Atiba Hutchinson is firmly back in the mix for the Canadian men’s team.
The veteran midfielder was one of 23 players named to coach John Herdman’s roster on Thursday for Canada’s Concacaf Nations League qualifying match versus Saint Kitts and Nevis on Nov. 18 in Basseterre.
Hutchinson, 35, hadn’t played for Canada in over a year – because of injury issues, while also focusing on his club career with Turkish outfit Besiktas – before making his return to the national team for last month’s Concacaf Nations League qualifying game against Dominica.
A six-time Canadian player of the year, Hutchinson has six goals in 79 appearances since making his debut for Canada in 2003, and he is generally recognized as the greatest player this country has ever produced.
Herdman called Hutchinson a “class guy” and a vital role model for the Canadian team’s core of promising young players who are just beginning their international careers.
“He’s got an infectious presence – there’s a bit of humility there, there’s a positivity, and I think the young boys can see what a Canadian men’s player looks like, what we’re striving for,” Herdman told reporters during a conference call.
Herdman later added: “My goal with Atiba is to make him available to the group to ensure that his experiences [are shared]. … We’ll give him that platform to help these players understand what it’s going to take. We’ll keep hold of Atiba for as long as his body allows him. He’s that important to this group.”
Goalkeeper Milan Borjan, who plays for Serbian outfit Red Star Belgrade, is back in the team after not being called up for the Dominica game.
Herdman’s youth movement continues with this latest roster. Against Dominica, the Canadian coach gave starts to teenagers Liam Millar (three caps), Jonathan David (two caps) and Alphonso Davies (eight caps). Defender Derek Cornelius, 20 years old, also started in just his second appearance for Canada. Winger Ballou Tabla and defender Zachary Brault-Guillard, both 19, earned their first caps as second-half substitutes.
All six youngsters have been named to the squad for the game against Saint Kitts. Herdman has also called up midfielder Jay Chapman (24 years old, two caps), and his Toronto FC teammate Liam Fraser, a 20-year-old who is looking to make his senior team debut.
One notable absence for Canada is midfielder Jonathan Osorio, who is coming off a career 2018 season for TFC with 17 goals and eight assists in 43 games in all competitions. Osorio has been ruled out for this game after recently undergoing sports hernia surgery.
Glasgow Rangers midfielder Scott Arfield hasn’t been called up, as his wife is expecting a baby. Alessandro Busti, who started in net against Dominica in his debut for the senior team, is currently playing with Canada’s under-20 side and won’t feature against Saint Kitts and Nevis.
The inaugural 2019-20 Concacaf Nations League kicks off next September. Canada is attempting to qualify for the “A League” of the three-tier tournament where it would play Concacaf heavyweights such as the U.S, Mexico and Costa Rica.
Canada currently sits third in the qualifying group out of 34 teams, with two matches to go. The top six qualify for the “A League.” This is the third game of the qualifiers for Canada, who previously thrashed the U.S. Virgin Islands 8-0 in September and blanked Dominica 5-0 last month in Toronto.
Canada is No. 76 in the current FIFA world rankings. Saint Kitts and Nevis is 133rd. Like Canada, Saint Kitts won its opening two games of the Concacaf Nations League.
“We’ve had scouts at both of their games… It’s going to be a very tough game. They’ve done well in this Nations League. They’re a [side] with a very good team spirit. They’re a well-organized, direct team that will be looking to capitalize in the transition,” Herdman said.
These sides met in a pair of World Cup qualifying matches seven years ago, with Canada earning a 4-0 win in Toronto after the teams played to a 0-0 draw in Basseterre.
“The last time [Canada] was there it was a nil-nil draw, so this is a game we can’t take lightly,” Herdman warned.
Canada hosts French Guiana on March 26, 2019 in its last match of the qualifiers. A host city has yet to be announced.
Goalkeepers: Simon Thomas (Kongsvinger IL/Noway), Milan Borjan (Red Star Belgrade/Serbia) and Maxime Crépeau (Ottawa Fury).
Defenders: Zachary Brault-Guillard (Olympique Lyonnais/France), Manjrekar James (FC Fredericia/Denmark), Derek Cornelius (FK Javor Ivanjica/Serbia), David Edgar (Ottawa Fury), Samuel Adekugbe (Vålerenga Fotball/Norway), Doneil Henry (Vancouver Whitecaps) and Marcus Godinho (Heart of Midlothian/Scotland).
Midfielders: Samuel Piette (Montreal Impact), Russell Teibert (Vancouver Whitecaps), David Wotherspoon (St. Johnstone/Scotland), David Hoilett (Cardiff City), Alphonso Davies (Vancouver Whitecaps), Atiba Hutchinson (Beşiktaş JK/Turkey), Liam Millar (Liverpool FC U-23/England), Liam Fraser (Toronto FC) and Jay Chapman (Toronto FC).
Forwards: Cyle Larin (Beşiktaş JK/Turkey), Lucas Cavallini (Puebla FC/Mexico), Jonathan David (KAA Gent/Belgium) and Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla (Barcelona B/Spain).