Toronto FC’s Julian de Guzman is the lone North American-based player called up by coach Stephen Hart for Canada’s friendly against Armenia next week.
Of the 17 players selected, 16 currently ply their trade in Europe or are on trial with clubs on that continent. Hart cited lack of game action for MLS players as well as the short mid-week FIFA window as reasons for restricting his roster to players currently on the other side of the pond.
“Putting this team together was extremely difficult,” Hart told reporters in a conference call on Thursday. “Injuries are one thing and … having to deal with some of the clubs because they’re in promotion fights or whatever, it’s been very, very difficult.”
Even amongst the limited pool of Euro-based players available, Hart found it tough to put together a squad as injuries and other concerns piled up.
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Video: de Guzman discusses Canada & Toronto from Orlando.
Hart said that he had to leave Olivier Occean and Marcel de Jong behind due to injury concerns. Occean is among the leading scorers in the 2.Bundesliga and has been experiencing foot pain, while de Jong – who is normally the starting left back for Bundesliga side FC Augsburg – is out long-term with an ankle injury suffered earlier this month.
The injury situation forced Hart into calling de Guzman, who is suspended for TFC’s upcoming CONCACAF Champions League match vs. the LA Galaxy on March 7. Hart had originally hoped to leave North American players with their teams during the crucial pre-season period.
“I had spoken to the MLS players, and I told them more than likely I wouldn’t be using them, but my hand was sort of forced and Julian was available, so he will travel,” Hart explained.
Set to return from a long injury lay-off is Atiba Hutchinson, who has been struggling with knee issues dating back to the CONCACAF Gold Cup last year. Hart said that Hutchinson’s club, PSV Eindhoven, were happy with releasing their player for the friendly, despite the fact that Hutchinson had initially suffered an injury while on duty with Canada.
“The club were actually pleased that I decided to bring him in because he needs some games,” Hart said of his discussions with PSV’s staff. “Of course we’re going to monitor how well he does and be mindful that above all it’s an exhibition game, but they were very supportive.”
The match against Armenia, set to be played in Cyprus on Feb. 29, will be Canada’s final preparation before the team reconvenes in late May ahead of a friendly in June vs. the United States in Toronto and World Cup qualifying games against Cuba and Honduras.
FULL CANADA ROSTER
GOALKEEPERS (2): Milan Borjan (Sivasspor, Turkey), Kenny Stamatopoulos (AIK, Sweden)
DEFENDERS (6): Nana Attakora (Unattached), David Edgar (Burnley, England), Mike Klukowski (Manisaspor, Turkey), Nik Ledgerwood (SV Wehen Wiesbaden), Kevin McKenna (FC Köln, Germany), Adam Straith (FC Saarbrücken, Germany)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Julian de Guzman (Toronto FC), Atiba Hutchinson (PSV Eindhoven, Netherlands), Pedro Pacheco (Santa Clara, Portugal), Samuel Piette (FC Metz, France), Josh Simpson (BSC Young Boys, Switzerland)
FORWARDS (4): Marcus Haber (St. Johnstone, Scotland), Iain Hume (Preston North End, England), Simeon Jackson (Norwich City, England), Tosaint Ricketts (FC Politehnica Timişoara, Romania)