Canada’s first training session Monday at a pre-World Cup training camp in Bahrain was overshadowed with the panful news that goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau was back in the U.S., recovering from surgery to repair a broken leg.
Crepeau was hurt playing for Los Angeles FC in Saturday’s MLS Cup final. The injury occurred in extra time when the 28-year-old from Candiac, Que., charged out of his penalty box in search of an under-hit back pass, only to collide heavily with onrushing Philadelphia forward Cory Burke.
Crepeau, who left the game on a cart, was red-carded on the play for denying a goal-scoring opportunity. Backup ‘keeper John McCarthy helped LAFC to a penalty shootout win and was named game MVP.
“I think everyone’s just devastated at the whole nature of how that unfolded,” Canada coach John Herdman said Monday. “We’ve lost (defender) Scott Kennedy earlier in the week and then how it unfolded for Max — just so late in the game and a situation where he had to put his body on the line. It was such a sad moment.
“I think it rocked a lot of people. The injury looked pretty bad as well on TV. It’s been a tough moment, I think, not only for the staff but for the player group here. With genuine concern at the level of that injury.”
LAFC said surgery Sunday to repair Crepeau’s right leg had been successful.
Kennedy was ruled out of the World Cup last week after injuring his shoulder playing for his German club side SSV Jahn Regensburg.
There was better news Sunday on Alphonso Davies, who left Bayern Munich’s game Saturday at Hertha Berlin holding the back of his right leg. The German club subsequently said a hamstring strain would sideline the Canadian for the club’s remaining two matches before the World Cup break but would not keep Davies out of the tournament.
“It was a difficult couple of hours, I’ll tell you that,” said Herdman.
The 41st-ranked Canadians open their World Cup campaign Nov. 23 in Qatar against No. 2 Belgium.
Asked if he expected Davies to be ready then, Herdman was hopeful but realistic.
“The initial assessment from Bayern Munich would suggest that his recovery could hit that marker,” said the coach. “So as long as everything in the recovery goes to plan, then we expect Alphonso to be available to represent (Canada) in the Belgium game.
“But these sort of injuries you just never know. It sometimes isn’t always straight lines. We’re not going to count our chickens until Alphonso actually turns up in the environment. He’ll be staying with Bayern Munich to continue his full recovery with Bayern for as long as needed.”
The camp in Bahrain is for out-of-season players, with all but midfielder Liam Fraser (KMSK Deinze, Belgium) from Major League Soccer. European clubs will playing matches right up until the Nov. 14 FIFA release date for players going to the tournament.
Canada plays No. 85 Bahrain on Thursday in Manama. Once assembled, the full squad will play a final warm-up against No. 24 Japan on Nov. 17 in Dubai.
Herdman said he doubted the team would see Davies until after the Japan game.
Crepeau, who has won 15 caps for Canada, had been expected to back up Milan Borjan in Qatar, likely with Minnesota United’s Dayne St. Clair.
Crepeau had been due to join St. Clair and CF Montreal’s James Pantemis at the camp in Bahrain.
Crepeau’s absence leaves Herdman without experienced cover for Borjan, the 35-year-old Red Star Belgrade ‘keeper who has 67 caps for Canada.
St. Clair has one cap to his credit while Pantemis is uncapped. Both are 25 years old.
“I think it’s always a concern when the experience isn’t there,” said Herdman. “But when I look at Dayne St. Clair, James Pantemis, they’ve been with the team through a lot of these experiences. They’ve bought into the culture. They understand what it means to represent in this new Canada (team). And they’ve earned the right to be here as well.
“They’ve just been critical parts of this journey and have always turned up and had the right attitude and the right character. So I think that experience element gets trumped with the excitement and just the desire and opportunity to hopefully get that chance that they may be getting, that otherwise they wouldn’t have seen. That will be game time in the game against Bahrain and the game against Japan as well. … It’s a big opportunity for someone like Dayne St. Clair, who’s had a real breakout season with Minnesota.”
Herdman’s players had a light training session Monday.
“The boys have come in buzzing,” he said. “They’re really excited to be back together. We’ve been pretty clear with them that the focus is a strong performance against Bahrain and to stay in the present. The future will take care of itself.”