FC Edmonton took UBC midfielder Thomas Gardner first overall in Friday’s CPL-U Sports draft, one of four Thunderbirds selected in the two-round draft.
Concordia had three players chosen while two each came from the University of Montreal, Mount Royal University and Ontario Tech University.
The 16 players selected will attend pre-season training with the hope of securing a contract. They are eligible for a developmental deal that allows a player to sign with a CPL club while preserving any remaining U Sports eligibility.
The 22-year-old Gardiner was drafted sixth overall in the 2018 draft and 12th overall in 2019, both times by Pacific FC. A native of North Vancouver, Gardner joined the Whitecaps FC residency program in 2011, signing his first pro contract with the USL’s Whitecaps FC 2 in 2015.
FC Edmonton coach Alan Koch, then with the Whitecaps organization, gave Gardner his pro debut in the USL Championship. Gardiner made one appearance for the MLS Whitecaps in a pre-season game against the Portland Timbers in February 2016.
“Tommy is a creative player who we know can play and contribute in the CPL,” Koch said in a statement. “Injury and COVID prevented him from playing in the league previously, and we are excited to welcome him to FC Edmonton.”
WATCH | Coverage of the 2021 CPL – U SPORTS Draft:
Coverage of the 2021 CPL – U SPORTS Draft. 1:01:48
Atletico Ottawa used the second pick on Carleton defender Chris Malekos. Winnipeg’s Valour FC then took six-foot-seven goalkeeper Yuba-Rayene Yesli from the Montreal Carabins.
The 21-year-old ‘keeper, a CF Montreal youth product, spent time with Vibonese Calcio in Italy’s Serie D, helping them earn promotion to Serie C.
“You can’t coach size,” said Valour coach Rob Gale.
York United FC took 19-year-old midfielder Christopher Campoli from Ontario Tech University before Pacific FC chose UBC defender Chris Lee.
Grateful to be drafted in the <a href=”https://twitter.com/CPLsoccer?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@CPLsoccer</a> draft by <a href=”https://twitter.com/yorkutdfc?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@yorkutdfc</a>. Eager to get to work! <a href=”https://t.co/Hbrjkb2ELi”>https://t.co/Hbrjkb2ELi</a>
Calgary’s Cavalry FC used the sixth pick on midfielder Victor Loturi from Mount Royal University. Loturi spent time with Calvary in 2019.
Carleton forward Stefan Karajovanovic went seventh to HFX Wanderers FC before Concordia defender Garven-Michee Metusala was taken by CPL champion Forge FC to complete the first round.
York took Karajovanovic fifth overall in the 2019 draft.
Valour FC used the 14th overall pick on Carleton defender Tony Mikhael, who has been called up by Lebanon’s under-22 team.
York University defender Reggie Laryea, younger brother of Toronto FC fullback-midfielder Richie Laryea, went 15th overall to Atletico Ottawa. Reggie Laryea has also spent time with the University of Akron and League 1 Ontario’s Sigma FC.
UBC defender Jackson Farmer was taken 16th overall by FC Edmonton. The 25-year-old Edmonton native has won one cap for Canada at the senior level and was a youth international at the U-15, U-18 and U-20 level.
The six-foot-two centre back also played for the Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2, Charleston Battery and Calgary Foothills.
The league says 17 U-Sports draft choices have made CPL rosters since the first draft in 2018. Cory Bent, taken first overall in the last U Sports draft (2019), played 10 games for HFX Wanderers last season.
1. FC Edmonton, Thomas Gardner, midfielder, UBC; 2. Atletico Ottawa, Christopher Malekos, defender, Carleton University; 2. Valour FC, Yuba-Rayene Yesli, goalkeeper, University of Montreal; 4. York United FC, Christopher Campoli, midfielder, Ontario Tech University; 5. Pacific FC, Chris Lee, defender, UBC; 6. Cavalry FC, Victor Loturi, midfielder, Mount Royal University; 7. HFX Wanderers FC, Stefan Karajovanovic, forward, Carleton University; 8. Forge FC, Garven-Michee Metusala, defender, Concordia University.
