Canada’s forthcoming trio of crucial World Cup qualifiers just got a whole lot more interesting as star player Alphonso Davies was ruled out due to heart disease.
After originally testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this month, Davies has been forced to isolate before returning to training with his professional club Bayern Munich this week. On Friday, Bayern manager Julian Nagelsmann announced that Davies had been diagnosed with mild myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle.
While Davies’ long-term health is not expected to be in jeopardy, Nagelsmann confirmed the Canadian will immediately stop training with the team until further notice to allow him to recover. Canada Soccer also confirmed that Davies, a 21-year-old from Edmonton, will not be available for the men’s World Cup qualifiers.
Montreal-based cardiologist Dr. Christopher Labos told CBC News Network that the long-term prognosis for someone with mild myocarditis is very good. He also described the usual treatments as bed rest and anti-inflammatories, explaining that one must allow symptoms to fully subside before returning to physical activity.
“To get back to peak conditioning [level], it may take a while before he gets back to what he was before,” said Labos.
CLOCK | John Molinaro discusses Canada’s prospects as Davies rests:
Of course, Davies’ health is the most important thing. Still, there’s no denying that the timing isn’t ideal for the Canada men’s team.
Canada currently top the table in the last round of CONCACAF qualifying with a 4-0-4 record and have a two-point advantage over fourth-placed Panama with six games to go.
The top three nations in the eight-team group automatically qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which means Canada’s away games against Honduras (January 27) and El Salvador (February 2) and its game against the USA in Hamilton (January 30). January) could go a long way in determining his fate.
Make no mistake: the loss of Davies is a huge blow as it deprives Canada of a player of such great skill and speed. Davies made his debut for Canada in 2017 as a 16-year-old.
Since then, the left-back has established himself not only as Canada’s brightest star (with 10 goals and 15 assists in 35 games) but also as one of the best players at his position in the sport.
CLOCK | Davies miss trio of World Cup qualifiers:
2020 Lou Marsh Trophy co-winner Davies has become a global superstar since moving from Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps to FC Bayern Munich, German champions and one of the most iconic clubs in world soccer.
Davies’ speed and tricks on the ball and his offensive flair make him a nightmare for opposing defenders. His five goals in the current qualifying round is one of the reasons why Canada looks poised to qualify for only the second World Cup in its history, having played in Mexico in 1986.
Significantly improved national depth
Still, this is not a one-man team. Like Davies, Jonathan David (Lille OSC), Cyle Larin and Atiba Hutchinson (Besiktas) and Tajon Buchanan (Club Brugge) also play for European clubs.
Canada is also full of top MLS stars – most notably Toronto FC’s Jonathan Osorio and Colorado Rapids’ Mark-Anthony Kaye.
Canada have never had a team endowed with such depth and genuine quality at every position, giving coach John Herdman plenty of options to choose from even with Davies ruled out.
CLOCK | Health expert says Davies’ recovery is likely to take ‘several weeks’:
Former Canada midfielder Terry Dunfield, who played 14 times for Canada from 2010 to 2015, believes the men’s side have the manpower to successfully complete this string of crucial World Cup qualifiers without Davies.
“If you asked me that five years ago, when [Davies] made his debut, I’d probably say Canada be damned,” Dunfield told CBC Sports
“Five years on, it’s great to be able to say, with all due respect to Davies, that his potential absence isn’t nearly as damaging. Canada certainly loses a bit of presence without him. But I really think Canada can get past this international window without him.”
Familiarity without Davies
There is more recent evidence to support this bold claim.
Canada looked very strong at last summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup without Davies due to a torn ankle ligament and reached the semi-finals of the biennial competition for the first time since 2007.
Davies injured his knee in the 1-1 draw between Canada and the United States last September. Three days later Canada beat El Slavador 3-0 in Toronto while Davies was back in Germany to recover.
With three games in three different countries over a seven-day period, chances are Herdman would always rotate his squad heavily and rely on his depth and that Davies could have been rested.
“Canada’s DNA is based on being tactically adaptable and this incredible brotherhood that the players have formed. … There’s enough quality in the squad and enough cohesion for the players to help each other out,” Dunfield said.
“Tactically it depends on the opponent how Canada will play. It was always a little bit different for each game whether Davies was there or not. So for me the big complexities around these games are the quick turnover and the travel.”