Herdman feels Scott Kennedy's pain as injured defender misses out on World Cup

While out-of-season MLS players like Jonathan Osorio head to a camp in Bahrain to press for a place with Canada in Qatar, the World Cup dream is over for defender Scott Kennedy.

Canada Soccer confirmed Wednesday that a shoulder injury, suffered in Germany with his SSV Jahn Regensburg club side, will sideline Kennedy until the new year.

"There's no way back for Scott, unfortunately," Canada coach John Herdman said. "He was devastated this morning."

"For anyone that knows Scott, he's just a good man, a good human being," he added. "In the (team) environment, he has great character. Always seems to contribute in a quiet way and very very reliable on the field. So he will be a big loss to this group, on and off the field.

"Just one of those tough moments as a coach where you've got to share that grim reality with someone. (It's) never easy."

Herdman said Canada Soccer "specialists in the mental and emotional side" were checking in with Kennedy.

While the 25-year-old from Calgary has won just eight caps for Canada, he has proved to be an important member of the squad — at six foot three, another imposing defender able to slot in for the six-foot-four Steven Vitoria as needed.

And as Herdman suggested, he was a good fit in the Canadian team.

The roster remains a work in progress, with Herdman calling in 20 MLS players and midfielder Liam Fraser, who plays in Belgium for KMSK Deinze, for a camp and international friendly in Bahrain to get some work in before assembling his full squad ahead of the World Cup.

The Nov. 11 friendly with Bahrain in Manama comes ahead of a final Nov. 17 warm-up against No. 24 Japan at Dubai, United Arab Emirates, that will feature the full World Cup roster. The 41st-ranked Canadian men have never played No. 85 Bahrain.

The FIFA international window covering the World Cup in Qatar doesn't open until Nov. 14, with the tournament kicking off six days later. European clubs will play right up until the window opens.

In its first World Cup since 1986, Canada opens Group F play against No. 2 Belgium on Nov. 23, before facing No. 12 Croatia on Nov. 27 and No. 22 Morocco on Dec. 1.

Teams have until Nov. 14 to declare their World Cup roster, which has been to expanded to 26 players this time around. Herdman has said he will leave his team announcement "as late as we need to" out of concern for injuries.

There may not be many roster questions left.

"I've got 26 players in mind," said Herdman, before adding: "There's a reality check. Every single week there are changes. No one predicted what would happen to Scott which was so innocuous. He could fall 10 times and that (injury) would only happen once. And it happened.

"I think we know that there are other elements of the roller-coaster we're going to have to ride on this journey in the next couple of weeks with the amount of games players play."

Herdman noted Wednesday that past World Cups, where the roster limit was 23, have shown teams usually rely on a core of 16 or 17 players given the conditions are a known quantity. As opposed to World Cup qualifying, where one tends to rotate players from game to game, due to travel and other factors.

"Those 17 are pretty much in your mind already … I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to work out who those players are," he said.

Others will be chosen on their ability to step up as needed — while showing the ability to "stay connected, to be a good teammate, to bring the positivity to an environment. And to challenge and compete."

Herdman used 39 players during World Cup qualifying, making for "some really difficult decisions" on the last six or seven players on the roster.

The Bahrain camp opens Sunday. Players from the camp selected to the World Cup roster will travel Nov. 12 to Qatar.

Herdman has called in eight players from CF Montreal, eight from Toronto FC (including winger Jacob Shaffelburg who is on loan to Nashville), one from the Vancouver Whitecaps and three from other MLS clubs.

Toronto and Vancouver last played Oct. 9, the final game of the MLS regular season. Montreal exited the MLS playoffs Oct. 23 in a 3-1 loss to New York City FC.

Osorio leads the TFC contingent called in. The veteran midfielder, now recovered from post-concussion syndrome, has played just 18 minutes since an Aug. 20 start against Miami.

"The feedback has been super-positive," Herman said of Osorio, who has continued to train with TFC after the season.

"I'm feeling much more normal. Feeling much much better," said Osorio. "I've been in full training and training is going really well."

The only MLS camp invitee still in action is Los Angeles FC goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau, who takes on the Philadelphia Union in Saturday's MLS Cup final.

The Bahrain camp roster includes uncapped goalkeeper James Pantemis, defender Joel Waterman and midfielder Mathieu Choiniere (all CF Montreal) and defender Lukas MacNaughton (Toronto FC).

It's MacNaughton's first call-up to the national team.


Canada Roster for Bahrain Camp

Goalkeepers: Maxime Crepeau, Los Angeles FC (MLS); James Pantemis, CF Montreal (MLS); Dayne St. Clair, Minnesota United (MLS).

Defenders: Zachary Brault-Guillard, CF Montreal (MLS); Raheem Edwards, Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS); Doneil Henry, Toronto FC (MLS); Alistair Johnston, CF Montreal; Richie Laryea, Toronto FC (MLS); Lukas MacNaughton, Toronto FC (MLS); Kamal Miller, CF Montreal (MLS); Joel Waterman, CF Montreal (MLS).

Midfielders: Mathieu Choiniere, CF Montreal (MLS); Liam Fraser, KMSK Deinze (Belgium); Mark-Anthony Kaye, Toronto FC (MLS); Ismael Kone, CF Montreal (MLS); Jonathan Osorio, Toronto FC (MLS); Samuel Piette, CF Montreal (MLS).

Forwards: Ayo Akinola, Toronto FC (MLS); Lucas Cavallini, Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS); Jayden Nelson, Toronto FC (MLS); Jacob Shaffelburg, Nashville SC (MLS).

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 2, 2022.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press