When Ike Ugbo committed to the Canadian men's national team in November, he became the sixth dual national to do so under coach John Herdman. Marquee names such as Daniel Jebbison, Lucas Dias and Marcelo Flores remain uncommitted, though the federation is surely working diligently to change that.
Another player near the top of that list, if not at the top, is Stefan Mitrovic. The 19-year-old from Hamilton, Ont., is having a breakthrough season with Radnicki Nis in the Serbian SuperLiga, where he's scored seven goals in 25 appearances as a free-roaming winger or No. 10 behind a striker.
A quick look at Mitrovic's statistical radar showcases a well-rounded forward who has an eye for goals, incredible dribbling abilities and is willing to contribute defensively.
The fearlessness to run at defenders, attempt shots and spark Radnicki Nis' attack is perhaps Mitrovic's improvement this season, as evidenced by the following clips from a 1-0 win over Kolubara on March 7, with Mitrovic scoring the winner.
In total, Mitrovic finished that match with three shots with a total expected goals (xG) of 0.75, completed six of 10 dribbles, drew four fouls, attempted five passes into the box and registered one key pass.
All in a day's work for the 19-year-old.
Mitrovic's form led to significant interest from his boyhood club Red Star Belgrade, along with several other teams outside Serbia during the January transfer window. Ultimately, a move never materialized but he recently extended his contract, which is mutually beneficial for all parties.
Firstly, Mitrovic can fetch a higher fee for Radnicki Nis with a longer-term deal. Should the asking price be met, he can join his new club in the summer and participate in a full pre-season to get acclimatized.
As for Mitrovic's national-team status, he's been capped by Serbia's U-20 and U-21 teams in recent months and scored in a Euro U-21 qualifier against Ukraine in November. He was also called up to the Serbian U-21 squad for a pair of qualifying games this month. That temporary cap ties him to the Serbians, though a one-time switch of nationality can be filed in order to represent Canada.
"My dream and my goal is to play in the World Cup," Mitrovic told me and Thomas Nef on the Northern Futbol Podcast in December. "If it comes with Canada, I will definitely take that chance. Most likely, after (Canada's) January camp, I'll decide if I want to stick with Canada or with Serbia."
Mitrovic was ultimately invited to Canada's preparatory camp in January ahead of World Cup qualifying. That was eventually cancelled amid the rise in COVID-19 cases worldwide. However, Serbian national team staff have attended Mitrovic's club matches, so he's very much on the radar for both programs.
It promises to be a ground-breaking 2022 for Mitrovic for club and country. Whether that country in question is Serbia or Canada is the burning question.
OTHER UPDATES AND ANALYSIS
• Alphonso Davies returned to individual training for Bayern Munich on Sunday. It was his first activity with the team since he was diagnosed with mild myocarditis – inflammation of the heart muscle – on Jan. 14.
However, he is still a few weeks away from returning to game action. Coach Julian Nagelsmann admitted that Davies will be understandably "pushed only on a moderate basis come his first week back" before undergoing another exam. Regardless, this is tremendous progress for the 21-year-old.
• Jonathan David broke his 800-minute scoring drought last weekend in Lille's win over Clermont Foot. He came up empty-handed in Friday's 0-0 draw with Saint-Etienne, though, without registering a single shot in 60 minutes of action.
David and Lille face Chelsea in the second leg of their Champions League round-of-16 matchup at home this Wednesday as they trail 2-0 from the first leg.
• Sticking to Ligue 1, Ike Ugbo picked up his second goal for Troyes as it edged Nantes 1-0 on Saturday to bolster its survival hopes. As is common since Ugbo joined the club on loan from Genk, he finished the game with just one shot, although a poacher with his finishing instincts and off-the-ball movement only needs a single opportunity to pounce.
• Over the border in Belgium, Tajon Buchanan recorded a full 90 minutes for Club Brugge in its 3-1 win over Oostende. That was Buchanan's eighth appearance in all competitions with more than 660 minutes accumulated in those games, which is a large enough sample size to build the 23-year-old's statistical radar.
The offensive numbers don't come as a surprise and Buchanan has been a pleasant surprise defensively. Yet there is an understandable sense that he hasn't been as impactful in the final third in recent weeks, as one Twitter user pointed out.
In the Feb. 15 roundup, it was mentioned that teams were pressing Buchanan sooner compared to his first few games in Belgium. The quality of defending, physicality and tactical side of the game is greater than MLS, plus the left wingback role is fairly new to Buchanan.
On the other hand, he's managed to wriggle free on occasion, as seen below. Sometimes passing to Buchanan into open space quicker can help, too. But if his rapid career progression is any indication, he should adjust in due time.
• In the Belgian second division, Liam Fraser finished the 90 in Deinze's 3-3 draw with Waasland-Beveren on Sunday. The story with Fraser remains the same: he's consistently effective on the ball but lacks assertiveness and strength in defensive situations.
• Stephen Eustaquio was an unused substitute yet again in Porto's 4-0 win over Tondela on Sunday. A rusty Eustaquio is obviously not ideal with Canada's next World Cup qualifiers coming up in about a week.
• Despite suffering a minor thigh injury, Atiba Hutchinson was back in Besiktas' lineup in Monday's derby loss to Galatasaray. He only logged 45 minutes as he was on a yellow card and was getting targeted by Galatasaray's high press, though he did calm down after a shaky 12-minute spell to begin the game.