9. Forge FC, Jose da Cunha, defender, Cape Breton University; 10. HFX Wanderers, Kareem Sow, defender, University of Montreal; 11. Cavalry FC, Ethan Keen, defender, Mount Royal University; 12. Pacific FC, Victory Shumbusho, forward, UBC; 13. York United FC, Danial Rafisamii, midfielder, Ontario Tech University; 14. Valour FC, Tony Mikhael, defender, Carleton University; 15. Atletico Ottawa, Reggie Laryea, defender, York University; 16. FC Edmonton, Jackson Farmer, defender, UBC.
Prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong and two other activists were taken into custody Monday after they pleaded guilty to charges related to a demonstration outside police headquarters during anti-government protests last year.
Wong, together with fellow activists Ivan Lam and Agnes Chow, pleaded guilty to charges related to organizing, taking part in and inciting protesters to join an unauthorized protest outside police headquarters last June. The trio were members of the now-disbanded Demosisto political party.
They were remanded in custody at a court hearing Monday, and the three are expected to be sentenced on Dec. 2. Those found guilty of taking part in an unlawful assembly could face as long as five years in prison depending on the severity of the offence.
“I am persuaded that neither prison bars, nor election ban, nor any other arbitrary powers would stop us from activism,” Wong said, ahead of the court hearing.
“What we are doing now is to explain the value of freedom to the world, through our compassion to whom we love, so much that we are willing to sacrifice the freedom of our own. I’m prepared for the thin chance of walking free.”
Wong rose to prominence as a student leader during the 2014 Umbrella Movement pro-democracy protests and is among a growing number of activists being charged with relatively minor offences since Beijing in June imposed a sweeping national security law on the region that has severely restricted political speech.
‘I will try my best to face it bravely’
Pro-democracy supporters have said the legal charges are part of a campaign to harass and intimidate them.
Lam, who also spoke ahead of the court hearing, said he too was prepared to be jailed.
Wong wrote on his Facebook page on Sunday that he and Lam had decided to plead guilty after consulting with their lawyers. The two previously pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Chow had already pleaded guilty to charges of inciting others and taking part in the protest.
“If I am sentenced to prison this time, it will be the first time in my life that I have been in jail,” Chow wrote on her Facebook page on Sunday.
“Although I am mentally prepared, I still feel a little bit scared. However, compared to many friends, I have suffered very little. When I think of this, I will try my best to face it bravely.”
On June 21 last year, thousands rallied outside the police headquarters to protest what they said was excessive police force against demonstrators.
At least seven people were taken to hospital after an airport rally in Omaha, Neb., for U.S. President Donald Trump that drew thousands, many of whom were left stranded several kilometres from their parked cars in freezing weather.
Omaha police said in a written statement that first responders dealt with 30 people for medical reasons throughout the day, and seven were taken to hospital. Police-monitoring sites on social media reported that some people suffered adverse effects from temperatures hovering around the freezing point as they waited for shuttle buses or tried to walk to their cars about 3.5 kilometres away following the rally.
“Many people underestimated the distance from the event back to the parking lot on foot,” Officer Michael Pecha, a spokesperson for the Omaha police, said in the statement.
Most of the thousands who attended the Tuesday night rally at Omaha’s Eppley Airfield parked in remote lots and were shuttled to the event in buses. Police said 40 buses were used to shuttle 25,000 people over a 10-hour period, starting at 10 a.m., to the event site, although an undisclosed number left before the rally ended, police said.
Traffic became snarled, and awaiting buses — which can hold about 50 riders each — were overwhelmed when crowds left the event at about 9 p.m., police said. Additional buses were called in to try to get people to their cars.
Police said the last of the rally-goers were able to leave at about midnight.
Trump deputy national press secretary Samantha Zager said in a statement that the 40 shuttle buses the event deployed were twice the number usually deployed at Trump campaign rallies. But “local road closures and resulting congestion caused delays,” she said.
“At the guest departure location, we had tents, heaters, generators, hot cocoa and handwarmers available for guests,” Zager said. “We always strive to provide the best guest experience at our events, and we care about their safety.”
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Wednesday used the image of Omaha supporters left in the cold after the rally to criticize Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s an image that captured President Trump’s whole approach to this crisis,” Biden said.
Thais streamed into shopping malls on Sunday, once again enjoying their air-conditioned oases as the country eased one of the restrictions imposed to fight the novel coronavirus.
The government allowed malls to reopen after the number of new virus cases in Thailand dwindled to single digits for all but one day over more than two weeks. Malls had been closed since March as a measure to combat the spread of the virus.
