Predicting Canada's '11 Gold Cup roster

De Guzman, Jackson are locks, but what about DeRo, Hume?

With less than a month until Canada kick off their CONCACAF Gold Cup
campaign with a huge match against the hosts USA, head coach Stephen
Hart has sent out the invitations to the players he feels have made the
cut.

The Canadians will be looking to make a statement in this year’s
tourney. They will be hoping to show the rest of the region that they
are ready to compete, not only in the continental championship, but also
in World Cup qualifying (which starts for Canada later this year).

With that in mind, let’s take a look at who should get the call, and why.

LOCKS

Goalkeeper: Milan Borjan

The relative newcomer to the program has injected fresh blood at a
position in which Canada are very thin. With stalwart Lars Hirschfeld
looking likely to miss the Gold Cup beacuse of club commitments with
Vålerenga, Borjan should own the No. 1 jersey in June.

Defense: Kevin McKenna, Marcel de Jong, Andre Hainault, Dejan Jakovic

McKenna is the grizzled vet and captain material and is always there
when called upon. Hainault is enjoying a great season with the Houston
Dynamo and has partnered McKenna in the center of defense in the past.
His ability to play as a full back increases his value, as well. Jakovic
has seen his fair share of struggles with D.C. United, but his play
elevates with the national team.

Left back de Jong has been a rock for his club FC Augsburg during
their run to promotion to the German Bundesliga this season. His ability
to move the ball out of the back, plus his delivery on crosses and set
pieces, prove valuable assets.

Midfield: Atiba Hutchinson, Josh Simpson, Will Johnson, Julian de Guzman

Hutchinson has been stellar for PSV Eindhoven in his first season in the Eredivisie.

Simpson started his club season in Turkey on a torrid pace and,
although his production has slowed in 2011, he’s the biggest scoring
threat out of the Canadian midfield. Simpson’s confidence on the ball is
infectious and will keep opposing defenders on their toes.

MLS fans are familiar with both Johnson and de Guzman. Johnson has
grown into a key cog of Real Salt Lake’s dynamic midfield, while de
Guzman is the much-maligned Toronto FC Designated Player who this year
has shown increasing flashes of what he can do in a system that plays to
his strengths. JDG was also the 2007 Gold Cup MVP.

Forwards: Simeon Jackson, Rob Friend

Jackson just about single-handedly dragged Norwich City into the
Premier League with his goal-scoring exploits over the final month of
the season and, while he has been employed as a winger for Canada in
recent matches, Hart has hinted that we may see the 24-year-old used as
an out-and-out striker come Gold Cup time.

Another striker whose club gained promotion to the top tier, Hertha
BSC’s Friend was less of a factor for his club, but his massive 6-foot-5
frame causes all sorts of problems for CONCACAF defenses.

LIKELY INCLUSIONS

Goalkeeper: Greg Sutton

The New York Red Bulls ‘keeper has battled with concussion problems
for much of the year, but he looks to be recovered and ready to serve as
backup to Borjan.

Should Hirschfeld be available to play, Sutton will probably drop to third string (or may not be called at all).

Defense: Mike Klukowski, Adam Straith, Jaime Peters

If the Gold Cup were a few months earlier, Klukowski would have been
a lock. The left-sided player can play as a full back, in the midfield,
and — in a pinch — in the center of defense, but his club situation has
deteriorated to the point that he asked for his release from Turkish
side Ankaragucu. Therefore, lack of playing time may be an issue.

Twenty-year-old Straith is one for the future and has shown glimpses of composure well beyond his years.

Peters’ speed and tenacity add a dimension to the Canadian back line
that is not abundant, although his lack of playing time with club
Ipswich Town is cause for concern.

Midfield: Dwayne De Rosario, Issey Nakajima-Farran, Patrice Bernier

DeRo is DeRo, and while he may not be an automatic starter for
Canada these days, he’s still one of the most dangerous weapons at coach
Hart’s disposal.

Like De Rosario, Nakajima-Farran and Bernier are both veterans of
the national program who have been through this before. Bernier’s steady
influence and Nakajima-Farran’s attacking flair will both be relied
upon in certain situations of what Canada hope is a long run through the
tournament.

Forwards: Iain Hume, Tosaint Ricketts

Hume’s Herculean form to finish the club season was not enough to
keep Preston North End in the English Championship. Regardless, he’s
been scoring in buckets lately, a fact that is hard to ignore.

Ricketts is another newcomer to the national program, with speed to
burn. If called, look for the Edmonton native to be a late-game sub,
running at tired defenders.

UP FOR GRABS

With just three spots left, and one more goalkeeper spot to fill, things get interesting.

Canada’s depth in goal has been a sore spot for years and, in 2011,
things are no different. Haidar Al-Shaïbani, Kenny Stamatopoulos and
Josh Wagenaar have all taken part in national camps recently.

Our guess: Al-Shaïbani

That leaves just two more spots for outfield players.

Defenders Paul Stalteri, Adrian Cann, and David Edgar are all in the
mix here. Portugal-based Pedro Pacheco along with Vancouver Whitecaps
duo Terry Dunfield and Russel Teibert have earned consideration with
their strong play, while Montreal’s Ali Gerba is always a possibility up
top.

Our guess: Edgar, Pacheco

Final squad: Borjan, Sutton, Al-Shaïbani, McKenna,
de Jong, Hainault, Jakovic, Klukowski, Straith, Peters, Edgar,
Hutchinson, Simpson, Johnson, de Guzman, De Rosario, Nakajima-Farran,
Bernier, Pacheco, Jackson, Friend, Hume, Ricketts