The Canadian men’s team experienced a series of dizzying highs and remarkable lows in 2019. The highlight: A 2-0 victory over the United States at home in Concacaf Nations League play, the team’s first win over their border rivals in 34 years. The lowlight: A 3-2 loss to modest Haiti in the Gold Cup quarter-finals, a result that saw the Reds squander a two-goal lead in the second half. Despite being prematurely knocked out of the Gold Cup and failing to qualify for the Nations League finals, Canada put in some solid performances in 2019, spurred on by an exciting group of youngsters and experienced veterans, providing some genuine hope for the future. The editorial team of John Molinaro, Armen Bedakian, Marty Thompson and Charlie O’Connor-Clarke debate who was the most influential player on the Canadian men’s team in 2019. Check out their picks below.
Bedakian: Alphonso Davies, Bayern Munich

Take this in: There is an entire generation of children across Canada who will grow up, fall in love with the beautiful game, and only know a world where a Canadian player starts for one of the biggest clubs in Europe, in Champions League fixtures against teams like Real Madrid, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, and sometimes, but not very often, teams like Arsenal. We’re not talking about the best Canadian player in this modern national team — though Davies would most certainly be leading that conversation, too. No, we’re talking about the most influential — that’s the player who sells the most shirts, inspires the most youths, and, most importantly, gets the most likes on Instagram. In that regard, Davies reigns supreme, with an average of 60,000 likes per Instagram photo. Comparably? Jonathan Osorio hits about 4,000, Junior Hoilett around 2,500, and Milan Borjan around 14,000. It’s not even close. Davies wins, and, really, we all win when Davies wins.
Thompson: Scott Arfield, Rangers

In Canada’s biggest win of 2019, no player stepped up the way Scott Arfield did. Their 2-0 victory over the United States in Concacaf Nations League was all Arfield. Playing advanced in a 4-2-2-2, the 31-year-old was tasked with pressuring, ball-winning, and creating in an incredibly taxing role. Look back at the opening goal. Arfield’s silky-smooth poke-and-steal sent the U.S. going backwards, with only a handful of defenders back to defend. His assist finished the play and showed a real "take the bull by the horns" attitude very rarely seen from Canada players for long stretches of game time. There was the Gold Cup, too, where Arfield excelled as a dynamic midfield option. He also started wearing the captain's armband over the past year, affirming his importance to the squad as consistent performer.
O’Connor Clarke: Jonathan David, Gent

The guy has eight goals in 2019. He’s been perhaps the most electrifying player in a Canada shirt for two years now, all before his 20th birthday. He and Davies are the crown jewels of this golden generation, but it’s David who’s been more consistently productive for his country. His goal against Cuba at BMO Field was insane; when was the last time we saw a Canadian men’s national team player ruin defenders like that? Probably never, unless it was a different Jonathan David goal. He’s been immense for both club and country (starring for Gent in the very competitive Belgian league), and although he doesn’t have the glamour that comes with playing for Bayern Munich, David has been top-notch when called upon for Canada. David has embraced his role as a face of the young Canadian men’s national team, and he’s been consistent; his only real blemish came in Orlando against the U.S., when he just couldn’t get the ball. He has no trouble punishing Concacaf minnows, which he may well be called upon to do in 2020 in Canada’s World Cup qualifying repechage campaign. Plus, he was just named Canada Soccer's men's player of the year for 2019, so I'm not the only one making this pick...
Molinaro: Milan Borjan, Red Star Belgrade

There was one constant for Canada in 2019, and his name was Milan Borjan. The Red Star Belgrade goalkeeper played every minute (810 in total) of all nine games that Canada played this year, earning five clean sheets along the way — including the Reds’ 2-0 victory over the United States on Oct. 15 in Toronto, the team’s first win over the Americans in 34 years. Borjan was always the last line of defence for Canada, called upon to stand tall and make crucial saves at critical moments in matches. With an ever-changing back line just ahead of him, Borjan gave Canada a steadying and consistent presence in defence, and did a masterful job of organizing his defenders and launching quick counter-attacks with his long throws and kicks played out from the back. More importantly, Borjan solidified himself as one of the team leaders in 2019, his commanding presence allowing Canada to find a strong voice on the international stage. "We’ve been working for a period of time on just making sure that we’re all clear on what we do when we turn up and put that red shirt on. (Milan Borjan) is a leader, and we’ve got a voice now. We speak from the heart," coach John Herdman said after the win over the U.S.

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