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Herdman draws on players from clubs in 11 countries for upcoming World Cup qualifiers

Coach John Herdman has drawn on players from clubs in 11 different countries for three crucial World Cup qualifiers.

Coach John Herdman has drawn on players from clubs in 11 different countries for three crucial World Cup qualifiers.

While some players were still in transit after weekend club matches, the Canadian men held their first practice Monday afternoon at Inter Miami's training ground in Fort Lauderdale.

They face a challenging schedule with three matches in three countries across seven days, starting Thursday in Honduras.

After taking on the 76th-ranked Hondurans, the 40th-ranked Canadian men host the 11th-ranked Americans on Sunday at Hamilton's Tim Hortons Field before flying to San Salvador to face No. 70 El Salvador on Feb. 2 at Estadio Cuscatlan.

The Hamilton game sold out within hours with a crowd of 24,000 initially expected. But recently implemented COVID-related restrictions mean attendance will be restricted to 12,000.

The 25-man Canadian roster includes familiar faces in captain Atiba Hutchinson, goalkeeper Milan Borjan, midfielders Jonathan Osorio and Samuel Piette and forwards Jonathan David and Cyle Larin.

Canada is missing Alphonso Davies, its marquee man.

The 21-year-old from Edmonton, a star fullback for Bayern Munich who plays a more attacking role for the national team, has been sidelined by myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, after testing positive for COVID.

St. Johnstone midfielder David Wotherspoon is recovering from knee surgery

There has been some confusion over the status of influential midfielder Stephen Eustaquio, who is currently on the midst of a loan move in Portugal from FC Pacos de Ferreira to Porto. While Portuguese reports say Eustaquio tested positive for COVID, Canada Soccer included him on the roster and hopes he will still be able to join the national team for some of the international window.

Defender Scott Kennedy, who missed out on recent Canada games due to injury, returns to the roster.

With MLS clubs just starting pre-season, Herdman's squad includes 16 players from outside North America. There are eight from Major League Soccer and one unattached player — defender Doneil Henry, whose contract with South Korea's Suwon Samsung Bluewings has expired.

Canada played to 1-1 ties with both Honduras and the U.S. — in Toronto and Nashville, respectively — in early September in its first two matches of the final round of CONCACAF qualifying.

With six matches remaining, Canada (4-0-4, 16 points) tops the eight-team table ahead of the U.S. (4-1-3, 15 points) and Mexico and Panama (both 4-2-2, 14 points).

Come March, the top three countries will book their ticket to Qatar 2022 with the fourth-place team facing a side from Oceania in an intercontinental playoff to see who joins them.

The Honduras game marks a return to the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula, where the Canadians' 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign ended in an 8-1 humiliation in October 2012.

Hutchinson, Borjan and forward Lucas Cavallini are the only members of the current squad who dressed that day.

Canada has played at the San Pedro Sula stadium once since then, losing 2-1 in September 2016 in a 2018 World Cup qualifier.

Canada Roster

Goalkeepers: Milan Borjan, Red Star Belgrade (Serbia); Maxime Crepeau, Los Angeles FC (MLS); Jayson Leutwiler, Oldham Athletic (England).

Defenders: Derek Cornelius, Panetolikos FC (Greece); Doneil Henry, unattached; Scott Kennedy, SSV Jahn Regensburg (Germany); Kamal Miller, CF Montreal (MLS); Steven Vitoria, Moreirense FC (Portugal); Samuel Adekugbe, Hatayspor FC (Turkey); Cristian Gutierrez, Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS); Alistair Johnston, Montreal (MLS); Richie Laryea, Nottingham Forest (England).

Midfielders: Stephen Eustaquio, FC Pacos de Ferreira (Portugal); Liam Fraser, KMSK Deinze (Belgium); Atiba Hutchinson, Besiktas (Turkey); Mark-Anthony Kaye, Colorado Rapids (MLS); Jonathan Osorio, Toronto FC (MLS); Samuel Piette, CF Montreal (MLS).

Forwards: Tajon Buchanan, Club Brugge KV (Belgium); Lucas Cavallini, Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS); Jonathan David, Lille OSC (France); David (Junior) Hoilett, Reading FC (England); Cyle Larin, Besiktas (Turkey); Liam Millar, FC Basel (Switzerland); Ike Ugbo, KRC Genk (Belgium).


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2022.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press