September 30, 2016 - 2:11 PM
TORONTO - Interim Canadian men's soccer coach Michael Findlay, continuing Canada's rebuilding job, has called up a young squad for a pair of October friendlies in Morocco.
Anthony Jackson-Hamel gets his first call-up to the senior squad. The Montreal Impact forward is one of seven players aged 23 and under on Findlay's 23-man roster.
Canada, currently ranked 103rd in the world, plays No. 96 Mauritania on Oct. 7 and No. 58 Morocco on Oct. 11, both in Marrakech. They are the first games for Canada since parting ways with head coach Benito Floro in the wake of Canada's latest World Cup qualifying failure.
"It's going to provide us with a chance to assess some of the players at this level against quality opposition," Findlay said Friday on a conference call. "And that's ultimately our goal.
"Because I can tell you that you'll hear me say this while I'm involved in this process —we can't afford to have any friendlies any more. We know we're going to go through a long period of time here where we officially are not playing qualifiers, but nothing is a friendly to us because people have to establish themselves. People have to convince of their selections and we need to gain both individual and unit results.
"So it's going to be a good test for all."
Canada's goal will be to take advantage of all international dates to play games "because we cannot afford to go dormant," said Findlay, who was an assistant coach under Floro.
Veterans called up include Marcel de Jong, David Edgar, Simeon Jackson, Adam Straith, Kenny Stamatopoulos and Milan Borjan.
Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio gets his first summons since the 2015 Gold Cup. Defender-midfielders Fraser Aird of the Vancouver Whitecaps and Maxim Tissot of Ottawa Fury FC also earn their first call-ups of 2016.
Veteran Atiba Hutchinson is not part of the squad. Findlay said the Besiktas midfielder wanted a break from international soccer.
"We, of course, would honour that request," said Findlay, "and we're in constant contact with Atiba."
Orlando forward Cyle Larin declined an invitation.
"We're certainly disappointed that he's not there and he did decline but we certainly respect his decision," Findlay said diplomatically.
Larin will be missed, especially since Findlay is looking to move Canada towards "a much vibrant and attacking mindset."
"There's no secret that one of our challenges in the past is we didn't score enough goals. And so in doing so we need to hopefully unearth some players who are able to do that."
The Canadian men scored just five goals in six matches in its last round of World Cup qualifying, with three of those coming in the finale against El Salvador.
The Canadian Soccer Association said Samuel Adekugbe, Jay Chapman, Will Johnson, Ben McKendry, Michael Petrasso and Russell Teibert were invited to camp but were unavailable through injury.
Captain Julian de Guzman is also injured. Findlay said the veteran midfielder is still part of the program.
Findlay, who will be assisted by incumbent goalkeeping coach Paul Dolan plus under-17 coach Paul Stalteri, declined to say whether he was a candidate for the full-time job other than to say "I don't think there's a Canadian out there who coaches who wouldn't want to be the national team coach."
Morocco is 5-1-3 this year while Mauritania is 2-1-1.
Goalkeepers: Simon Thomas, FK Bodo/Glimt (Norway); Milan Borjan, PFK Ludogorets Razgrad (Bulgaria); Kenny Stamatopoulos, AIK Fotbol (Sweden).
Defenders: Manjrekar James, Vasas Budapest (Hungary); David Edgar, Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS); Doneil Henry, AC Horsens (Denmark); Marcel De Jong, Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS); Steven Vitoria, Lechia Gdansk (Poland); Karl W. Ouimette, Jacksonville Armada (NASL).
Defender-Midfielders: Jamar Dixon, Ottawa Fury FC (NASL); Fraser Aird, Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS); Maxim Tissot, Ottawa Fury FC (NASL).
Midfielders: Marco Bustos, Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS); David (Junior) Hoilett, unattached; Tosaint Ricketts, Toronto FC (MLS); Jonathan Osorio, Toronto FC (MLS); Samuel Piette, CD Izarra (Spain); Adam Straith, Fredrikstad FK (Norway); Scott Arfield, Burnley FC (England).
Forwards: Simeon Jackson, Walsall FC (England); Marcus Haber, unattached; Jordan Hamilton, Toronto FC (MLS); Anthony Jackson-Hamel, Montreal Impact (MLS).
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016