Student Baiplu Chaonuam expressed her relief at returning to a Bangkok mall. “I started to get used to staying home, but to be able to come back out and look around at things is an improvement from staying in,” she said.
The mall experience, however, may not be as carefree as it was before the virus, with measures instituted to reduce the danger that the malls will become new infection hotspots.
Thermal scanners check temperatures for signs of fever and each shopper must pass through a disinfectant mist at every entrance. Everyone must wear a mask and keep it on throughout their stay. No crowding on the escalators, as people must keep a two-step distance from those in front of them.
More controversially, shoppers must use their smartphones to register electronically when entering and leaving a mall, and when entering and leaving individual stores. If someone later falls ill, this stored data will be used to trace and contact anyone who may have been in contact with them at the mall.
Contact tracing apps have been adopted in many countries, raising concerns among privacy advocates. But the Thai government says the data will be used only for public health purposes.
Lines formed outside luxury brand stores at Bangkok’s upmarket Siam Paragon mall on Sunday as staff enforced the new entry procedures. Window-shopping families strolled down concourses, occasionally pausing to wash their hands with gel from the many dispensers.
“To be able to go out again could help people relax,” said one mall goer, Jariya Seriyothin. “But we still have to be careful when we come out and not let all these easing measures make us forget about everything.”
The coronavirus crisis has hit the already-struggling Thai economy hard. Millions of people have been laid off, with little immediate prospect of a return to work for many of them. The reopening of the malls at least brings some relief to one part of the retail sector.
The government will watch to see whether the infection rate remains low before deciding on the next phase of its plan to restore normality. It is treading carefully, announcing Saturday that it was extending to the end of June a ban on the arrival of international passenger flights.
Earlier this month, the government reopened public parks, which had been closed as part of anti-virus measures.
Thai health authorities announced three new virus cases on Sunday, bringing the total to 3,028, including 56 deaths.
Cuddling a child of her own was something cancer survivor Anna Camille Tucci feared might never be possible.
In 2017, the Toronto woman had a full hysterectomy as part of treatment for ovarian cancer — but not before doctors harvested her eggs and created embryos with her husband’s sperm.
“Since I can remember, I wanted kids….That’s just something that was in my heart since I was tiny,” she said. “Even the thought of not being able to carry [a baby] — that was really difficult.”
But in December 2019, the 30-year-old’s dream of being a mom came true. A surrogate gave birth to Tucci’s healthy baby boy.
Motherhood has been “bliss,” Tucci says, yet she can’t shake lingering questions she has about the thousands of dollars she and her husband paid through the surrogacy agency they’d hired to help them navigate the delicate process.
A surrogate gave birth to Anna Camille Tucci’s baby boy last December. She used a surrogacy agency to help her navigate the process and was left with serious questions about the payments she made. 9:43
In Canada, it is illegal to pay a surrogate, but it is legal to reimburse her for pregnancy-related expenses such as additional food, clothing, vitamins and any transportation costs she incurs travelling to her medical appointments. In some cases, the transactions are handled using a trust that is set up and managed by a surrogacy agency.
Over the course of a three-month investigation, CBC News spoke with dozens of people involved in surrogacy in Canada, including parents, surrogates and lawyers; their experiences reveal a burgeoning industry in which agencies lack oversight and mandatory transparency.
Five different families raised concerns about money that was paid to surrogates through their trust accounts.
Tucci wanted to know how nearly $ 2,000 a month was being spent, but the agency’s policy was that receipts aren’t released until after the birth.
In another case, an Ontario father demanded his agency send him his surrogate’s receipts. He found many didn’t have dates, some were duplicates, others were from before he’d met his surrogate, and one had a lottery ticket listed.
“I think people have found a way to pull the parents’ heartstrings,” Tucci said. “I think the industry as a whole — everyone that’s involved in it — I think they’re all there to make money in the end.”
Growing demand for surrogates
The most up-to-date data from Statistics Canada shows roughly one in six couples in Canada experience infertility — a figure that has doubled since the 1980s. Infertility combined with an increase in same-sex couples starting families means the demand for surrogates has boomed.
No public health agency tracks surrogate pregnancies, but data voluntarily provided by Canadian fertility clinics shows at least 816 surrogate births were reported between 2013 and 2017.
Once couples factor in fees for agencies, lawyers and fertility clinics, the cost can quickly reach $ 100,000 per pregnancy.