• Cyle Larin was a 39th-minute substitute for Besiktas in the defeat. He's been second choice to the in-form Kenan Karaman since Onder Karaveli took over as coach but Larin was proactive in this game. The men's national team's all-time leading scorer nearly converted a towering header and had three total attempts along with two completed passes into the box.
• Everyone is aware of Sam Adekugbe's brilliant campaign with Hatayspor by now. It's still no less breathtaking to watch Adekugbe going forward while remaining a defensive stalwart. Pay particular attention to his runs after the passes.
Adekugbe ended up logging the full 90 minutes in a 3-0 win versus Fatih Karagumruk on Saturday.
• In the English Championship, Junior Hoilett went 81 minutes for Reading in a crushing 4-0 loss to Nottingham Forest. On the bright side, Hoilett continues to earn regular playing time and is staying fit ahead of the March window for Canada.
• The guys at Canucks Abroad alerted me to a potential new dual national in Tom Holmes, Hoilett's Reading teammate. Holmes, a 21-year-old centre-back, told Canucks Abroad that his grandmother was born in Canada, which could enable him to represent Canada.
• Richie Laryea was not in the matchday squad for Nottingham Forest in the win over Reading. His last minutes came with Canada in the victory over El Salvador on Feb. 2.
• Daniel Jebbison came off the bench in second-half stoppage time as Sheffield United lost 4-1 to Coventry City.
• It was a busy week for Theo Corbeanu with MK Dons. He started in last Tuesday's win against Cheltenham Town and registered an assist before coming off the bench for 22 minutes in Saturday's 1-1 draw with Wigan. Here are some snippets from the midweek victory, including the assist.
• After a mediocre display for Basel against Marseille in UEFA Europa Conference League on Thursday, Liam Millar rebounded with a solid second half in Sunday's league win over Servette. The 22-year-old recorded two shots, five key passes and completed three of four dribbles. Here is a small sampling from Basel's No. 17.
• Scott Kennedy and Jahn Regensburg's winless run extended to six games after a 1-1 draw with Karlsruher on Sunday, as Kennedy completed the 90 minutes. Thankfully, from a Canadian perspective, the 24-year-old has stayed fit and in form since the Bundesliga side returned from its winter break in January. You can watch some of Kennedy's (No. 24) highlights below.
• It was a busy week for Canadian goalkeepers. Milan Borjan and Red Star Belgrade lost 3-0 to Rangers in the first leg of their Europa League round-of-16 matchup, though it's difficult to pin any of the goals on Borjan. A James Tavernier penalty and two poorly defended set pieces all found the back of the net, but it was a routine performance otherwise from Canada's No. 1.
• It was anything but routine for Dayne St. Clair on Sunday. His Minnesota United edged the New York Red Bulls 1-0, no thanks to his heroic display. St. Clair faced eight shots on target – including a penalty – with an expected goals total of 3.1 and still kept a clean sheet.
St. Clair has been Minnesota United's backup since last year, so multiple MLS clubs reportedly pursued the 24-year-old during the off-season to no avail. Either the asking price skyrocketed after Sunday night or he may have won back the No. 1 job.
• Maxime Crepeau's early days with LAFC have been flawless so far. The former Vancouver Whitecap kept his second clean sheet of 2022 as Los Angeles shut out Inter Miami 2-0 on Saturday. Even though Crepeau wasn't very busy, he managed to pull off a miraculous save.
• Crepeau's countryman, Doneil Henry, started in the win as well. Henry, who joined LAFC before the season opener, looked sturdy in his first start of the year.
• Mark-Anthony Kaye did it all for the Colorado Rapids in their 2-0 win versus Sporting KC. He scored, completed 39 of his 48 passes and was covering all sorts of ground defensively, too.
• There is growing momentum for Raheem Edwards to be recalled to the national team, and it's justified. In the LA Galaxy's 3-2 loss to the Seattle Sounders, Edwards constantly progressed the ball while staying defensively responsible, as has been the case through three games.
This has notably come against two of the league's premier teams in the Sounders and New York City FC. It's unlikely that Herdman will call someone who is unfamiliar with the current tactical setup and the core group of players, but if Edwards keeps up this form, he should receive a call-up in June for Concacaf Nations League.
• Richie Ennin remains a regular starter for Nizhny Novgorod as he went 64 minutes in Saturday's 0-0 draw with Ufa. Even though the 23-year-old is deployed as a second striker, he lacks the goal-scoring prowess and doesn't attempt many passes toward the box. But his greatest strength is receiving passes under pressure and then progressing the ball on the dribble. Ennin has excellent close control, technique and pace so that could transform him into a solid No. 8 or inverted winger.
Ennin is on loan from Latvian club Spartaks Jurmala, and foreign players in Russia are now allowed to terminate their contracts without any repercussions amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, so he has the option to leave. But it would appear that he's content to stay until the end of the season.
• Charles-Andreas Brym's keeps turning heads for FC Eindhoven in the Dutch second tier. Brym scored his sixth goal of the season in a resounding 4-0 win over Venlo on Friday to lift the team into fourth place in the Eerste Divisie. I highlighted Brym in the previous roundup, if you'd like to read more about his progress.