Canada will be without Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies for Wednesday’s World Cup qualifying match against El Salvador.
Canada Soccer said Tuesday evening that the 20-year-old fullback/winger was injured and flying back to Germany “to continue his recovery.” The three-paragraph release did not detail the injury.
Davies looked pained when he left Sunday’s 1-1 tie with the U.S. in the 75th minute and was immediately greeted by trainers when he got to the bench. He seemed to be favouring a leg and was absent from the Canada training session earlier Tuesday.
His assist on Cyle Larin’s tying goal in the 62nd minute of the game in Nashville was his record-breaking sixth in 2021. He had shared the previous Canadian men’s record with Martin Nash (2000).
Davies was also hurt with Canada in July, suffering a torn ligament in his ankle in training prior to the Gold Cup. At the time, Herdman said Davies turned his ankle after riding a tackle in a small-sided game.
Davies returned to full team practice with Bayern on Aug. 9 and started in the season opener Aug. 13 against Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Wednesday’s game is the third in a week for both Canada and El Salvador, ranked 59th and 64th respectively. Both sides have two ties to date.
Herdman says depth in his roster is key with such a compressed schedule.
“These boys are dialled in,” he said. “The squad is focused and every man’s ready to play their part. That’s a great place to be as a coach.”
Canada opened the so-called Octagonal, the final round of qualifying in CONCACAF, by drawing No. 63 Honduras 1-1 at BMO Field before tying the 10th-ranked Americans. El Salvador played scoreless draws at home to the U.S. and Honduras.
Tajon Buchanan, who started against Honduras and came off the bench against the U.S., could step in for Davies if needed.
With home points at a premium, the Canadian men will be looking to make the most of the home date before returning to their clubs. Canada’s 14-game Octagonal schedule continues next month with away games at No. 9 Mexico and No. 50 Jamaica before an Oct. 13 home date against No. 74 Panama at BMO Field.
Mexico leads the round-robin standings with six points while Panama, the surprise team to date, has four. Canada, Honduras, the U.S and El Salvador all have two points while No. 44 Costa Rica has one and Jamaica none.
Come March, the top three finishers will book their ticket to Qatar 2022, representing North and Central America and the Caribbean, while the fourth-place team moves on to an intercontinental playoff to see who joins them.
“This is a war with 14 battles,” Herdman said. “With two down and with a few more to go.”
Herdman says managing his players’ health during the fixture crunch has been Job 1. And he credited his staff and players for managing to avoid COVID.
“It’s been a hell of a journey,” he said. “But we came in with a good plan. I think that was the starting point. We came in with a clear plan. We communicated that to the players so they had clarity. And every man’s had a mission so far. They’ve known what they had to contribute. And [they’ve] known that we would never put them in what I would call the deepest waters that are going to make it unsafe for them.
“We’re in a good spot at this moment. It’s going to bode well for the coming matches in the October window as well.”
El Salvador has shown a stingy defence to date, with Toronto FC centre back Eriq Zavaleta at the heart of the backline.
“They’re a good team They really do operate in a cohesive way,” Herdman said. “They can run all day. And they’re a real threat in transition. So we’re going to have to be on our game [Wednesday] to get a result.”
Attendance will be capped at 15,000 at BMO Field because of COVID-19 protocols. Canada Soccer says the match is a sellout, which, if last week’s game against Honduras is any indication, means there will be a loud and proud crowd on hand.
“We’ve got to be a fortress at home to get maximum points,” Canadian veteran Junior Hoilett said. “The whole group and the nation knows what’s at stake. And we’ve go to go out there and apply pressure to get the maximum points, to push forward.”
“The energy’s high on the team and we’re ready to go [Wednesday],” defender Doneil Henry added.