Introduced in 2004, Canada’s reproductive legislation was meant to prevent the exploitation of women and the commercialization of surrogacy.
The maximum penalty for paying a surrogate for things that aren’t pregnancy-related is a $ 500,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.
Parents shocked by cost of reimbursements
Tucci and her husband selected a surrogate through an agency and paid the company nearly $ 10,000 in fees for consultation and to manage their surrogate’s monthly reimbursements through a trust fund. They negotiated a legal contract with their surrogate that allowed her to claim expenses up to a maximum of nearly $ 2,000 a month during the pregnancy.
“We thought she would never actually meet that max that we had in the contract. But we found out that that’s not true,” Tucci said.
The surrogate would submit her receipts to the agency every month. The agency would then review them and reimburse her through the trust fund.
When the couple realized the surrogate was claiming the maximum every month, they were shocked and began asking the agency to provide the actual receipts.
“We loved our surrogate. We trusted she was doing everything she could be doing to the best of her abilities, so it was more we were questioning [the agency’s] process of going through those receipts and what might be approved.”
The agency told Tucci she’d get the receipts but only months after the baby was born.
In the meantime, the agency sent the couple monthly expense breakdowns, showing money reimbursed in categories such as groceries, takeout meals, clothing and communications.
More than $ 700 a month was approved for groceries.
“The two of us together, I don’t think we spend that much on groceries and this is supposed to be for one person,” she said.
“This kind of made us think, even more of, ‘Wow, where is all this money coming from?'”
Tucci said she feared rocking the boat and turning the pregnancy into a “bad experience,” but she also knew paying a surrogate for anything beyond pregnancy-related expenses could land her in trouble with the law.
“No one wants to be in a situation where they’re caught doing things that they weren’t supposed to be doing without even knowing,” she said. “I am worried.”
Surrogate’s receipts include duplicates, lottery ticket
In another case, an Ontario father’s trust account was billed $ 5,000 worth of expenses last year, despite the fact his surrogate miscarried within the first month.
CBC News agreed not to publish his name because he fears backlash from the surrogacy community.
When he demanded to see the receipts his agency had reimbursed, he was sent digital images of receipts his surrogate had submitted.
CBC News reviewed them and found a lottery ticket, duplicates, more than $ 600 worth of expenses from before the father met his surrogate, and nearly $ 1,700 worth with no visible date.
“We have to play within the rules, and this is not playing within the rules, so it’s putting everybody at risk,” said his lawyer, Sherry Levitan.
“Perhaps give [the surrogate] the benefit of the doubt that she made a mistake. But it’s the kind of thing that should have been caught by the agency. So, it certainly looks like no one is being tasked with the job of looking at [the receipts] critically.”
Surrogate considered an abortion over expense fight
CBC News spoke with more than a dozen surrogates, many of whom said they were motivated by a desire to help families in need.
But one of the women we spoke with confirmed it’s not just legal ramifications couples have to worry about when questioning expenses.
The four-time surrogate described her experience carrying a baby for a New Brunswick couple last year. She isn’t named in this story to protect the privacy of the parents.
“They nickel and dimed for everything,” she said in a phone interview. “It was just bullshit after bullshit.”
During the first three months of her pregnancy, she said, the parents were “nit-picking” over expenses she had routinely claimed in previous surrogacies, such as car payments.
“I was like, ‘OK, I’m done.’ I was going to abort the baby. It was at that point; I was so done,” she said.
“They breached [our contract] by not paying me. So, I figured, ‘Oh, I’m not going to follow the rules.”
She said the arguments with the family were never resolved and ultimately she miscarried near the end of the first trimester.
“Oh my goodness, that’s terrible,” Toronto fertility lawyer Sara Cohen said when told of the dispute. “I think a lot of times people only see the surrogate as being very vulnerable, but the intended parents are very vulnerable, too, because someone’s carrying their baby.”
Cohen said some lawyers draft surrogacy contracts to cover a portion of car payments and car insurance, but she does not.
She said expenses that are incurred before and after the pregnancy should not be considered pregnancy-related.
“Is this an expense she would have incurred but for the fact that she’s pregnant as a surrogate or not?”
Agency says it is ‘extremely diligent’
The five families who shared their stories with CBC News were clients of the same agency — Canadian Fertility Consulting (CFC).
