Canada men’s national team head coach John Herdman believes the depth of his squad is better than ever. As the team heads down to Orlando, Fla., to take on the United States men’s national team in Concacaf Nations League play, Herdman said selection headaches will be a positive issue for him.
“I think that’s the beauty of this team now,” Herdman said in a media call. “There are selection headaches across this whole team and that’s where we wanted to get Canada at. We’ve had it in the forward line for maybe the first part of my tenure, and now it’s starting to get more difficult in other areas.”
The center back position is a new area Herdman mentioned. The Englishman praised Derek Cornelius and Steven Vitoria following his team’s 2-0 win over the U.S. in October. Canada’s coaching staff now has to factor in Doneil Henry, who has purged his suspension and is available to play at Exploria Stadium Nov. 15.
Herdman added one more defender to his squad, subbing in Dominick Zator for midfielder Juan Cordova. The 25-year-old who plays for Canadian Premier League finalist Cavalry FC gives more defensive options.
“I think it gives us options to bunker down and play a deep block like we did against Mexico in the Gold Cup or it gives us options to get on the front foot,” Herdman said. “That’s what the U.S. are going to have to figure out over the next five days.
“What I have is an opportunity to go one way or the other.”
Locked in on group-stage victory
Herdman and Canada have their eyes locked in on a first-place finish in the Concacaf Nations League Group A.
“Our motivation is to qualify for a World Cup,” Herdman said. “It’s to win the Nations League Group A with one reason in mind: to qualify for the Hex.”
The Englishman isn’t bothered about the U.S. wanting revenge. With one game left for Canada, Herdman wants his players to fuel on their own hopes and aspirations.
“We want to be driven by internal things like getting better every camp we come in,” he said. “Getting better takes us to a place that we all want to be, that we know can change our country forever, which is a qualification to the Hex and hopefully into the World Cup.”
Cyle Larin left out for personal reasons
Former Orlando City SC striker Cyle Larin will not be making a return to Exploria Stadium. Herdman left the 24-year-old out of the Canada citing personal reasons.
“Cyle’s in great form at this moment and he’s finally getting that run of games that he’s craving,” Herdman said. “Cyle was selected for this squad and he’s got some genuine personal, family reasons why can’t be there.”
Larin has scored six goals and collected six assists in all competitions with Belgian club SV Zulte Warengem, on loan from Turkish giant Besiktas.
“He’d love to be in Orlando for sure. He’d love to be with the team playing against the U.S.,” Herdman said. “Every national-team players there marked [the game] on the calendar. But he’s got his own personal reasons and I really respect the decision that he’s made.”
Atiba Hutchinson ‘hasn’t closed the door’ on Canada
Herdman did not call up Atiba Hutchinson to his squad but stressed that the Besiktas midfielder was still in Canada’s plans. He stressed that load management was key for Hutchinson.
“As we know he’s no spring chicken,” Herdman said. “You see that with his club. They leave him out of the [Europa League] matches because they’re managing the Saturday-Wednesday turnaround.”
The six-time Canadian player of the year has remained in communication with the national team. Herdman didn’t rule out a possible return for Canada down the road.
“He hasn’t closed the door,” Herdman said. “Right up until the last week he was still in discussions and seeing where he was at. And unfortunately he picked something up on the back end of his last game which ruled him out of this camp.”