Global gath­er­ing

Canada names young squad for CONCACAF U-20 qual­i­fier in Costa Rica

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY NEIL DAVID­SON

Rob Gale’s search for young soc­cer tal­ent knows no bor­ders, as ev­i­denced by the Cana­dian un­der-20 coach’s squad for the CONCACAF Men’s Un­der-20 Cham­pi­onship later this month.

The English coach es­ti­mates he has worked with 80-plus play­ers over the last three years in re­fin­ing his player pool. Given the in­juries and other is­sues Gale has had to deal with re­cently, that depth has come in handy.

Canada’s 20-man ros­ter fea­tures nine play­ers based in Chile, Eng­land, France, Ger­many, Greece, the Nether­lands and Scot­land. Eight oth­ers are work­ing their way through the sys­tem with Cana­dian MLS clubs while the re­main­ing three are in the NCAA ranks.

It’s a young Cana­dian ros­ter with five play­ers born in 1999 (who will be el­i­gi­ble for the 2019 tour­na­ment), seven in 1998 and eight in ‘97.

Canada opens Feb. 17 against Hon­duras be­fore play­ing Mex­ico on Feb. 20 and An­tigua & Bar­buda on Feb. 23 at the 12-coun­try CONCACAF event, which runs through March 6 in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Four teams will qual­ify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup, which runs May 20 to June 11 in South Korea.

The chal­lenge fac­ing Gale’s squad to get to Korea is im­mense. Canada failed to qual­ify for the last four U-20 world cham­pi­onships and has not taken part since it served as host in 2007 when it failed to win a game or score a goal.

In­juries have not helped Gale’s cause. Mid­field­ers David Choiniere and Shamit Shome (Mon­treal Im­pact) and goal­keep­ers Philip Di Ben­nardo (Toronto FC 2) and James Pan­temis (Mon­treal Im­pact) are among those un­avail­able.

De­fend­ers Mar­cus God­inho (Heart of Mid­loth­ian, Scot­land) is re­cov­er­ing from a knee in­jury and only makes the three­man standby squad along with de­fender Matthew Con­stant (Univer­sity of New Mex­ico) and mid­fielder Day­onn Har­ris (Penn State).

Bal­lou Jean-Yves Tabla, Mon­treal’s highly touted 17-year-old mid­fielder, de­clined an in­vi­ta­tion.

“Which is dis­ap­point­ing,” said Gale.

Italy’s Palermo de­clined to re­lease youth goal­keeper Se­bas­tian Breza be­cause of in­juries to other ‘keep­ers.

Gale has seen one ‘keeper drop af­ter an­other with Chris­tian Kaiswa­tum, Marvis Kre­itling, Pan­temis, Di Ben­nardo and Breza all un­avail­able for one rea­son or an­other. All five were No. 1 or No. 2 on his depth chart at some point.

“It’s very un­usual and very un­for­tu­nate,” said the coach. “But it gives two oth­ers the chance.”

Gales en­ters the tour­na­ment with Dayne St. Clair of the Univer­sity of Mary­land and Thomas Hasal of the Van­cou­ver White­caps res­i­dency pro­gram as his op­tions in goal. Both had been with the team in re­cent camps.

Cana­dian-born de­fender Fikayo To­mori, cur­rently on loan to Brighton from Chelsea, has elected to rep­re­sent al­readyqual­i­fied Eng­land al­though Gale holds out some hope he may switch al­le­giance at some point in the fu­ture.

The CSA has elected to keep 16-year-old mid­fielder Alphonso Davies, a ris­ing star with the Van­cou­ver White­caps, in the un­der-17 pro­gram.

Kadin Chung and Hasal come from the White­caps while Toronto FC pro­vides Dante Camp­bell, Ai­dan Daniels, Liam Fraser, Shaan Hun­dal, and Luca Uc­cello. Mon­treal fur­nishes Thomas Meilleur-Giguere.

Gale will look for lead­er­ship from Meilleur-Gigeure, Ucello and Koso­var Sadiki with Meilleur-Gigeure the likely cap­tain.

Canada’s record at the U-20 level has been very poor, fail­ing to qual­ify for 12 of the 20 pre­vi­ous tour­na­ments. Its record on the U-20 world stage is 4-18-5 while be­ing outscored 50-16.

The team as­sem­bles Sun­day in Costa Rica.

CP PHOTO

Canada’s U20 men’s soc­cer coach Rob Gale looks on dur­ing train­ing at the FIFA U17 World Cup in Dubai in this Oc­to­ber 2013 file photo.

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