CFC says it is the largest agency in the country. It has roughly 400 ongoing surrogate-couple relationships and oversees some 300 surrogacy births every year.
Owner Leia Swanberg is the only person who’s ever been charged for paying surrogates in Canada.
RCMP raided Swanberg’s Cobourg, Ont., offices and she was charged in February 2013. Later that year, she pleaded guilty to regulatory offences for paying surrogates without receipts and was fined $ 60,000.
In a recent interview with CBC News, Swanberg said that after the court case she started requiring receipts for all expenditures.
“It was a very relaxed system, and now it is not,” she said. “I will not take that risk for any client or any surrogate, and so I am extremely diligent with my team.”
Swanberg said her agency currently has a finance team of six people who count receipts and reimburse surrogates. CBC News requested a followup interview to address the specific concerns this investigation uncovered, but she declined to comment.
Surrogate feels ‘absolutely treacherous’
In the past two decades, at least a dozen private agencies have opened across Canada. Surrogacy agencies are unlicensed and compete to recruit and retain women they can connect with clients.
While many surrogates told CBC News they tried to keep expenses low to help families, others said they were encouraged by CFC to collect as many receipts as possible to ensure they hit their monthly maximum allowance.
CBC News has agreed not to name these women because they fear legal ramifications.
“It’s a little shady, like a lot shady,” one surrogate said of how she was encouraged to save all receipts so she would reach her monthly limit. “They don’t question it apparently.”
Another surrogate said it wasn’t until she switched from CFC to another agency that she realized some of her reimbursements were probably inappropriate.
“Now I feel absolutely treacherous. It’s not that I regret my last two [surrogacy pregnancies], but it definitely pulls at the heartstrings,” she said.
Another former CFC surrogate, who is now employed at a rival agency, showed CBC News a 2013 message exchange she had with Swanberg’s personal Facebook account.
The exchange is from after Swanberg had been charged but before the court case was finished.
In the exchange, Swanberg’s account encourages her to save receipts “from everyone” in her household.
The surrogate expressed doubt she would be able to reach her monthly expenses limit because she didn’t make enough money at her job to pay for so many things.
Swanberg’s account replied: “If you live w your parents they can start saving receipts now to, we just need them to add up to 18 plus thousand, so if you start now, getting receipts from everyone.”
Below is an image of the Facebook Messenger exchange
Swanberg told CBC News she would search her message history to see if she’d sent the message, but never replied. She also declined to comment on the surrogates who said they were encouraged to maximize their reimbursements.
Fertility lawyer Sherry Levitan says her clients have complained about other agencies as well.
“I don’t want to paint all the agencies with the same brush, because there are some that are doing a stellar job,” Levitan said.
“There are some agencies that I know coach their surrogates so that they are able to submit the maximum every month and that aren’t vetting them the way that I would have hoped that they are.”
New regulations coming
In June, Health Canada will introduce long-awaited regulations on surrogate reimbursements, but some legal experts say they likely won’t fix the problems.
The new regulations provide broad categories of what could be considered a pregnancy-related expense, so there is still room for interpretation.
While the rules also introduce a new form to declare expenses, they do not require that parents see the receipts prior to money being reimbursed to their surrogate.
“That’s clearly problematic and the regulations don’t actually help you with that,” Cohen said.
Since 2012 Health Canada has received seven complaints related to surrogacy, but the lawyers who spoke with CBC News suspect some parents don’t report their concerns.
According to Cohen, Canada should decriminalize paying surrogates so parents feel empowered to speak out against suspected wrongdoing without fear of legal consequences.
She also says the agencies should be regulated and licensed like adoption agencies.
“I just think that kind of oversight would be safer for everybody — safer for the parents, safer for the surrogate.”
Four Canadians went in the top 20 of Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft with the Vancouver Whitecaps taking Hamilton’s Ryan Raposo fourth overall from Syracuse to kick things off.
Wake Forest midfielder/fullback Alistair Johnston (Aurora, Ont.) was chosen 11th by expansion Nashville SC, Syracuse defender Nyal Higgins (Ajax, Ont.) went 19th to Toronto FC and Connecticut forward Dayonn Harris (Milton, Ont.) was selected 20th by Real Salt Lake.
All four first-rounders played club soccer at Vaughan SC in the Toronto area. Raposo, Johnston and Harris also played for Vaughan Azzurri against the CPL’s HFX Wanderers in last year’s Canadian Championship.
