(Reuters) – The selection process for the Canadian team competing at this month’s CONCACAF men’s Olympic qualifying tournament may have been hampered by COVID-19 and other issues but head coach Mauro Biello remains confident in his squad.
Nine Toronto FC players were on the provisional roster but, due to positive COVID-19 tests at the MLS club’s training camp, none made the 20-player squad named on Wednesday that will compete in the March 18-30 tournament in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Biello said it did not make much sense to select the Toronto players as they would be in quarantine and miss Canada’s first game before being thrown into the second match without any training.
“It’s unfortunate that the timing of all this with the TFC players falls right in the middle of our tournament,” Biello said on a video call with reporters.
“For sure some of those players have that certain experience and could’ve helped the depth of this team, but I think we need to adapt and overcome.”
The eight-team tournament, originally scheduled to be held last March but postponed because of COVID-19, will determine the two teams that represent North and Central America and the Caribbean at the Tokyo Olympics.
Canada, who have not qualified for the Olympics since 1984, were drawn into Group B and will face El Salvador in their first game on March 19 followed by Haiti on March 22 and Honduras on March 25.
Biello said another issue that impacted the roster is that some club teams decided to hold back players since a portion of the tournament falls outside the FIFA international window.
But Biello feels they have a good mix of youth and experience.
“We have a team that can compete. For sure that group is not going to be easy,” said Biello. “But I am expecting to grow throughout this tournament. If we are able to grow throughout this tournament it will give us the best shot.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)