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The case for NASL content on the Canadian national team

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Men’s national team coach Stephen Hart will announce the roster Thursday for Canada’s first two World Cup qualifiers, against St. Lucia Sept. 2 and at Puerto Rico Sept. 6.

In August, Hart said that reigning Canadian player of the year Atiba Hutchinson was almost certain to miss the first few qualifying games (click HERE), as he recovers from meniscus surgery. Hutchinson did play for PSV Eindhoven this week — but only as a sub. It would a be a surprise to see his name on Canada’s team sheet.

What would be most interesting is whether or not Hart looks to the NASL ranks — especially for players who would have had experience playing the Puerto Rico Islanders. He said in August that, if players are doing well and getting regular time, he’d look to Div.-2.

The second game of the two sees Canada travel to Puerto Rico, and seven members of the reigning Div.-2 champion Islanders squad are part of the national team — including former Toronto FC central defender Marco Velez.

The Puerto Ricans are Team NASL; they also have defender John Krause from the league-leading Carolina RailHawks and former Islander Cristian Arrieta, who spent last season with the Philadelphia Union before going back to Div.-2 this season with  the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Arrieta was arguably the Islanders’ most valuable player when the team made its Cinderella run to the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League in 2009.

Canada will easily have more talent available than Puerto Rico; but what makes the Puerto Ricans dangerous is that so many of their starters regularly play together in NASL. They are familiar with the stadium (let’s face it, how many Canadian players regularly play at BMO Field? Two.). Of all the game in this preliminary CONCACAF round, the trip to Puerto Rico will be Canada’s toughest.

And that’s why it might be a good idea for Hart to call up an NASL player or two who can bring some solid advance scouting of the Islanders… er… Puerto Rican national side.

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