For most of Toronto FC the international break has been a chance to reset and reload following the opening months of the 2021 season, but for a handful of players the pause has simply seen a shift of focus.
Four current first team players – Jonathan Osorio, Richie Laryea, Chris Mavinga, and Eriq Zavaleta – are on international duty with their respective nations.
So too is Liam Fraser, on loan with the Columbus Crew, and six young players – Ayo Akinola, Jahkeele Marshally-Rutty, Jayden Nelson, Noble Okello, Ralph Priso, and Luke Singh – were called into service by Canada as John Herdman padded his official squad with a supporting cast.
Canada has played two matches so far – a 7-0 win over Aruba on Saturday and a 4-0 win over Suriname on Tuesday – and have earned the right to play two more with TFC players contributing in each result.
Fraser started the match against Aruba in the middle of the park, going the full 90 and helping to set up the winner-takes-all match against Suriname a few days later.
Both Osoro and Laryea started in that clash and each was instrumental in guiding Canada on to victory before coming off in the 66th and 81st minutes respectively.
Herdman has spoken in praise of the efforts of the reserves in helping to prepare Canada for the challenge.
The two victories saw Canada top Group B in the first round of Concacaf Qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. They now move on to another do-or-die situation come the second round: a two-legged affair against Haiti with the first leg set for Port-au-Prince on Saturday and the second for SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois next Tuesday.
The winner of the series will move on to the third and final round, the Octogon, to determine which three countries will book their tickets to Qatar – the fourth-placed side will be entered into the inter-confederations play-offs.
Elsewhere in Concacaf, Zavaleta’s El Salvador find themselves in a similar situation.
But where Osorio and Laryea are now regulars in the Canada program, international duty was a first for the 28-year-old defender, who only recently accepted a call up to La Selecta.
He made his debut on Saturday – starting in a 7-0 win over the U.S. Virgin Islands – and then went one better a few days later scoring the opening goal of a 3-0 win over Antigua and Barbuda on Tuesday with a towering header in the 40th minute.
The wins ensured El Salvador topped Group A of the first round of Concacaf Qualification and sees them move on to the second round where they will face Saint Kitts and Nevis in a two-legged series with a spot in the Octogon on the line before MLS play resumes on June 19.
Further afield Chris Mavinga made his long-awaited return to the Congolese side, joining their camp in Rades, Tunisia for a pair of friendlies this break.
The France-born defender started and went the full 90 in a 1-0 loss to the host nation on Saturday – his first involvement with the national team program since 2016 – and DR Congo have another friendly scheduled against Mali for Friday.
On a pas eu le résultat qu’on voulait ce soir mais je suis très heureux d’avoir pu rejouer avec la selection du congo et montrer que je suis toujours la... que l’histoire continue ! @fecofa_kinshasa @leopardsfoot @leopard243 pic.twitter.com/tfZ9cqapuS— Chris Mavinga (@Chris_Mavinga) June 6, 2021
CAF’s World Cup Qualification resumes in September, where DR Congo have been drawn into Group J for the second round, alongside Benin, Madagascar, and Tanzania with all three matches set to be played in the fall windows.