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Just the start: Marsch unveils his first team as Canadian men’s soccer coach

New coach says he’s just in the initial evaluation phase as he begins to reshape program
Jesse Marsch announces his first team selection as Canada coach, for high-profile June friendlies against the seventh-ranked Netherlands and No. 2 France. Marsch looks on prior to the English Premier League soccer match between Nottingham Forest and Leeds United at City Ground stadium in Nottingham, England, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Rui Vieira

An upbeat Jesse Marsch revealed his first roster as Canada coach on Monday, serving up plenty of enthusiasm if not innovation.

But the 50-year-old American, who has only been on the job for two weeks, was quick to note that the 26-man squad marks just the start of his journey. With Canada is set to open play in Copa America on June 20, more players will get their chance to impress after high-profile friendlies against the Netherlands and France on June 6 and 9 respectively.

“This roster, although it may look like it’s an easy direct transfer into Copa America, I think there’s likely to be some changes that will be made based on health situations, based on performance in the camp and then based on some other players that I think will deserve a shot as well as we move forward,” Marsch told a virtual availability from Italy.

“And I’m just in the initial evaluation phase. We’re trying to get to know guys, trying to get the group together and seeing how they respond to me as a leader and then also the kind of football we want to play. I think this was the best group from the start to engage with and invest in but there clearly will be others that will be integrated as we continue to move forward.”

Marsch’s roster contains 20 of the 23 players called up by interim coach Mauro Biello for Canada’s last outing — a 2-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago in a Copa America playoff March 23 in Frisco, Texas.

The three players who have not carried over to Marsch’s squad are 22-year-old goalkeeper Jonathan Sirois and 28-year-old defender Joel Waterman (both of CF Montreal) and 21-year-old forward Jacen Russell-Rowe (Columbus Crew).

The additions are goalkeeper Thomas McGill, defenders Kyle Hiebert, Richie Laryea and Dominick Zator and midfielders Charles-Andreas Brym and Junior Hoilett.

Only three members of the roster are 30 or over — goalkeeper Max Crepeau (30), midfielder Jonathan Osorio (30) and Hoilett (33). Fourteen are 25 or younger.

Ten have fewer than 10 Canada caps, including 18-year-old uncapped defender Luc de Fougerolles.

Familiar names include Tajon Buchanan, Jonathan David, Alphonso Davies, Stephen Eustáquio, Alistair Johnston and Samuel Piette, among others.

While calling Davies “one of the world’s best left backs if not the world’s best left back,” Marsch said his goal will be to find ways to make the Bayern Munich star “a key cog in the wheel of the system of what we’re doing.”

“I think we’ll at certain times try a few things to move him around, to get him on the ball more,” he added.

The roster draws on 10 players from Major League Soccer including CF Montreal’s Mathieu Choiniere and Piette and Toronto’s Osorio. The rest play in Europe.

Marsch said he opted for more European players for this camp because their reduced travel would mean more time in camp. The Canadian players are due to gather in Rotterdam on June 3.

Canada, ranked 49th in the world, plays the seventh-ranked Netherlands there before facing No. 2 France three days later in Bordeaux.

The fixtures mark Canada’s highest-ranked opponents since the 2022 World Cup when the Canadian men lost 1-0 to second-ranked Belgium.

The games are preparation for Canada’s campaign at Copa America, where it will face top-ranked and World Cup champion Argentina, No. 32 Peru and No. 42 Chile in Group A play. Canada is one of six CONCACAF guest teams at the 16-team tournament.

The Netherlands and France are prepping for Euro 2024, which kicks off June 14 in Germany. The Dutch and French have been drawn in Group D with No. 28 Poland and No. 25 Austria.

Marsch said he will name his coaching staff on Wednesday, suggesting that Biello would be part of his team. Biello was an assistant to Marsch when he coached Montreal in its 2012 debut season in Major League Soccer.

As with the March roster, there is no place for veteran goalkeeper Milan Borjan, defender Steven Vitoria, midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye and forward Lucas Cavallini.

Goalkeeper Grégoire Swiderski, who plays for Girondins de Bordeaux’s B team in France, will join the Canadian camp as a training player.

Marsch’s coaching resume includes Leeds United, RB Leipzig, Red Bull Salzburg, New York Red Bulls and the Montreal Impact (now CF Montreal). His last job was at Leeds, which fired him in February 2023 after a year in charge.

CANADA (x- denotes training player)

Goalkeepers: Maxime Crépeau, Portland Timbers (MLS); Thomas McGill, Brighton and Hove Albion (England); Dayne St. Clair, Minnesota United (MLS) l x-Grégoire Swiderski, Girondins de Bordeaux B (France).

Defenders: Moïse Bombito, Colorado Rapids (MLS); Derek Cornelius, Malmö FF (Sweden); Alphonso Davies, Bayern Munich (Germany); Luc de Fougerolles, Fulham (England); Kyle Hiebert, St. Louis City SC (MLS); Alistair Johnston, Celtic (Scotland); Richie Laryea, Toronto FC (MLS); Kamal Miller, Portland Timbers (MLS); Dominick Zator, Korona Kielce (Poland).

Midfielders: Charles-Andreas Brym, Sparta Rotterdam (the Netherlands); Tajon Buchanan, Inter Milan (Italy); Mathieu Choinière, CF Montréal (MLS); Stephen Eustáquio, FC Porto (Portugal); Junior Hoilett, Aberdeen (Scotland); Ismaël Koné, Watford (England); Jonathan Osorio, Toronto FC (MLS); Liam Millar, FC Basel (Switzerland); Samuel Piette, CF Montréal (MLS); Jacob Shaffelburg, Nashville SC (MLS).

Forwards: Thelonius Bair, Motherwell (Scotland); Jonathan David, LOSC Lille (France); Cyle Larin, RCD Mallorca (Spain); Iké Ugbo, ESTAC Troyes (France).

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