July 14, 2024
  • July 14, 2024
Canada Copa America Roster

Canada Announces 26-Man Squad For Copa America

By on June 15, 2024 0 853 Views

With just five days until the opening match of the tournament, Canadian national team head coach Jesse Marsch announced his 26-man roster to participate in the upcoming 2024 Copa America.

With some veterans out and some fresh blood in, Marsch has turned some heads with his selections for this team:

New Challenges Await

After a polarizing pair of performances earlier this month which saw Canada lose heavily to the Netherlands in Rotterdam but hold out France in Bordeaux, Marsch is still bullish about how his short tenure has gone so far.

“We’ve seen a lot of progress in a short amount of time,” described Marsch. “It makes me optimistic for the future but I’ve tried to really, with the group, keep our foot on the pedal and make sure that they all know we got a long way to go to became a team that we need to become.”

Things will not get any easier for Marsch and company as their opening match is against reigning World Champions Argentina, followed by matches against tough South American opposition in Chile and Peru. Coming against South American teams will be a different beast than that of those they faced in Europe, but Marsch feels like his squad is prepared for both the quality of the opposition and the awaited antics that might unfold when facing them.

“Certainly, having to play Argentina, the best team in the world, right off the start, I think we are more prepared after the games that we had in Europe on the level at which those games were played,” admitted Marsch on that opening match. “We’re already talked with the group about the mindset of what South American teams are like: they’re fighters, they’re savvy, they know how to handle referees. We have to be able to not be phased by [these] things and by the physicality of what these games are.”

Those familiar with the kind of games these matches tend to be with South American opposition, will know many of the battles will be of the mind as well as of the ball. Canada will need to be prepared to not be sucked into those mind games as they look to break through the group stage and make it to the knockouts.

Ugbo Out On Personal Reason, While No Call For Vitoria Or Borjan

There were a few surprises in the selection of the roster once it was announced as a few big names were missing. One of them was Ike Ugbo, who has been a staple of the matchday squad the last few camps, although has not gotten much game time to prove himself.

With the lackluster performances from record-scorer Cyle Larin, many fans were looking for Marsch to give Ugbo a run up front to see if Canada’s goal-scoring fortunes would change, but now we have learned that it has come down to a personal decision by Ugbo to stay out, rather than one by Marsch.

“Ike [Ugbo] was invited to camp, but he decided for personal reasons to take a break,” revealed Marsch on the matter. “He just felt it was right for him. We had a long conversation, I respected his decision and I understand where he’s at but it won’t be the last that we see of Ike.”

Meanwhile, fellow veterans Steven Vitoria and Milan Borjan were not named to the 26. Vitoria has nearly 50 caps for the national team and was a secure starter in Canada’s 2022 World Cup Qualifier run where they finished first in the table. Borjan was also a massive part of that team, and featured in all three matches for Canada in the 2022 World Cup as their number one goalkeeper.

On their omission, Marsch admits that he had not yet spoken to them about his decision, but that it is on his radar. “I would like to speak to them and get their take on what the national team program has meant to them and what they think we can improve on”.

Nevertheless, Marsch did elaborate more on his decisions to leave out these two players that nearly have 130 caps combined, and it has to do with ushering in a new era.

“Part of the reason we didn’t call them in is because I think this new crop of players needs to develop bigger toles of leadership and roles within the team,” elaborated Marsch. “It’s important that they have room to do so so that’s been a big focus.”

There may be no bigger opportunity for this new crop of players to breakthrough for their country ahead of the 2026 World Cup than this very competition, as Marsch looks to prepare his side for an improved performance on the World’s Biggest Stage.

Ahmed and Russell-Rowe: The Future Ahead of 2026?

For those that were disappointed to not have seen Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Ali Ahmed and Columbus Crew striker Jacen Russell-Rowe, the news of their inclusion to the pre-Copa camp must have been a welcome sight. Now, Ahmed and Russell-Rowe have been called upon to participate in one of Canada’s biggest tournaments in recent history, and that means stepping up to the plate when asked.

For Marsch, both of these players had always been in the back of his mind when he was thinking about his squad. It was just the timing of the MLS window and the previous friendlies that kept them out of it.

“I kind of always had earmarked Ali [Ahmed] and Jacen [Russell-Rowe] as potential players to come in for Copa America, so that I could get to know them a little bit more,” explained Marsch on his decision to include them now. “This [selection] is obviously about us trying to perform at our best in Copa America but I need to get to know a wide group of players so I can know exactly who, from a personality perspective and a player perspective, fits into what we’re trying to build. And I tell you, Ali and Jacen have really impressed me in the first two days.”

That energy and exuberence of youth will be necessary as the team comes up against some of the toughest opposition the continent has to offer, but it also gives Marsch and fans alike some insight into who might be the rising stars for Canada ahead of their home World Cup in two years time. Ahmed and Russell-Rowe, amongst many others in the camp, will then have to take advantage of these opportunities so as to start to ink their names into the squad for that historic tournament in 2026.

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