What We Learned About Canada From The March 2023 International Window

What We Learned About Canada From The March 2023 International Window

Two games, two wins, and a spot booked at the CONCACAF Nations League Finals in Las Vegas. John Herdman’s side got back up and running after the World Cup in style, and are back to dominating CONCACAF. During the two games against Curaçao (2-0 win) and Honduras (4-1 win) there was plenty of little tidbits and things we learned about squad, here are a five of the things that stood out.


1; Jonathan David should take the penalties

With the infamous Alphonso Davies penalty miss versus Belgium still fresh in our minds, it looked as if we all had the perfect opportunity to move past it when Canada was awarded a penalty against Honduras. Already 2-0 thanks to a Cyle Larin brace, the Brampton-born striker was given the opportunity to make it a hat trick, and convert a penalty for Canada…instead he put it just wide of the right post.

Larin #17 of Canada celebrating his goal during the League A – Group C match between Curaçao and Canada with strike partner Jonathan David (LUIS LICONA/STRAFFON IMAGES/MANDATORY CREDIT/EDITORIAL USE/NOT FOR SALE/NOT ARCHIVE)

Now, of course, players will miss penalties, no one should be expected to have a 100% record. But Canada does have players on the squad who have proven to have better records from the spot than Davies and Larin, that being Steven Vitoria and Jonathan David. Both are their club’s respective penalty takers, with outstanding good records. Vitoria is a thirty-six-year-old centreback, and will soon you’d imagine he transitioned out of the team. Meanwhile, David is a twenty-three-year-old striker who looks destined to become Canada’s all-time top scorer and has proven he can handle pressure situations both at club and country level. He is the most reliable and most obvious candidate to be taking penalties, and should without a doubt be the designated spot kicker for this side.


2; The Koné-Eustáquio-Osorio midfield trio is here to stay

It was always assumed that Watford central midfielder Ismaël Koné would cement himself as a first-team regular this window, what we weren’t sure was if he would be in a midfield two, or a midfield three. John Herdman opted for a midfield three of Koné, Stephen Eustáquio, and Johnathan Osorio, and the three worked perfectly together!

Ismael Kone of Canada controls the ball during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group F match between Canada and Morocco. (MATTHIAS HANGST/GETTY IMAGES)

The athleticism, power, speed, and technical ability of the three was a joy to watch. Canada comfortably controlled the midfield in both games, which allowed the team as a whole to thoroughly dominated both games and Osorio even helped himself to a goal against Honduras. This midfield three can go up against any team in CONCACAF without a problem, and could potentially be the keystone component of this side for years to come.

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3; Plenty of depth at central defence

A combination of injury (Kamal Miller) and suspension (Steven Vitoria) meant that Canada where without their first two Centre backs for a lot of this international window, but in their absence, it gave Derek Cornelius and Scott Kennedy a platform to shine!

Derek Cornelius in action for Canada (CAN Canada Soccer by Bob Frid)

Both men were omitted from the 2022 World Cup squad, and both have in a sense felt like ‘forgotten men’ as a result. But it’s worth remembering that Cornelius plays his football in the Swedish top flight with Malmō, and Kennedy plays for German second-tier side Jahn Regensburg, and that European experience shone. Neither men put a foot wrong, giving Milan Borjan a very quiet 180 minutes (besides picking the ball out of the net once against Honduras). St Louis center-back Kyle Hiebert came on against Honduras for his debut, giving the team yet another option at the back. Between Miller, Kennedy, Cornelius, Hiebert, Joel Waterman, and Dominick Zator, Canada look like they’ll be just fine at the back when Vitoria eventually retires in the near future.


4; The third striker position is still very open

Canada is incredibly privileged to have Cyle Larin (28 goals) and Johnathan David (23 goals) playing for Canada at the same time, and at twenty-eight and twenty-three years old – it’s a partnership with a lot of mikes left. But if say one or two were to be injured, or miss a game through suspension, it’s important to look at who the third option is, and that role is still very much open.

Canada forward Charles-Andreas Brym scored his first goal for Canada in a 4-1 win over Barbados (Liza Rosales/Canada Soccer)

Iké Ugbo, Charles-Andreas Brym, and Ayo Akinola have all made appearances for Canada as of late, but the three of them have combined for just one goal in twenty combined appearances. Brym missed a great chance against Curaçao, while Ugbo has almost had some notable misses in previous Canada games. Akinola was at least heavily involved in the fourth goal versus Honduras, and funnily enough, has scored an international goal for the U.S. in a friendly. However, at this point, none of them have done enough to separate themselves from the pack. It would be fantastic for Canada if one of these three (or perhaps another option) could chip in with more goals, the time will come when Larin and David are out of form, and we’ll need a third striker to step up and be counted.


5; No ifs or buts, this team has to play against non-CONCACAF opposition.

In his post-match press conference, John Herdman stressed the importance once again of getting more game time in against top-tier countries. This becomes even clearer when you see that this month, Argentina played Panama and Curaçao, two CONCACAF teams – the opportunities are there.

Argentina’s Lionel Messi in action with Panama’s Kevin Galvan (AGUSTIN MARCARIAN REUTERS)

Canada is ready to take the next step, they used CONCACAF opposition to build themselves up these past few years and are now at a point where they can comfortably say they sit at the very top of the region and should be looking for new challenges. The Nations League finals will be tough, as well as the GOLD Cup. But going forward there can be no excuse for not attempting to play teams from Europe, Asia, Africa, and or South America at any given opportunity, This team could potentially stagnate playing against only the likes of El Salvador, Honduras, Curaçao, etc, they need to keep the intensity up as much as possible for when they welcome the world in just over three years time

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