Canadian coach waits and wonders

Canadian Press

4/18/2005 5:35:41 PM

(CP) - The clock is ticking ever closer to this summer's World Youth Championship in the Netherlands and Canadian under-20 soccer coach Dale Mitchell still wonders whether midfielder-forward Jonathan de Guzman will wear the Maple Leaf.

It doesn't look good at this point. And that's a shame for Canada, considering the talented de Guzman is well placed in the Feyenoord system in the Netherlands. He could help the Canadians on and off the field, given his soccer skills and local knowledge.

"We haven't got him yet and we don't know how that's going to go," Mitchell said Monday from Frankfurt, Germany, where he is holding a 10-day camp for his squad. "At this point, I guess it doesn't look like it's going to happen. I don't know."

The 24-team tournament runs June 10 to July 2 in six Dutch cities. The event is of special interest to Canada, the 2007 tournament host.

De Guzman has said he wants to concentrate on his club career at present, according to older brother Julian who has won 13 caps at the senior level for Canada.

Julian de Guzman, who is set to leave Hannover for Deportivo La Coruna in Spain next season, says he would love to play internationally with his brother.

But Jonathan could have other options, with Dutch papers a possibility down the line given his time at Feyenoord.

Were he to represent Canada at the World Youth Championship, such doors would be closed.

Mitchell has been diplomatic about the de Guzman issue. He knows it is sensitive and has no desire to inflame the situation.

Canadian soccer fans have not forgotten losing Calgary-raised Bayern Munich midfielder Owen Hargreaves to England (thanks to his father's bloodlines). If pushed, most would probably admit it was an understandable career move given the two countries' positions in world soccer's pecking order. But that doesn't mean they liked it.

The de Guzman family has asked the Canadian Soccer Association to go through Feyenoord in inquiring about Jonathan's services. Mitchell has done that but did not even get a response from the team about an invitation to this week's camp.

Feyenoord didn't make de Guzman available for the CONCACAF qualifying tournament in late January.

"From our point of view, we're interested in the boy playing for us," Mitchell said. "How far we can go with it, I don't know. But we're still pursuing it at this point."

Mitchell is also waiting on defender David Edgar, with Newcastle United now wanting to keep him in England, citing a crowded schedule.

Mitchell will still have a good chunk of his talent in Germany, with exhibition games scheduled against the Chinese under-20 team on Saturday and the FC Mainz reserves on April 26.

Canadian officials hope to schedule a second game against the Chinese, who are training in Germany at the same time. China has also advanced to the world championship and played Syria, Canada's first opponent at the tournament, in qualifying.

Mitchell will use the 10-day camp to further refine his roster. Defender Matt Britner is back in the fold, having recovered from knee surgery. And Mitchell looks forward to checking out goalkeeper Robert Giacomi, who is in Glasgow Rangers' youth system, and forward Gianluca Zavarise, who plays in Italy for Calcio Montebelluna.

Andrea Lombardo, another forward with an Italian club (Atalanta) was not invited to camp because he is carrying an injury, Mitchell said.

Giacomi, who has experience in the under-17 ranks, joins Asmir Begovic of Portsmouth and Joshua Wagenaar of Hartwick College in goal.

"Goalkeeper-wise, we're in pretty good shape," said Mitchell.

The Canadians will take three goalies in their 21-man championship squad, with Wagenaar, Begovic and Giacomi the likely candidates.

Others of note at the German camp include Jamie Peters (Ipswich, England), qualifying tournament scoring hero Ryan Gyaki (Sheffield United, England), Marcel de Jong (Helmond Fire, Netherlands), Nikolas Ledgerwood (1860 Munich, Germany) and Will Johnson (Chicago Fire, MLS).

As for Jonathan de Guzman, for the time being his entry in the player section of the Canadian Soccer Association web site remains all but blank, with only his name, position, club and league filled in.

Like the player, a photo is unavailable.

Notes: The U.S. is the first team from CONCACAF to qualify for the world under-17 championship starting this September in Peru. The Americans won the CONCACAF Group A qualifying tournament with a 2-0-1 record, ahead of 2-1-0 Costa Rica. Canada's Group B qualifying event is set for May 17-21 in Mexico with Honduras, Haiti and the host Mexicans. The Group B winner joins the Americans in Peru. Costa Rica will meet the Group B runner-up in a home-away playoff to decide CONCACAF's third entry at the championship. ... The Canadian women open their European tour in the Netherlands on Tuesday.