“It’s a massive accomplishment for the [Vaughan] club,” said Raposo, an attacking midfielder who can play on either flank or slot in as a No. 10. “I’m super-happy for all of them.”
Expansion Inter Miami CF took Clemson forward Robbie Robinson first overall, looking to add some punch up front with the winner of the 2019 MAC Hermann Trophy as top male collegiate player. Robinson tied for top NCAA goal-scorer last year with 18 goals and nine assists in 19 games.
“We’re excited to have you in our club,” co-owner David Beckham told Robinson via FaceTime.
Nashville then took Indiana defender Jack Maher, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
Miami used the third pick, obtained in a prior trade with FC Cincinnati, to select Georgetown defender Dylan Nealis. A finalist for the Hermann Trophy and NCAA champion, he is the younger brother of New York Red Bulls defender Sean Nealis.
Rounds 3 and 4 go Monday via conference call.
Four Canadians were chosen in the top 27 picks last year with three in the first nine. Defender Callum Montgomery went fourth overall to FC Dallas, followed by goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair (seventh, Minnesota), midfielder Tajon Buchanan (ninth, New England) and defender Kamal Miller (27th, Orlando).
St. Clair and Miller also have Vaughan club ties.
The 20-year-old Raposo is a skilful winger who played No. 10 last season with Syracuse, where he set school records for most points (37) and goals (15) by a sophomore. Syracuse coach Ian McIntyre calls him a dynamic, exciting attacker who can torment defenders.
The five-foot-seven 145-pound Raposo admits to playing with a chip on his shoulder, saying growing up he was told he was too small and too slow. He was released by Toronto FC’s academy less than two years after joining at age 11, something that still rankles years later.
Raposo has also spent time in Germany with Hoffenheim, Mainz and Sandhausen.
A veteran of four Canadian youth camps, he captained Ontario to gold at the 2017 Canada Games where he was named tournament MVP.
The Montreal Impact, in its first draft with coach Thierry Henry at the helm, took North Carolina defender Jeremy Kelly ninth overall after an announced trade with Minnesota United fell through.
Montreal promptly traded Kelly to Colorado for $ 75,000 US in general allocation money. Without a second-round pick, the Impact were done for the day.
Nashville traded with Colorado to take Johnston with the 11th pick. The 21-year-old was converted to a right back last season at Wake Forest after playing in central midfield.
“He’s a guy that any coach would love to have in the locker room in terms of what he brings to your team in personality, work rate, professionalism, ambition,” said Wake Forest coach Bobby Muuss.
Toronto used the 19th pick, obtained in an earlier trade with the Los Angeles Galaxy, to take Higgins. The 21-year-old had a goal and an assist in 19 games at Syracuse in 2019 after spending three seasons at Oakland University.
Toronto FC used the 25th pick on Nigerian midfielder Ifunanyachi Achara from Georgetown. TFC took a pair of defenders in the second round — Senegal’s Malick Mbaye (Clemson, 33rd overall) and Denmark’s Simon Waever (Indiana, 51st overall).
Vancouver picked up Florida International goalkeeper Daniel Gagliardi in the second round (32nd overall).
Virginia forward Daryl Dike, the younger brother of former Toronto FC striker Bright Dike, went fifth overall to Orlando. Virginia defender Henry Kessler went sixth to the New England Revolution.
Unlike previous years, the draft was not hosted by a city. The first two rounds were shown digitally on an ESPN-produced show that darted around the league.
That’s the question looming over Canada’s men’s soccer team as the squad gets set for their rematch Friday night against the Americans in Orlando.
There’s reason for optimism. It was one month ago the Canadians were celebrating their historic win over the United States — a 2-0 victory in front of a boisterous home crowd at BMO Field in Toronto, perhaps signaling new hope. It was, after all, the program’s first victory over their southern neighbours since 1985.
But now it’s about consistency, and until the team strings together a number of strong performances, the program will continue to be questioned. Head coach John Herdman knows it too.
WATCH: John Herdman previews Friday’s match vs. U.S.:
Canadian men’s national soccer team head coach John Herdman discusses his team’s upcoming match against the United States which will be held on Friday in Orlando. 2:12
He has two feet firmly planted on the pitch knowing that his 69th world-ranked team is going to need many more of these international victories strung together before they’re taken seriously.
