Canada looks ahead to CONCACAF U-20 tournament

Head coach Nick Dasovic has chosen 23 players to attend a pre-tournament camp in Mexico. The squad will have to shrink by three prior to Canada's first game.
For the players called into Canada's final camp ahead of CONCACAF's U-20 Championship later this month in Mexico, the job is just beginning.

While head coach Nick Dasovic has summoned 23 of the country's most talented youngsters for a pre-tournament training camp that begins next week in Mexico City, only 20 of those players will actually stay on to represent their nation in the tournament itself.

It's just the final paring down after a long evaluation process for Dasovic and his players.

"We've had four camps since we took over basically about 13 months ago," the coach told reporters in a conference call on Tuesday. "It was quite heavy on the last part of the calendar year of 2012, we had three camps ... which gave us a good idea of what we were working with."

Dasovic said he looked at over 40 players in preparation for the CONCACAF tournament, which doubles as the region's qualifier for this summer's FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey. The top-four teams in the regional championship will advance to the global tournament.

Headlined by MLSers Doneil Henry and Bryce Alderson -- along with European-based talents like Keven Aleman of Real Valladolid and QPR duo Michael Petrasso and Dylan Carreiro -- Dasovic said he was pleased that he and his staff had access to so many young players who have experienced professional environments.

It's something that wasn't so widespread a decade ago, although he says that while Canada is improving its youth development, so are its competitors.

"We're getting stronger as a country, we're getting more kids involved, our pool of players is growing and at the same time so are [other] countries,' Dasovic stated. "We have to be cognizant of the fact that we have to keep developing and we have to keep going at a higher rate, too."

The coach praised Nicaragua, one of Canada's Group B opponents in Mexico, as a side that has accelerated its development in recent years.

"They're no slouches, they are legitimate," he said of the Nicaraguans, who he watched defeat Honduras in a recent scouting trip. Dasovic added that Cuba, the third country in Group B, cannot be taken lightly either.

All teams taking part in the competition have the same goal in mind, something that Dasovic says is an equalizer despite a perceived disparity in quality.

"You're playing against countries that will be very motivated to get to the World Cup," he added.

Canada opens the CONCACAF tournament against Cuba on Feb. 18 before closing out its group stage versus Nicaragua on Feb. 22.


GOALKEEPERS (2): Ricky Gomes (Sport Clube de Mirandela/POR), Maxime Crépeau (Académie Impact Montréal/CAN)

DEFENDERS (7): Jon Dollery (Crawley Town/ENG), Marco Lapenna (Erzgebirge Aue/GER), Doneil Henry (Toronto FC/CAN), Daniel Stanese (FC Nürnberg Reserves/GER), Manjrekar James (PMFC-MATIAS/HUN), Jordan Murrell (Syracuse University/USA), Allan Zebie (FC Edmonton Reserves/CAN)

MIDFIELDERS (10): Samuel Piette (Fortuna Düsseldorf/GER), Ben Fisk (Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23/CAN), Bryce Alderson (Vancouver Whitecaps FC/CAN), Keven Aleman (Real Valladolid/ESP), Michael Petrasso (Queens Park Rangers/ENG), Dylan Carreiro (Queens Park Rangers/ENG), Alessandro Riggi (Celta de Vigo/ESP), Mauro Eustáquio (Sporting Clube de Pombal/POR), Zakaria Messoudi (Académie Impact Montréal/CAN), Ben McKendry (University of New Mexico/USA)

FORWARDS (4): Caleb Clarke (Vancouver Whitecaps FC/CAN), Yassin Essa (Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency/CAN), Anthony Jackson-Hamel (Académie Impact Montréal/CAN), Stefan Vukovic (Unattached)