Oh yeah, we've got a men's national team too, don't we?
In the unprecedented excitement of the women's team's Olympic journey over the past several weeks, fans could be forgiven for momentarily forgetting that the men's national team is just weeks away from a crucial World Cup qualifier against Panama on Sept. 7.
The final preparation for head coach Stephen Hart's men will come in a friendly against Trinidad and Tobago on Aug. 15, to be played in Lauderhill, Florida. In a very narrow, 72-hour FIFA international window that sits in the middle of the North American season and right on the cusp of the European season, this was always going to be somewhat of a patchwork lineup. And indeed it is:
1- GK- Lars Hirschfeld | NOR / Vålerenga Fotball
2- M- Nik Ledgerwood | SWE / Hammarby Fotboll
3- M - Russell Teibert | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
4- CB- Dejan Jaković | USA / D.C. United
5- CB- André Hainault | USA / Houston Dynamo
6- M - Julian de Guzman | USA / FC Dallas
7- M - Terry Dunfield | CAN / Toronto FC
8- M- Will Johnson | USA / Real Salt Lake
9- F- Tosaint Ricketts |
10- F- Lucas Cavallini | URU / Club Nacional
11- FB- Marcel de Jong | GER / FC Augsburg
12- M- Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgault |
13- FB- Ante Jazić | USA / Chivas USA
14- M/F- Evan James | CAN / Impact Montréal
15- CB- Doneil Henry | CAN / Toronto FC
16- M- Pedro Pacheco | POR / CD Santa Clara
18- GK- Milan Borjan | TUR / Sivasspor
20- M - Patrice Bernier | CAN / Impact Montréal
The new: Four of the standouts of the U23 team's Olympic qualifying tournament this past spring -- Henry, Teibert, Cavallini and James -- are earning their first call-ups to the senior national team.
Hart said the friendly presents "a good opportunity" to get another look at Cavallini, who's a young striker that "plays in a different type of league (down in Uruguay)" but that "if he plays consistently and keeps his head on his shoulders, he can develop very rapidly."
James, though he's seen little time with the Impact this season, brings versatility that was appealing to Hart: "We were becoming a bit thin at the wide position, and Evan can fill that void."
The returning: A pair of national-team veterans, Dunfield and Bernier, are back in the squad based on their body of work so far in MLS this year. Bernier had been left off the team thus far in World Cup qualifying due to an injury and Hart's desire to see him reingratiate himself into a starting lineup -- he's done that and more with Montreal this year.
"He is one of the most important players at that club," Hart said. "I'm happy that he took the time to play himself back into selection."
Marcel de Jong has also made a triumphant return from injury and is back to match fitness. "He wants very much to prove that he should be a part of this (qualifying) campaign", said Hart. While Canada's back line has performed admirably thus far in 2012, the addition of de Jong's quality is a welcome sight.
The absent: A number of the squad's biggest names -- Kevin McKenna, Dwayne DeRosario, Atiba Hutchinson, Simeon Jackson, Olivier Occean -- are absent, though given the circumstances surrounding the game, that shouldn't be especially surprising. DeRosario, said Hart, would have gotten the call if not for a minor shoulder injury picked up this past week. Hart added that "there's one or two players that aren't 100% healthy" -- but, as is customary, he declined to name them.
Hutchinson and McKenna have both battled injury concerns over the course of the past two years, so here's hoping these are nothing more than preventative exclusions. For what it's worth, Hart noted that ailing midfielder Josh Simpson -- who broke his leg several months ago -- has just gotten off crutches but "he is telling the guys he is fighting to be back by October."
The inspiration: The first question posed to Hart during Friday's media call was, of course, about the success of the women's national team in London. And Hart was unabashed in his praise: "I think it's been fantastic, I've seen all the games. ... The game has been crying out for that sort of boost, and my hat's off to them. They really lifted not only the women's game, but the game in general, so it's really fantastic."
Now, the question is, can the men's national team build off that success and goodwill, and propel themselves into the final stage of World Cup qualifying, somewhere the country hasn't been in a dozen years?
We'll find out very, very soon.