“Now it’s about consistency,” Herdman said. “There’s clarity though. We’re getting better, getting better every time we come in and that will take us to a place we all want to be, that we know can change our country forever.”
The goals are lofty but Herdman doesn’t shy away from them. He took the Canadian women’s team to a different soccer stratosphere — back-to-back Olympic bronze medals. Not since 1986 have the Canadian men played in a World Cup.
WATCH | Team Canada excited for CONCACAF Nations League rematch against USA:
Canadian forward Alphonso Davies talks about the mindset Team Canada has heading into their Nations League rematch with the United States. 1:33
Now that “country-changing” moment he so badly seeks for the men’s side is starting to take shape. Qualifying for the 2022 World Cup is his obsessive focus as he talks about it at every turn.
“Our motivation is to qualify for the World Cup,” Herdman said during a conference call leading into Friday’s match.
“You have to experience it, winning important games. The words are nothing. I think that’s what happened in our first win against the U.S., knowing that the work we’ve put in has taken us to this place.”
That place? Another pressure-packed, pivotal game against the Americans that, should the team draw or win, catapults them closer to the spot they want to be. A loss, in a lot of ways, undoes all the greatness realized that October night in Toronto.
The Canadians’ victory over the U.S. put them in first place atop the Group A standings in the CONCACAF Nations League — while comfortable for the moment, the margin for error is slim.
Getting to the Hex
A win or draw Friday night against the Americans would place the Canadians into the Nations League final four and also earn them valuable points in the FIFA world rankings, all with the goal of getting to Qatar 2022 as the ultimate end stop.
Canada is now in the top six among CONCACAF teams after its win over the United States — that’s where they need to be by the time next June rolls around to ensure a spot in the Hexagonal (the Hex) for World Cup qualifying. The Hex is the most direct path for World Cup qualifying in the CONCACAF region.
El Salvador, Curaçao and Panama are close-by so Canada can’t afford a slip now.
WATCH: Alphonso Davis scores winner vs. U.S.
Teenage sensation Alphonso Davies scored in Canada’s 2-0 win over the United States in Toronto. 1:17
Herdman says it’ll be incumbent upon his team to continue to play at a high level to signal to the rest of the competing nations Canada belongs in the conversation.
“It comes down to will. That’s what will we will be working on and building consistency,” he said.
“Mindset wise it’s the same as every time we play — Keep improving as a group to be better than we were and to just keep bringing that same will and intensity.”
Young soccer stars shining
Gone are the days a men’s Canadian soccer squad is scrambling to put together a competitive roster heading into an important international match.
Herdman spent much of the conference call talking about his roster and having a good problem in deciding what talent will be on the pitch come game time.
“The player’s blood is always boiling for games like this and they want to be on the field,” Herdman said. “That’s where we wanted to get Canada at.”
Eighteen-year-old FC Bayern Munich product Alphonso Davies is back on the roster for the upcoming return leg in Orlando. He’s the star fanning the flames of excitement around this team and also had a game-winning goal against the Americans last month.
Lucas Cavallini has been sensational for Canada and is also returning for the game Friday night. He was the second goal scorer against the United States. Add 19-year-old Jonathan David, who plays for the Belgian First Division side K.A.A. Gent to the mix and the scoring power by the Canadian squad is more threatening than it’s been in a long time — David has 11 goals in 11 matches with the national team.
“We know the U.S. will add a certain level to their performance being at home so then for us we have to not only bring a level of consistency but improvement to performance as well,” Herdman said.
The Calgary Flames say defenceman TJ Brodie has been taken to hospital for evaluation after collapsing during a team practice.
Practice was halted when Brodie fell to the ice and was convulsing during a skate earlier today. The defenceman was taken off the ice on a stretcher.
“TJ Brodie experienced an episode on ice at practice today,” the Flames said in a statement. “He is alert and responsive and has been transported to local area hospital for evaluation. We will provide a further update when available.”
Brodie is in his ninth season with the Flames. The native of Chatham, Ont., has eight assists in 21 games this season.
Super scary moment at <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Flames?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Flames</a> practice today. T.J. Brodie collapsed and started convulsing. Fire and paramedics working on him. On a stretcher and looks to be ok. <a href=”https://t.co/BUue9ZCf8X”>pic.twitter.com/BUue9ZCf8X</a>