CONCACAF Gold Cup 2017 Preview: Canada

Folks in the Great White North look forward to their own brand of football this time of year. But, there are still the diehards that scream for Les Rouges when the Gold Cup rolls around. Recent history hasn’t been great, but when the team comes together, heads look up with both surprise and joy. This may just be another one of those years.

CONCACAF Gold Cup 2017 Preview: Canada

Gold Cup 2017 Preview
Canadian National Soccer Team midfielder Alphonso Davies (12) during the first half of the CONCACAF Gold Cup Group A game between the Canadian National Soccer Team and French Guiana on July 07, 2017, at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. – Getty Images

Introduction to the Article

The crew from Soccer 2 the MAX, Rachael McKriger, Erik Watkins and Sean Garmer each took a group and have done previews for each squad ahead of the CONCACAF Gold Cup 2017 tournament. They give a little about of information on their history in the tournament. Their recent form, the manager and the squad. After that, they give a Player to Watch, and discuss what could happen. Finally, they give their prediction on the team’s final place in the tournament. Hopefully, you enjoy our team preview articles.

Gold Cup History

The Reds surprised the soccer world when they won it all back in 2000. Having qualified through a four-team playoff, Canada survived a Circle of Death via a coin toss to make the quarterfinals.

From there, Richard Hastings scored a golden goal in extra time against Mexico. Then, it was Mark Watson’s lone goal against Trinidad and Tobago in the semifinals. Finally, the dream run completed with a 2-0 win against invitees Colombia in the final.

Canada has fallen since that 2000 title. Hosting games for the first time ever in 2015, fans at BMO Field saw a scoreless draw against Costa Rica to end group play. While the Reds only allowed one goal in three games, they didn’t score at all. They ended the tournament with two points and a last place finish in their group (10th overall).

Gold Cup 2017 Team Roster

Gold Cup 2017 Preview
Canada pose for a team photo before their Concacaf Gold Cup match against French Guiana at Red Bull Arena on July 7, 2017 in Harrison, New Jersey. – Getty Images

Goalkeepers – 18 Milan Borjan, 22 Jayson Leutwiler, 1 Maxime Crépeau

Defenders – 17 Marcel de Jong, 15 Adam Straith, 5 Dejan Jakovic, 3 Manjrekar James, 19 Steven Vitória, 4 Sam Adekugbe

Midfielders – 2 Fraser Aird, 20 Patrice Bernier, 6 Samuel Piette, 7 Russell Teibert, 11 Tosaint Ricketts, 21 Jonathan Osorio, 16 Anthony Jackson-Hamel, 10 David Junior Hoilett, 8 Scott Arfield, 23 Michael Petrasso, 12 Alphonso Davies, 13 Raheem Edwards, 14 Mark-Anthony Kaye

Forwards – 9 Lucas Cavallini

Recent Form

The Canadiens shut out Dominica and beat Belize to reach the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying. However, they failed to reach the Hex. Since the start of qualifying, Canada is 9W-7D-7L, including two wins and a draw since the start of 2017. However, those three matches were (a win against Bermuda) in January, (a draw with Scotland in March, and a tune-up game on June 13 against Curacao as the final lead up to the Gold Cup. They won it 2-1.

The Manager: Octavio Zambrano

Gold Cup 2017 Preview
Octavio Zambrano coach of Canada looks on prior to the Group A match between French Guiana and Canada as part of the Gold Cup 2017 at Red Bull Arena on July 07, 2017 in Harrison, New Jersey. – Getty Images

Octavio Zambrano has been around the game since the early 1980’s. Born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Zambrano’s playing and coaching career originally centered around Los Angeles and other Southern California areas. After playing for the Los Angeles Lazers in the Major Indoor Soccer League, Zambrano coached many lower-division teams before taking the reigns of the LA Galaxy. After two straight playoff appearances in ’97 and ‘98, and leading the Galaxy to the CONCACAF Champions Cup final against Cruz Azul, he was fired at the beginning of the 1999 season. The next year, he started a three-year run with the then MetroStars (now New York Red Bulls). Taking them to the playoffs twice and beating the Dallas Burn in the quarterfinals in 2000.

Canada is Zambrano’s first national team job, replacing interim manager Michael Findlay in March 2017.

Player to Watch

Gold Cup 2017 Preview
Canadian National Soccer Team forward Lucas Cavallini (9) during the first half of the CONCACAF Gold Cup Group A game between the Canadian National Soccer Team and French Guiana on July 07, 2017, at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. – Getty Images

With prominent striker Cyle Larin off the squad thanks to his infamous off the field incident. The question is, can Lucas Cavallini fill those big shoes? Or will it be a goals by committee approach with a squad mostly made up of midfielders who can play various positions. Many North American fans and observers may turn their heads towards Tosaint Ricketts. Perhaps even the 16 year-old Alphonso Davies. But, the real wild card up front is Lucas Cavallini.

Cavallini is enjoying great success at club level, scoring six goals in just 15 appearances for Peñarol, one of the top teams in Uruguay. However, his history as a Red is much more checkered. He’s turned down previous invites for personal reasons. He was quoted in a May 2015 interview as regretting being cap-tied to Canada. Finally, four managers later, Cavallini appears fully committed to don his country’s colors. His play on the field will show exactly how committed he is to the Reds.

Getting Through the Group

Canada has the talent to make the quarterfinals. Especially, as one of the two best third-place teams. A win over French Guiana is a safe bet, but the other two matches are against Honduras and Costa Rica. With only one forward on the roster, a 4-5-1 is at least as equally likely as a 4-4-2. Honduran and Costa Rican speed can counter a lone striker with little trouble, so it’s up to Zambrano to find a way to steal at least a 4th point to ensure qualification to the knockout rounds.

Final Thoughts

Canada actually opens the entire tournament on July 7 against French Guiana. Then, they see Central America’s two top teams in succession. Costa Rica is the second opponent on July 11. While they face a possible win and in match against Honduras in their final group match.

With the Canadian Premier League coming in 2018, these are the biggest tests for the Reds development. More importantly, these show how far it’s talent has progressed in competing on a bigger stage.

For me, Canada competes with Jamaica, as one of the best third-place teams. But, that means a quarterfinal date with either the United States or Mexico. This isn’t the 2000 team that can pull off an extra-time upset. This means the Canadian Soccer Association will have four games to look at to see where the building begins.

Erik’s Prediction: Qualifies as Best Third, Loses in Quarterfinals.

Sean’s Prediction: Qualifies as Best Third, Loses in Quarterfinals. Rachael’s Prediction: Qualifies as Best Third, Loses in Quarterfinals.

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