Coach Oc­tavio Zam­brano looks for balance in first ros­ter se­lec­tion

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY NEIL DAVID­SON

Oc­tavio Zam­brano, in his first ros­ter se­lec­tion as Cana­dian head coach, has opted for an ex­pe­ri­enced core aug­mented by a lot of youth.

Zam­brano, ap­pointed Cana­dian coach on March 17, named a 27-man squad ahead of a June 13 friendly with Cu­ra­cao in Montreal. The game is a warmup for the July Gold Cup.

Zam­brano plans to trim his squad af­ter a June 9 in­tra-squad match, with 18-20 play­ers dress­ing for the Sa­puto Sta­dium matchup be­tween No. 108 Canada and No. 70 Cu­ra­cao.

In the com­ing days, Zam­brano also has to name his 40man long list for the CONCACAF cham­pi­onship. That will then be reduced to 23 for the Gold Cup’s group phase.

Seven­teen of the play­ers called up Tues­day are 25 or younger. Only four are 30 or over.

In all, 18 play­ers on the ros­ter have less than 20 caps. To­saint Rick­etts has the most in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence with 55 caps fol­lowed by Pa­trice Bernier (53), Mar­cel de Jong (50) and Adam Straith and Will John­son (both 42).

“I pur­posely wanted a bal­anced group,’’ Zam­brano said in an in­ter­view. “I think it’s no se­cret we’re in a tran­si­tional pe­riod in Canada ... The new crop of guys hap­pens to be a very good group. There are some play­ers though who have been play­ing for the Cana­dian national team at a very good level.

“And so that balance of youth and ex­pe­ri­ence is what we want to try to bring for this first match.’’

Former cap­tain Atiba Hutchinson, who has taken a hia­tus from the national team, is not in­cluded. On Sunday, the 34-year-old mid­fielder helped Be­sik­tas win the Turk­ish Su­per League ti­tle for the 15th time.

Zam­brano says while he has had good con­ver­sa­tions with

Hutchinson, it looks like he will not be part of the Gold Cup. Hutchinson wants to take time off to al­low a nag­ging quad in­jury to heal.

“My hope is come (World Cup) qual­i­fiers, if he’s healthy hat he will col­lab­o­rate with us,’’ said Zam­brano who called Hutchinson one of the best play­ers Canada has ever pro­duced.

“What­ever he can give us ... I know it will be qual­ity,’’ he added.

Burn­ley mid­fielder Scott Ar­field is get­ting mar­ried so has not been called up, but will be part of the Gold Cup squad. Highly touted Van­cou­ver White­caps teenage Alphonso Davies is wait­ing on his Cana­dian pass­port with Zam­brano say­ing the 16-year-old Liberian-born mid­fielder will be in­vited to camp as soon as it ar­rives.

There are four first-time callups: goal­keeper James Pan­temis, de­fend­ers Juan Cor­dova and Kwame Awuah and mid­fielder Mark-An­thony Kaye.

De­fend­ers Tyler Pasher and An­dres Fre­senga and mid­fielder Ra­heem Edwards have been called up be­fore but have yet to win a se­nior cap.

Highly touted Montreal Im­pact mid­fielder Bal­lou Jean-Yves Tabla de­clined Zam­brano’s in­vi­ta­tion. The 18-year-old has dual cit­i­zen­ship, hav­ing been born in the Ivory Coast.

“He didn’t close the door by any means,’’ said Zam­brano.

“I’m not putting pres­sure on him.’’ he added. “He’s a young guy. He will add a lot to our national team. But he re­ally has to be con­vinced him­self, not hav­ing any doubts about what this means. Be­cause this means a lot. And I let him know that.’’

Zam­brano ex­pects to have more talks with the player and his fam­ily while in Montreal.

The Cana­di­ans, who will divide their time in camp be­tween Laval and Montreal, will as­sem­ble Sunday and have their first prac­tice Mon­day.

Zam­brano’s ex­panded ros­ter

fea­tures 15 MLS play­ers: five from Montreal, three for Toronto, two from Van­cou­ver and Or­lando and one each from FC Dal­las, New York City FC and Sport­ing Kansas City.

Canada has played just once since Zam­brano took over the men’s pro­gram.

The Cana­di­ans tied Scot­land 1-1 five days later in Ed­in­burgh, with Zam­brano watch­ing from the stands.

A na­tive of Ecuador, Zam­brano has coached club sides in Colom­bia, Ecuador, Hun­gary and Moldova as well as the Los An­ge­les Galaxy and MetroS­tars in the early days of Ma­jor League Soc­cer

Canada has been drawn in a pool with French Guiana, Costa Rica and Hon­duras at the Gold Cup, which serves as the CONCACAF cham­pi­onship.

$1 1)050

In this file photo, Canada Soc­cer pres­i­dent Victor Mon­tagliani, left, in­tro­duces new head coach of the Men’s National Team Oc­tavio Zam­brano at a press con­fer­ence in Toronto on March 17.

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