The 2015 CONCACAF U20s Championship is scheduled to begin next week in Jamaica. The three-week tournament includes twelve nations, from the United States to Aruba, & the top four teams will qualify for the 2015 U20 World Cup in New Zealand.
Among the nations competing will be Canada. The belief is that Luca Gasparotto’s loan was extended with Airdrie due to the fact that the defender will be leaving club play in January to represent the national team. Gasparotto is one of Canada’s key players & was named the best player in this past summer’s Milk Cup tournament.
Now the questions becomes – will Rangers let Fraser Aird take part in the tournament? Aird did not play in the Milk Cup, participating in preseason preparations for Rangers instead. His commitments to the national team have been murky but in April of 2014 he did appear to commit his future to the country of his birth. He had previously represented Scotland in U17 competition, but has since accepted an invitation to a Canada U20 squad – but has yet to appear in a match for the Canucks.
Daniel Squizzato, who writes for Canadian Soccer News, believes that Canada are planning to include Aird in the squad for the tournament but ultimately is unsure if the commitment will be there from the player &/or club.
“I would imagine Canada wants him there. It’s up to him whether he goes or not. Of course, it’s also up to Rangers if they let him go.”
If Aird does want to commit his future to Canada over Scotland – this is the tipping point for him. Given the interest from the Canadian national team & the muted interest of late from Scotland, it appears to be his best chance of playing international football.
For his long term development, a tournament like this would serve Aird well. Nations like Mexico & the United States will be sending strong squads & it would be an excellent opportunity for Aird to play in a higher level of competition.
Canada has not qualified for the U20 World Cup since 2007, but have been buoyed by recent performances. In November, Canada beat both Russia & the United States, while drawing against England. They have been grouped with Mexico, Haiti, El Salvador, Cuba & Honduras for the CONCACAF tournament. Canada will play each team & the winner of the group qualifies for the World Cup, while the second & third place teams will face-off with teams from the other group for the final two spots.
Squizzato likes Canada’s chances to qualify. “The youth level is hard to predict; little is known about many of these CONCACAF teams. But based on format, I’d say we have decent shot.”
Aird did not take part in Canada’s most recent training camp but neither did any other European based players. The team departs for Jamaica on January 8th & play their opening match against Haiti on the 10th.
Is there a chance that Aird will be selected? Head coach Rob Gale recently said, “The squad is not finalized yet with myself & the staff still looking to select the final squad members who have not featured with us in international competition yet this season & those that have not fully convinced us they are ready for the level of competition we face.”
“All will be afforded the opportunity to stake their claim for a spot on the plane on January 8th into Jamaica, and as it should be – it’s up to them to prove their worth.”
It would not be a surprise to see Gale reach out to Aird in an attempt to include him in his team but the final decision will be Aird’s & ultimately Kenny McDowall’s.
To be continued…