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Coach Jesse Marsch finalizes Canadian men's roster for first Copa America appearance

Vancouver Whitecaps forward Ali Ahmed runs against the Seattle Sounders during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Seattle. TTHE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Lindsey Wasson

Canada coach Jesse Marsch has finalized his roster for Copa America, finding places for late call-ups Ali Ahmed, Tani Oluwaseyi and Jacen Russell-Rowe in his 26-man squad.

Missing out are defender Dominick Zator and winger Charles-Andreas Brym, who were both part of the Canadian camp. Forward Iké Ugbo was invited to the Canada camp but decided "for personal reasons to take a break," said Marsch.

Marsch and the 49th-ranked Canadian men are in Atlanta preparing for the tournament opener against top-ranked Argentina on Thursday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Canada will then complete Group A play against No. 32 Peru on June 25 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City and No. 42 Chile on June 29 at Inter&Co Stadium in Orlando.

"Obviously we're excited for this tournament," said Marsch, who took over as Canada coach on May 13. "We know it's a big challenge."

"I think we are more prepared after the games that we had in Europe and the level at which those games were played," he added. "It won't be a shock to us when we encounter the quality and the level of play with Argentina. And I think that will give us a better chance to be able to perform well and hopefully get a result."

The Canadians lost 4-0 to the seventh-ranked Dutch on June 6 before playing No. 2 France to a scoreless draw on June 9.

Oluwaseyi was a late addition to the Canada camp ahead of the two friendlies and won his first cap off the bench against the French.

It marked a first national team call-up for the 24-year-old who has turned heads this season with seven goals and four assists for Minnesota United. Born in Abuja, Oluwaseyi is also eligible for Nigeria.

Canada Soccer announced the addition of Ahmed, a wingback with the Vancouver Whitecaps, and Russel-Rowe, a forward with the Columbus Crew, on Thursday with Zator and Brym returning to their clubs in Poland (Korona Kielce) and the Netherlands (Sparta Rotterdam), respectively.

Zator and Brym both came off the bench against the Dutch, seeing 36 minutes of action.

Marsch's roster includes 20 of the 23 players called up by the interim coach Mauro Biello, now part of Marsch's staff, for the 2-0 Copa qualifying win over Trinidad and Tobago in March.

Those not carrying over are goalkeeper Jonathan Sirois, defender Joel Waterman and Ugbo.

The other additions from the March roster are goalkeeper Thomas McGill, defender Kyle Hiebert, wingbacks Richie Laryea and Ahmed, and forwards Junior Hoilett and Oluwaseyi.

Other familiar faces includes Maxime Crepeau, Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, Stephen Eustaquio, Alistair Johnston, Cyle Larin, Jonathan Osorio and Samuel Piette.

"This is obviously about us trying to perform to our best in Copa America but I need to get to know a wide group of players so that I can understand exactly who from a personality perspective and player perspective fits in to what we're trying to build here," Marsch said of his roster selection.

It's a young squad with 15 players aged 25 or younger. There are just three players 30 or over — Crepeau (30), Osorio (32) and Hoilett (34). The youngest player in the squad is 18-year-old Fulham defender Luc de Fougerolles.

Marsch has yet to announce his captain. Davies wore the armband against the Dutch while Eustaquio led the team out against France.

The 48th edition of Copa América, co-organized by CONMEBOL and CONCACAF, features 16 teams playing in 14 stadiums across 13 U.S. cities.

CONCACAF has six guest teams entered — the four CONCACAF Nations League semifinalists (the 11th-ranked U.S., No. 14 Mexico, No. 45 Panama and No. 55 Jamaica) and two play-in winners (Canada and No. 52 Costa Rica).

It's Canada's first trip to Copa America.

The Canadian men were slated to take part in the 2001 Copa America as a reward for winning the Gold Cup in February 2000. But Canada Soccer decided not to attend less than a week before its scheduled start in Colombia.

CONMEBOL announced on the eve of the tournament that it would be postponed to 2002 due to security concerns. But five days later, it decided to go ahead with the event in Colombia.

Canada, which was slated to open play against Argentina in Medellin, had already sent its players back to their clubs so did not take part. Costa Rica subsequently took the place of Canada, joining Mexico as a guest team at the 12-country tournament.

Canada Copa America Roster

Goalkeepers: Maxime Crépeau, Portland Timbers (MLS); Thomas McGill, Brighton and Hove Albion (England); Dayne St. Clair, Minnesota United (MLS).

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).

Midfielders: Ali Ahmed, Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS); Mathieu Choinière, CF Montréal (MLS); Stephen Eustáquio, FC Porto (Portugal); Ismaël Koné, Watford (England); Jonathan Osorio, Toronto FC (MLS); Samuel Piette, CF Montréal (MLS); Jacob Shaffelburg, Nashville SC (MLS).

Forwards: Theo Bair, Motherwell (Scotland); Tajon Buchanan, Inter Milan (Italy); Jonathan David, LOSC Lille (France); Junior Hoilett, Aberdeen (Scotland); Cyle Larin, RCD Mallorca (Spain); Liam Millar, FC Basel (Switzerland); Tani Oluwaseyi, Minnesota United (MLS); Jacen Russell-Rowe, Columbus Crew (MLS).


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 15, 2024

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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