SPORTS

Young midfielder Samuel Piette among Hart's 22-man Canadian soccer roster

05/17/2012 10:48 EDT | Updated 07/17/2012 05:12 EDT
Samuel Piette is getting another kick at Canada's men's soccer team.

The 17-year-old midfielder from Repentigny, Que., who shone on Canada's under-23 team during Olympic qualifying as the squad's youngest player, was among the 22-man preliminary roster coach Stephen Hart named for three key upcoming games.

"We'll see how he does," Hart said on a conference call Thursday.

Piette — the youngest player on the latest edition of Canada's squad by nearly four years — caught Hart's eye at the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament in April in the U.S., and the coach sees a bright future in the upstart midfielder who started in games against the United States, Cuba and Mexico.

"He passed the ball well, positionally played well. . .," Hart said.

Ashtone Morgan, a 21-year-old defender for Toronto FC, is the second youngest player on a squad led by veterans Dwayne De Rosario and Kevin McKenna, unveiled Thursday morning in a flashy YouTube video.

The 22 players will gather for camp May 21-31 in Sunrise, Fla.

The Canadians will host the U.S. in a friendly on June 3 at Toronto's BMO Field and then will play two World Cup qualifiers, June 8 against Cuba in Havana and June 12 versus Honduras in Toronto.

Piette, who made his first senior team roster for a friendly versus Armenia in February, is currently on trial with German team Fortuna Dusseldorf, which has been promoted to the Bundesliga for next season. Hart would love to see the young player sign a contract to play in one of the world's biggest leagues.

"I think that would be fantastic for him, he's worked hard and my only wish is that he be successful, and establish himself and hopefully if he does that they may look at a few more young Canadian players," Hart said.

Two other surprise players on Hart's roster were midfielders Issey Nakajima-Farran, who's been playing in Australia and hasn't worn a Canada jersey since a friendly versus Belarus in March of 2011, and Pedro Pacheco, who plays for Portuguese club C.D. Santa Clara.

Nakajima-Farran scored four goals in 23 appearances this season with the Brisbane Roar.

"I thought he did very well in Australia, he played basically two positions behind the striker and in the wide position, he was very mobile, technically he added a lot to their attack, and he scored goals," Hart said. "I thought it would be a good time to bring him in and see how that could be transferred to the national team."

This World Cup qualifying campaign marks the fourth go-round for De Rosario and McKenna. De Rosario is the team's most experienced player with 66 appearances with the senior side. He's also Canada's co-leader in goals scored with 19.

Forward Simeon Jackson and midfielder Josh Simpson are Canada's two active leaders in consecutive matches — Jackson has played in 18 straight games, while Simpson has played 16 in a row.

Hart likes the makeup of this squad.

"This group of players have had a fair number of games together so they're familiar with each other," Hart said.

"In the camp environment, off the field, this is a pretty tight-knit team. You try to keep things upbeat and positive, and this squad does a good job of doing that, so hopefully they will transfer that into the upcoming camp and we can get down to the business of the qualification."

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