As Canada prepares to begin its World Cup qualifying campaign — which kicks off Sept. 2 — coach Stephen Hart has a lot on his plate.
With that in mind, The 11, with some input from our readers, has created a list of players — not including Junior Hoilett, he’s been talked about ad nauseam already— who didn’t take part in the Gold Cup and could inject some life into the Canadian squad.
Of course, feel free to add your own suggestions below.
Joseph Di Chiara — Even if Di Chiara doesn’t make Canada’s starting XI, Hart has got to find a way, over the course of the six group-stage games against the Caribbean minnows, to get the teenage midfielder capped. The Thornhill native flew under the radar of the U-17 and U-20 programs, but he’s impressed in the Russian Premier League. Could be Canada’s man in the middle of the future.
David Edgar — He was named a last-second reserve player to the Gold Cup squad, but didn’t make the trip to the United States. His career stalled when he wasn’t able to go to Swansea City on loan from Burnley last January — because of a mistake in the paperwork and no time to refile before the transfer window closed. He can fill roles in the middle of the backline or on the outside, and that’s versatility a national coach can use.
Olivier Occean — He’s off to a torrid start to the second-division Bundesliga season with his new club, SpVgg Greuther Furth. He has started two league games so far and also played 65 minutes in a 10-0 win over Eimsbütteler TV in a German Cup match over. With Canada having so few options up front, maybe time has come to bring him back to the fold.
Marcus Haber — Started for St. Johnstone in a season-opening loss to Rangers. Haber carved out some decent chances. The former Vancouver Whitecap looks to be a first-choice player with the Saints, and that has to blip with Hart.
Nana Attakora — Attakora is getting some starts in San Jose, and that’s important. He needs playing time to prove to Hart that he’s capable of moving onto the Canadian back line. Over the last couple of seasons at Toronto FC, the thinking was that Attakora would easily be one of the prime candidates to be a Canadian starter of the future. Now, Attakora need to prove that his career is back on the rails.
Iain Hume — Canada’s biggest issue is finishing. At the Gold Cup, Canada created a good number of chances, had decent possession, but couldn’t translate the good work in midfield into goals. Whenever Hume is injected to the Canadian lineup, he has offered a lot of energy to the attack. He’s expected to be a big part of Preston North End’s push to get back to the Championship.
Kyle Porter and Shaun Saiko — Hart said Thursday that he was going to keep looking at the NASL as a possible provider of Canadian talent. Both Porter and Saiko have been revelations at FC Edmonton this season. Porter provides pace on the wing and has a nose for goal — he’s tied for the team lead in goals. He loves to take on defenders. Trying Porter on the wing could allow Hart to keep playing Simeon Jackson where he’s best suited: Up top. Saiko is tied for FCE’s scoring lead and is the club’s maestro in the middle. He’s a beast in the tackle and has great vision. Frankly, Saiko is an MLS-calibre player currently in NASL. He played for the youth team at Middlesbrough, so the potential is there.
Patrice Bernier — Really, Bernier would have been on the Gold Cup roster had he not fractured his fibula in Danish league play. The midfielder is training again and the question isn’t whether or not Hart wants him; it’s whether or not he’ll be match-fit in September.