Soccer North: Canada dodging injuries, gearing up for friendlies days from FIFA World Cup

Canadian soccer standout Alphonso Davies, seen celebrating a goal with the men's national team, has been sidelined with injuries in recent weeks but is fit for the FIFA World Cup. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press/File - image credit)
Canadian soccer standout Alphonso Davies, seen celebrating a goal with the men's national team, has been sidelined with injuries in recent weeks but is fit for the FIFA World Cup. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press/File - image credit)

What can a Canadian soccer fan eager to watch the men's World Cup do other than count the days until the tournament kicks off in Nov. 20 in Qatar? Hope none of Canada's men's soccer team players are injured and ruled out.

Or, more precisely, that no more of Canadian players have to deal with the feelings of letting go of the dream to represent their country on soccer's biggest stage just days away from Canada's first men's World Cup game in 36 years — vs. No. 2 Belgium on Nov. 23 at 2 p.m. ET.

That's because the unwanted outcome has already struck Canada's roster twice, denying centre back Scott Kennedy and goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau the possibility of making head coach John Herdman's 26-player roster, to be announced Sunday.

"It's, honestly, probably one of the worst feelings in the world, but it's also a different beast this time around because the World Cup is getting played mid-season for most of these players that play in European leagues," former Canadian women's national team player and soccer analyst Kaylyn Kyle told Andi Petrillo on the third episode of CBC Sports' Soccer North.

WATCH | Episode 3: On Alphonso Davies injury, Christine Sinclair joins the show:

Soccer North airs every Friday on CBC Gem, and the CBC Sports YouTube channel. During the World Cup, the show will air live following all of Canada's games for as long it remains in the tournament.

The World Cup's unusual placement has seen the likes of France's N'Golo Kante and Paul Pogba, Germany's Timo Werner and Marco Reus and South Korea's Son Heung-min being ruled out of the World Cup due to injuries. The event is usually played between European seasons in June and July.

Crépeau, usually a back-up for Milan Borjan in the Canadian goalkeeping duties, helped LAFC secure the MLS Cup final on Saturday but left the game with a broken leg. Kennedy picked up an injury when falling awkwardly on his shoulder defending German club SSV Jahn Regensburg in late October.

"I would have loved to see [soccer leagues] take probably an extra two weeks off leading into the World Cup, due to the fact that there are so many games leading into it," said Kyle, a bronze medallist with Canada in London 2012.

Canadian standout Alphonso Davies gave supporters a scare when he was sidelined with injuries by his club Bayern Munich in recent weeks. Both a skull bruise and a hamstring strain have healed.

But Kyle argues that the players' pro clubs can't be blamed for the growing list of World Cup-barred players due to injuries.

"Let's be realistic here, they are paying [player's] contracts," said the former midifielder. "They don't care about the national teams. They don't care if they do well as a nation in the World Cup. They want to lift titles, they want to lift trophies, they want to get to Champions League finals, so you can't blame these clubs for playing these players."

Final tune-up with Qatar, Japan

The episode also touches on Canada's final two games leading into the World Cup and what the friendlies against Qatar (Friday) and Japan (Nov. 17) can add to the Canadian squad's preparation.

"These games, for me, are for the players in MLS that got knocked out early, weren't in the playoff race, didn't have those extra games that just finished last weekend, to get those 90-minutes match fitness performances," Kyle said.

WATCH l What friendlies against Bahrain, Japan bring to the table:

Soccer legend Christine Sinclair joined CBC's new show for the first time fresh off her third NWSL Championship title with the Portland Thorns.

The 39-year-old striker talks winning the Olympic title with Canada in Tokyo, adding another major club trophy to her name and her new book titled Playing the Long Game: A Memoir.

"I've had the honour of representing Canada for a long time and I never thought we would stand on the top of the podium. To have that dream come true with some of your best friends who fought through everything to get to that ... It's just a blur," said Sinclair about the immediate post-game memories following the penalty shootout win over Sweden.

WATCH | Sinclair on Olympic Gold, 3rd NWSL title, new book:

Episode 3 closes with an interview with Canadian Liverpool FC goalkeeper Rylee Foster a year after she suffered life-threatening injuries in a car accident in Finland.

WATCH l Goalkeeper Rylee Foster on her comeback from near life-threatening injury:

WATCH | Soccer North trailer: