Apologies for the time-delayed release of Long Balls, but at least the tardiness provides an excuse to tailor the column to Thursday's naming of the Canada team that will face Greece next week.
If the straightforward listing of the European-based players on the roster hints at desperation, it's only because there was so little else of note to report on from Canadian footballers this week. To put it starkly, Long Balls contemplated a focus on Gavin McCallum's match winner for Lincoln City in the English fourth division.
One third of Canada's 18-man roster is made up of German-based players (or at least it was until we were informed during the conference call with Stephen Hart that Kevin McKenna had suddenly pulled out due to injury). The next largest provider of players is the English Championship with three.
Below is a player-by-player guide to what kind of action the 14 Euro-based players on the squad are getting with their respective clubs and how that works them into the Canada picture.
The German contingent
He's got 15 appearances and four goals for 2.Bundesliga table-topping Hertha Berlin this season. The problem is that all four goals came a month apart in August and September. His last match was 90 minutes against Arminia Bielefeld on January 30.
Marcel de Jong
He also has 15 appearances for 2.Bundesliga 2nd-place side Augsburg. One goal this season back on September 12. His last match was 90 minutes against Bochum on January 31.
Four appearances (all starts) for 7th-place 2.Bundesliga side Engergie Cottbus. A lot of Canada supporters want him in the starting eleven, but if he's there it's got to be at centreback. Four games for your club does not warrant taking the rightback spot vacated by Paul Stalteri when Jamie Peters is also on board. Last match was 90 minutes against Ingolstadt on November 5.
The 26-year-old has 11 appearances this season: nine with Wehen Wiesbaden in the German third division and two with the Wehen Wiesbaden B-team in the Regionalliga. No goals, and his last match was 90 minutes against Unterhaching on February 2 in the third division.
He's got 15 appearances and a whopping 10 goals with Kickers Offenbach in... the German third division. He played 90 minutes and scored against Sandhausen on January 22.
The England lads
Twenty league appearances for Ipswich Town + 1235 minutes + almost all of those minutes at rightback = starting in Paul Stalteri's former spot against Greece on February 9. His last match was 90 minutes against Milwall on January 15. Since it's Canadian soccer we should probably close on an alarmist note, and that is to say that Peters was clipping along pretty good in terms of playing time until recently. He has been an unused sub for the past three matches (including the second-leg Carling Cup tie versus Arsenal).
My co-writer Squizz loves him. But what's love got to do with it when you haven't scored since October 23 and your coaching staff can't decide whether you're a sub or a starter? Four goals, 25 appearances and 1,117 minutes in the English Championship still isn't all that bad though. Stephen Hart says Jackson was called primarily because he can play out on the wing, a position to the best of my knowledge he often does not play with Norwich City. Last match was 49 minutes against Milwall on February 1.
Canada supporters should hope this loan to Swansea City works out for Edgar. Five appearances and 186 minutes for Burnley so far this season in the Championship seems to indicate that Edgar clearly wasn't working out for his former coaches. Should he start ahead of Straith?
He's struggled with injuries, which partly explains only nine appearances and 282 minutes for Santa Clara in the Portuguese second division this season. He came on as an 82nd sub against Trofense on January 22.
Twenty Eredivisie starts for PSV this season, and according to the information I have he's never been subbed off. He only has one goal, but that could partly be explained by the fact he's played several matches as a fill-in rightback. Likely Hart's easiest choice for the starting eleven along with Josh Simpson.
Speak of the devil! He has 18 Süper Lig appearances with Manisaspor and eleven goals in all competitions this season. Fifth in the Turkish league goal scoring race, his last match was 90 minutes against a Mike Klukowski-less Ankaragücüon on January 30.
The Romanian league doesn't get rolling until February 17, but Ricketts has been involved in recent club friendlies as recently last weekend, when the forward played 45 minutes against Sparta Prague.
The Serbian league is still on winter break, so his last league match with Rad was on December 4 when he was oddly subbed out in the 60th minute.
The Norwegian league doesn't start its new season until March 19. Considering that neither of the keepers Hart called are currently in-season, an already difficult decision as to who starts is made even dicier. The most reasonable solution seems to be starting Hirschfeld and putting in Borjan for the second half.