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Who won't be part of Canada at Copa America?


With two matches under his belt as Canada manager, Jesse Marsch now has a better feel for the squad he is taking to Copa America.

Following a 4-0 drubbing by the Netherlands and a hard-fought scoreless draw with France, the former RB Leipzig and Leeds boss will be buoyed by how his team bounced back from a truly poor second half in Amsterdam by playing the World Cup finalists as tightly as they did.

The two friendlies will now inform Marsch in constructing a best XI to take on Argentina in their opener on June 20, but Marsch and his coaching staff have already made some tough personnel decisions. A number of stalwart players and regulars under John Herdman did not feature against the Oranje and Les Bleus and will be left at home from Copa.

Let’s take a look at some familiar names who will not be part of Canada’s effort at the 2024 Copa America.

GK Milan Borjan, Red Star Belgrade

Milan Borjan World Cup

Capped 80 times by the CanMNT, more than any other goalkeeper in program history, Milan Borjan was the starter between the wickets for Canada at the 2022 World Cup. Having made several massive saves over the course of qualifying, the man with the sweatpants was a key reason why Canada earned a spot in Qatar following a 36-year absence from the tournament. Borjan retained the No. 1 shirt through last summer’s Gold Cup, but exited the team after a pair of embarrassing draws to open their tournament against lowly Guadeloupe and El Salvador, with Borjan looking particularly unconvincing in the former. What happened next was odd. Manager Herdman indicated that Borjan was injured, but there was no hint of any kind of ailment during the El Salvador match or after it in Borjan’s post-match comments. What seemed to actually be happening was Herdman providing an out for a veteran contributor ahead of a potentially embarrassing elimination from a very winnable group. Needing a victory over Cuba to progress to the knockouts, Canada got one with Minnesota United’s Dayne St. Clair taking the reins from Borjan. Borjan, now 36, has yet to dress for Canada since. His club future also appears to be in flux. After losing the No. 1 shirt at Red Star Belgrade, Borjan spent last season on loan at Slovakian side Slovan Bratislava. Where Borjan plays next season remains to be seen, but we’ve likely seen the last of him in a Canada shirt.

CB Steven Vitoria, Chaves

Steven Vitoria

Steven Vitoria’s absence from the Copa squad is similar to Borjan’s. The 35-year-old Toronto native was one of Herdman’s first-choice central defenders throughout World Cup qualifying, forming a partnership with Kamal Miller. The duo went on to start all three of Canada’s games in Qatar. But neither man had a strong tournament, with the 4-1 loss to Croatia an occasion when Vitoria seemed in over his head. He would go on to retain his place in the Canada squad through the Gold Cup, but has not made an appearance since. Like Herdman – and interim manager Mauro Biello, for that matter – before him, Marsch is trying to find what works in the centre of defence and getting younger is part of that objective. Vitoria has a lost a step and that’s not an unfair assessment. He appeared in only 20 league matches for the relegated Chaves this past season and saw his total minutes played almost halved from 2022-2023, going from 2,643 to 1,347. When he did play, he struggled. Vitoria completed .774 of his passes, putting him in the 11th percentile among centre-backs and his 0.74 tackles per 90 minutes put him in the eighth percentile. Like Borjan, Vitoria hasn’t officially retired from the national team, but his current standing with the team is essentially a distinction without a difference.

CB Joel Waterman, CF Montreal

Trinidad And Tobago's Ajani Fortune Joel Waterman Canada

Borjan and Vitoria’s omissions might not have been surprising, but many expected to see Joel Waterman as part of this Canada squad. Waterman seemed to be the kind of younger, fresh blood in the back that Canada has been crying out for since the World Cup. Capped for the first time in the friendlies that preceded Qatar and on the roster there, Waterman wasn’t selected for international duty at all in 2023. But in the must-win game in March against Trinidad & Tobago for Copa qualifying, it was Waterman entrusted in the middle of a back three by Biello. Waterman helped keep the pressure off of Maxime Crepeau in the Canada goal and the CanMNT exited with a 2-0 victory. Still, it wasn’t enough for Waterman to earn a nod for the current squad. At least part of the decision might come down to Marsch’s decision to play a 4-4-2 instead of going with a back three. An injury to Sam Adekugbe of the Vancouver Whitecaps means that Marsch has no recognized left-back on the roster, so Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies has been deployed in the role. It’s one that he plays at the club level, but he’s used to playing further up the wing for Canada. With the change in tactics, Marsch has gone light at centre-back with Moise Bombito of the Colorado Rapids and Malmo’s Derek Cornelius as his starting pairing. With Miller also on the roster, there was no room for Waterman or Scott Kennedy this time around. While the snub might sting for Waterman, he will most assuredly return to the national setup sooner than later.

MF Mark-Anthony Kaye, New England Revolution

Mark-Anthony Kaye Canada Azzedine Ounahi Morocco

Capped 49 times by Canada, Toronto native Mark-Anthony Kaye was a member of Canada’s squad in Qatar and even started the match against Morocco, but now finds himself on the outside looking in for Copa America. Kaye has not featured for Canada since the disappointing 3-2 loss to Jamaica in Toronto this past November that saw the CanMNT forced into the one-and-done qualifier against Trinidad & Tobago. Being left off of Biello’s squad for that match likely didn’t do Kaye any favours when it came to the start of the Marsch era, but his absence is a completely defensible one. The 29-year-old Kaye is a victim of the numbers game when it comes to how Marsch has constructed this squad. With newly installed captain Stephen Eustáquio and Ismael Kone set for the heart of Canada’s midfield, the well-travelled Kaye would only be looking at a bit role should he have made the team. With Samuel Piette selected for his defensive capabilities, Marsch went with Toronto FC captain Jonathan Osorio and CF Montreal’s Mathieu Choiniere for the other two spots in the midfield corps. Kaye’s absence marks a second estrangement from the national setup after having a falling out with Herdman after the World Cup. Prior to being selected for the Concacaf Nations League qualifiers against the Reggae Boyz by Biello, Kaye had been passed over since the spring of 2023 and was not selected for the 2023 Concacaf Nations League Final or the Gold Cup after being told by Herdman that he wasn’t good enough for his squad. Kaye will hope that his current absence from the squad isn’t a permanent one.

FW Jacen Russell-Rowe, Columbus Crew

Jacen Russell-Rowe Canada

While missing out on Copa America will undoubtedly be a disappointment for Jacen Russell-Rowe, it’s not his time yet. The Toronto native already has an MLS Cup under his belt with the Columbus Crew and has scored a couple of highlight-reel goals for the team this season. But at 21, Russell-Rowe has been passed over for more veteran options to lead the Canada attack. Capped four times by the CanMNT after his senior debut in 2023, Russell-Rowe last featured as a late substitute in the win over Trinidad & Tobago. Though there might be value in having Russell-Rowe at a major international tournament and taking in the atmosphere, the reality is he would be there as a spectator. With a plethora of attacking talent on offer, playing time would be far from a guarantee for Russell-Rowe with the likes of Cyle Larin, Jonathan David and the in-form Theo Bair ahead of him on the depth chart. Perhaps Tani Oluwaseyi’s name on the roster comes as a surprise, but getting a look at the Minnesota United forward, who has seven Major League Soccer goals this season, would be a priority for Marsch. Born in Nigeria and raised in Mississauga, Ont., the 24-year-old St. John’s product is also eligible to play for the Super Eagles. Getting Oluwaseyi ensconced in the Canada setup would be a way to keep him away from Nigeria. Still, any discontentment on the part of Russell-Rowe should quickly abate with a World Cup in only two years. The mission is simple – keep playing to your abilities and become undeniable.