Nine Major League Soccer players made Canada’s roster for the Reds’ upcoming pair of World Cup qualifying matches, but Jonathan Osorio was not one of them.
Canadian coach Benito Floro unveiled his 23-man squad on Friday, a list that includes such MLS players as top rookie of the year candidate Cyle Larin, Tesho Akindele and Russell Teibert.
Canada will host Honduras at Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium on Nov. 13 in its opening match of the semifinal round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Canada will then travel to face El Salvador on Nov. 17.
“We believe in this group of players,” Floro said in a news release.
“We want our best roster, so we are always in review of the performances of our players with their professional clubs and make our selection in consideration of the matches we will play.”
It’s a curious statement considering the absence of Osorio from the Canadian roster, as the Toronto FC star is considered one of the best, young midfielders in MLS. Osorio has earned 13 caps for Canada since making his debut in 2013, but he wasn’t called up for the Reds’ pair of recent World Cup qualifiers against Belize and a friendly against Ghana.
Osorio was a consistent starter for TFC this season, routinely playing alongside players the calibre of Michael Bradley and Sebastian Giovinco. Also of note, he logged more minutes in MLS in 2015 than any other Canadian. If Floro really wanted his best roster, he would have picked Osorio.
“The only reason is because there are two players, thinking about Will [Johnson] and Atiba [Hutchinson], who are in good condition to play. I consider them more experienced players, also,” Floro told reporters back in September when asked why he overlooked Osorio for the two games against Belize.
If that is still the reason, it’s a flimsy one. Is Canada suddenly flush with genuine attacking options in midfield that it can afford to overlook Osorio? Was there really no roster room to accommodate Osorio again?
Sportsnet reported the news of Osorio’s omission earlier this week, leading TFC teammates Herculez Gomez and Jozy Altidore to post comments of support on Twitter.
Canada, ranked 102nd in the world, is in Group A with Mexico (No. 24), El Salvador (No. 94) and Honduras (No. 95). The top two teams at the end of the round robin move on to the final CONCACAF qualifying round known as “The Hex.”
Group B features Costa Rica (No. 40), Jamaica (No. 61), Panama (No. 65) and Haiti (No. 73), while Group C consists the U.S. (No. 33), Trinidad and Tobago (No. 54), Guatemala (No. 91), and St. Vincent and the Grenadines (No. 129).
The top three nations in the six-team final round automatically qualify for the 2018 World Cup. The fourth-place side will meet an Asian team in a two-game playoff with a World Cup berth at stake.
Canada had a bye in the first round of qualifying before beating Dominica 6-0 on aggregate and Belize 4-1 on aggregate to get to this point.
The Vancouver game is a chance for Canada to earn a bit of payback. The Reds crashed out of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup following a humiliating 8-1 loss to Honduras in San Pedro Sula in October 2012. Coach Stephen Hart lost his job in the aftermath of that humiliating loss.
The men’s team hasn’t played a World Cup qualifier in Vancouver since it dropped a 3-1 decision to Costa Rica on Oct. 13, 2004 before 4,728 fans at Swangard Stadium. Canada has played the majority of its home qualifying games in Toronto in recent years.
Canada has appeared in just one World Cup, in 1986 in Mexico when it bowed out in the first round following three losses.
· Goalkeepers: Simon (Thomas Strømmen IF/Norway), Milan Borjan (PFK Ludogorets Razgrad/Bulgaria) and Kenny Stamatopoulos (AIK Fotbol/Sweden).
· Defenders: Fraser Aird (Glasgow Rangers/Scotland), Samuel Adekugbe (Vancouver Whitecaps), André Hainault (1. FC Magdeburg/Germany), David Edgar (Sheffield United/England), Dejan Jaković (Shimizu S-Pulse/Japan), Adam Straith (Fredrikstad FK/Norway), Marcel De Jong (Sporting Kansas City), Wandrille Lefèvre (Montreal Impact) and Karl W. Ouimette (New York Red Bulls).
· Midfielders: Julian de Guzman (Ottawa Fury FC), Russell Teibert (Vancouver Whitecaps), Will Johnson (Portland Timbers), David Hoilett (Queens Park Rangers/England), Atiba Hutchinson (Beşiktaş JK/Turkey), Samuel Piette (Deportivo La Coruña/Spain), Kianz Froese (Vancouver Whitecaps) and Tesho Akindele (FC Dallas)
· Forwards: Lucas Cavallini (CA Fénix/Uruguay), Cyle Larin (Orlando City), Tosaint Ricketts (Boluspor FC/Turkey)