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Davies, Akinola highlight Canada's Gold Cup squad, David among key omissions

At just 20-years old, Alphonso Davies is already a CONCACAF Gold Cup veteran.

At just 20-years old, Alphonso Davies is already a CONCACAF Gold Cup veteran.

The star Bayern Munich left back highlights a group of 12 returning players on Canada's 23-man roster for the championship for teams in North and Central America and the Caribbean, which kicks off July 10.

It will be the third Gold Cup appearance for Davies, who has already made a name for himself at the tournament. He won the Golden Boot as top scorer (with three goals) and was named the best young player at the 2017 edition.

Davies' inclusion underlines his commitment to the Canadian cause, as he will miss the beginning of Bayern's training camp to compete at the Gold Cup.

He and his teammates will also get valuable top-tier matches in heading into the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, which head coach John Herdman said is key for a team lacking game experience.

"We've only had six matches in two years as a group, and a lot of those games haven't been against top CONCACAF opposition," Herdman said Thursday after the team was announced. "So for me to bring a group of players together that can gain those experiences and continue in this mentality and keep building on the foundation of those last six games, that's really my goal for this tournament."

While Canada will be able to count on Davies' pace and energy at the Gold Cup, it will be missing the scoring punch of another of its European-based stars.

Jonathan David, a standout forward for French champion Lille, is being given the Gold Cup off to rest for the upcoming Ligue 1 season, as well as the final round of World Cup qualifying. David was the Golden Boot at the 2019 Gold Cup with six goals.

Herdman said the 21-year-old David was dealing with a groin injury and was on anti-inflammatory medication during Canada's matches in the second stage of World Cup qualifying. He said the striker should be back when Canada enters stage three of qualifying in September.

"It's still not where he wants it to be, and given he's got a massive year ahead, looking to retain the championship and going into Champions League, obviously qualifying Canada for the World Cup, sort of made that decision for him to take a step back and push through the recovery," Herdman said.

David's 15 goals in 16 games with the senior men's side will be difficult to replace. However, Cyle Larin, who has 15 goals in 37 national team appearances and is coming off a 24-goal season with Turkish champion Besiktas, is among the 12 players with Gold Cup experience on the roster.

The 11 players making their Gold Cup debut for Canada includes Toronto FC forward Ayo Akinola, whose inclusion on the squad comes one day after he formally changed his international affiliation to Canada from the United States.

The 20-year-old Akinola was born in Detroit but moved to Canada when he was one. He made his debut for the U.S. senior side in December, scoring in a 6-0 win over El Salvador, but was not cap-tied since the match was a friendly.

Akinola turned heads at the MLS is Back Tournament last year with five goals in his first two games. He finished the 2020 season with nine goals in 15 games.

"I'm really looking forward to working with him," Herdman said. "I've built a relationship with him over the last two years off the field, spent some time with him in camp just recently, and you know he's got talent. We've seen that.

"That MLS is Back tournament, and where he was last year, really showed that he was one of the top strikers in MLS."

Midfielders Scott Arfield and Atiba Hutchinson and goalkeeper Milan Borjan were also omitted from Canada's roster.

Arfield, who plays for Rangers in Scotland, and Hutchinson, a veteran of 85 caps who is a teammate of Larin on Besiktas, have both served as captain for Canada. Both were on the preliminary 60-man roster.

Herdman said players who chose not to play at the Gold Cup did not make the decision easily.

"To a man, every man wanted to be part of this Gold Cup, which speaks volumes for where this country's at the moment," Herdman said.

Toronto FC fullback Kemar Lawrence, a member of Jamaica's Gold Cup team, says he is impressed by the Canadian roster.

"It's a really talented bunch of guys," he told reporters Thursday. "A really good team. Good coaching. I'm looking for them to be in the semifinals, at least, to be honest. Maybe that's me rating them high but I see them playing some good football and I'm just looking for them to be in the semifinals … I don't see them not making it that far.

"Maybe if they meet us," he added with a simile.

Canada, ranked 70th in the world, opens Gold Cup Group B play against unranked Martinique on July 10 before facing a preliminary-round survivor on July 15 and the 20th-ranked Americans on July 18. All three matches will be in Kansas City.

Canada reached the tournament quarterfinals in 2019 before blowing a 2-0 lead and losing 3-2 to Haiti.

TFC fullback/wingback Richie Laryea and midfielder Jonathan Osorio are part of the Canadian squad along with Akinola.

Fourteen of Canada’s 23 players have 10 or fewer senior caps. Akinola, Houston Dynamo forward Tyler Pasher and midfielder Harry Paton of Scotland's Ross County have yet to win a cap.

Canada — Ayo Akinola, Toronto FC (MLS); Tajon Buchanan, New England Revolution (MLS); Lucas Cavallini, Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS); Theo Corbeanu, Wolverhampton Wanderers (England); Maxime Crepeau, Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS); Alphonso Davies, Bayern Munich (Germany); Stephen Eustaquio, FC Pacos de Ferreira (Portugal); Liam Fraser, Columbus Crew (MLS); Doneil Henry, Suwon Samsung Bluewings (South Korea); Junior Hoilett, unattached; Alistair Johnston, Nashville SC (MLS); Mark-Anthony Kaye, Los Angeles FC (MLS); Scott Kennedy, SSV Jahn Regensburg (Germany); Cyle Larin, Besiktas (Turkey); Richie Laryea, Toronto FC (MLS); Jayson Leutwiler, Huddersfield Town (England); Kamal Miller, CF Montreal (MLS); Jonathan Osorio, Toronto FC (MLS); Tyler Pasher, Houston Dynamo (MLS); Harry Paton, Ross County (Scotland); Samuel Piette, CF Montreal (MLS); Dayne St. Clair, Minnesota United (MLS); Steven Vitoria, Moreirense (Portugal).

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 1, 2021.

The Canadian Press