Welcome to Platt’s 3 Points, where Oliver Platt breaks down the three biggest Canadian soccer talking points of the week, from the Canadian men’s and women’s national teams, our Canadian talents playing in Europe, Major League Soccer, the Canadian Premier League, and more.
Here’s what caught Oli’s eye this week (Sept. 27-Oct. 3):
CanMNT enjoy more promise, opportunity than ever in 2021
It’s hard to think of a year that has held more upward potential for the Canadian men’s national team than in the year following major interruptions to their regularly-scheduled programming.
The havoc COVID-19 has wreaked on the international calendar will almost certainly result in more schedule changes but as of right now, Canada could be faced with the Under-20 World Cup at the end of May, crucial World Cup qualifiers in June, and the Gold Cup and Olympic Games in July.
Should the Canadians stay alive, qualifying for Qatar 2022 will then continue through the fall and winter.
“It’s a very big year,” John Herdman said on Monday.
It will also be a massive test of the program he is building.
National teams cannot realistically expect to call players up multiple times over the summer without pushback from their clubs, who will be less than enthused by the idea of offseason breaks and preseason for 2021-22 being virtually wiped out.
Herdman has already acknowledged that he is expecting to be able to bring players in for either World Cup qualifying in June or the Gold Cup in July but not both.
That will frustrate some fans but an international coach has to play politics and keep the clubs that pay his players’ salaries onside.
He will also have his own concerns around burnout and injuries if Alphonso Davies, for example, isn’t afforded some kind of rest after a long season in Germany.
There is no doubt Herdman will prioritize the World Cup. As things stand, the four-match window in June looks set to conclude with a two-legged tie (probably against Haiti) for a place in the eight-team final round of Concacaf qualifying.
Herdman would be crucified if he named an under-strength squad for those matches and Canada crashed out.
That will mean an experimental group goes to the Gold Cup — and that roster could be diluted further if the Canadians spring a surprise and qualify for the Olympics.
Projections made this far in advance are virtually worthless but just for fun — and to illustrate how deep a pool of players Herdman would need to call upon — here’s one from me.
My basic premise: all the big guns in the World Cup squad (with a couple of highly rated teenagers filling out the numbers), a mix of youngish players knocking on the door and a few veterans at the Gold Cup, and prospects at the Olympics (in reality, of course, Herdman would be able to sub three over-age players into this group).
If Tokyo doesn’t happen, you can move the likes of Liam Fraser and Derek Cornelius over.
It is, as Herdman put it on Monday, a unique situation.
And a hell of a hand for the head coach to be dealt as expectations ramp up around a golden generation of players.
A puzzling move in Vancouver…
It was hard not to suspect that there was a good reason the Montreal Impact agreed to deal Evan Bush for virtually nothing just days after the Vancouver Whitecaps registered an interest in the veteran goalkeeper.
It was a salary dump.
No disrespect intended to Bush, who provided the Impact with an admirable decade of service.
But he’s now 34, has lost the starting job to Clement Diop, earns just shy of $300,000, and is under contract through to the end of 2021.
Montreal was so eager to get out of that bloated deal early that it agreed to retain an unspecified chunk of Bush’s salary, according to the Province.
The question is why Vancouver would want to take on the bulk of it.
In the short term, the Whitecaps need a goalkeeper with Max Crepeau and Thomas Hasal both injured.
Looking ahead to next year, it’s harder to figure out why sporting director Axel Schuster would wish to have Bush’s salary on the books.
Schuster says he can “guarantee” that there is no scenario that will see all three goalkeepers on the roster in 2021. But that means either Crepeau being sold, which would make Bush a somewhat underwhelming replacement as starter, or Hasal being loaned out, leaving Bush as an expensive backup.
Or they find a way to move Bush again… but it doesn’t sound like there is a plan in place on that front.
“All solutions are open,” Schuster said.
It’s a minor move, but the apparent disregard of its salary-cap implications is concerning as the Whitecaps continue a very bumpy rebuild.
An alternative: Why not ask Cavalry if you can borrow Marco Carducci? With the CPL season over, the Cavs would surely be happy to see one of their players tested in MLS. And Marc dos Santos could take a closer look at an interesting young Canadian without making a commitment into next year.
…and a promising one in Montreal
The Impact made a move of their own shortly after trading Bush, bringing in Minnesota United forward Mason Toye.
Toye was acquired for $600,000 of general allocation money, which can be used to pay down salaries and, therefore, create cap space.
It’s a valuable commodity and that’s a decent sum. But it’s not often that a player like Toye, a 21-year-old who looked on the verge of breaking out last year and is likely to factor into the USA’s Olympic plans, becomes available.
There is risk. Toye has two years left on his contract and wants to go to Europe when it ends, according to Minnesota coach Adrian Heath.
But that may not faze the Impact as much as other MLS clubs given Joey Saputo can offer that pathway to Bologna.
In the meantime, Montreal will set Toye to work under the tutelage of Thierry Henry.
It’s a trade that strengthens a position of weakness, comes at a manageable cost, and lands the club the kind of high-potential domestic player that is so difficult to find.
You’d be hard pressed to find much to dislike about that.