Fonseca said of Bernier, who's played 45 times for Canada.
“He brings a wealth of experience. He’s one of the veterans of the team and a quality person.”
Other veterans included on the roster include D.C. United striker Dwayne De Rosario and Toronto FC midfielder Julian de Guzman. De Rosario enjoyed a banner season in MLS, winning the Gold Boot as the league’s top scorer with 16 goals and 12 assists.
Midfielder Will Johnson will also report for national duty even though his Real Salt Lake squad is in the midst of the MLS playoffs. They advanced to next week’s Western Conference final with a two-game aggregate win over Seattle.
Defender Andre Hainault, who declined an October national team invitation to focus on helping the Houston Dynamo into the MLS post-season, was not invited to this November camp. Hainault's Dynamo lead their Eastern Conference semifinal series over Philadelphia. The second leg is Thursday night.
In terms of injuries, Hutchinson isn’t the only Canadian international on the sidelines. Defender Kevin McKenna and forward Iain Hume, a standout for Canada during the World Cup campaign so far, are also carrying knocks.
Goalkeepers: Lars Hirschfeld (Vålerenga Fotball), Kenny Stamatopoulos (AIK Fotbol)
Fullbacks: Nik Ledgerwood (SV Wehen Wiesbaden), Mike Klukowski (Manisaspor), Adam Straith (FC Energie Cottbus), Ante Jazic (Chivas USA), David Edgar (Burnley FC), Ashtone Morgan (Toronto FC)
Midfielders: Julian de Guzman (Toronto FC), Matt Stinson (Toronto FC), Will Johnson (Real Salt Lake), Josh Simpson (Manisaspor), Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgault (SC Preußen Münster), Patrice Bernier (Lyngby Boldklub)
Forwards: Tosaint Ricketts (FC Politehnica Timisoara), Simeon Jackson (Norwich City FC), Dwayne De Rosario (DC United), Olivier Occean (SpVgg Greuther Fürth)