Canadians Abroad Roundup: Welcome back, Alphonso Davies
After 110 long days, Alphonso Davies returned to the pitch for Bayern Munich.
Davies was diagnosed with mild myocarditis – an inflammation of the heart muscle – in mid-January but hadn’t played since Dec. 17, the final matchday before the Bundesliga’s winter break. He was back in individual training on March 14, trained fully with the team over the March international break and parlayed that into a call-up for the first leg of Bayern’s Champions League quarterfinal versus Villarreal.
Not only did Davies make the trip to Spain, he was thrown right into the starting lineup.
Bayern ultimately lost the first leg 1-0, and Davies had a tough matchup against Juan Foyth, Giovani Lo Celso and Gerard Moreno. All three players were disciplined in closing down the left flank and preventing the Canadian from cutting inside into the left half-space.
To his credit, Davies responded well in the second half and had a crucial block from point-blank range to keep Bayern alive. The statistical output from the match was solid enough, but the most impressive number was completing the full 90 minutes after nearly four months without any competitive action.
Three days later, Davies came off the bench for Bayern in its 1-0 win over Augsburg, registering around 40 minutes including stoppage time. His first proper sequence was classic Davies: A lethal counter-attack that nearly led to a scoring chance.
That wasn’t the only marauding run of the afternoon for Davies. Late in the game, he kickstarted another counter which should’ve been converted if not for a last-ditch clearance.
He was even putting in a strong defensive shift by breaking up oncoming attacks and dribbling through pressure.
Eventually, Davies encountered the same treatment he experienced at Villarreal. Augsburg had two players watching his every move and they were quick to snuff him out on the dribble.
It’s unreasonable to expect any athlete to pick up where they left off after four months of inactivity. The challenge is anticipating a defender’s next move, redeveloping the situational awareness and regaining chemistry with teammates. World-class players like Davies don’t normally lose their technique or speed after a long layoff, it’s the mental side that needs retooling.
That will all return to Davies as he accumulates more minutes. Bayern would likely prefer a re-acclimatization sooner rather than later with the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinals on Tuesday, though.
Nonetheless, it’s encouraging to see the Canadian superstar with a clean bill of health and on the field where he belongs.
OTHER UPDATES AND ANALYSIS
• Somehow, Jonathan David and Lille are in the hunt to claim a European place. Les Dogues drew 1-1 with Angers to extend their Ligue 1 unbeaten run to eight games, which is surprising considering David has failed to recapture his 2021 form. He has one goal in 14 games since the turn of the year in all competitions.
It wasn’t due to a lack of trying on Sunday, however. David’s two shots were well-executed but the Angers defence was quick to get bodies in front of the Canadian.
• While David’s run of futility continues, another Canadian forward in France is thriving. Ike Ugbo registered his third goal for Troyes in their heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Monaco.
But let’s take a moment to admire the quality of this strike. Ugbo is off-balance, harangued by a defender and manages to fire a bullet into the net from distance.
Ugbo’s incredible off-the-ball movement nearly led to a brace as well.
Considering the club was battling relegation before Ugbo joined on loan from Genk in January, him scoring three times in 500 minutes is a testament to his finishing abilities. He’s registering 0.46 expected goals (xG) and just 1.85 shots per 90 minutes, which is crucial for Troyes. It won’t dominate games and create boatloads of chances, so having a poacher like Ugbo significantly bolsters their chances of survival.
• Tajon Buchanan produced one of his most dominant performances for Club Brugge in the team’s 2-0 win over Mechelen on Sunday.
The 23-year-old finished with three shots, 0.28 xG while completing 21 of 26 completed passes, one key pass, four of eight dribbles, five interceptions and three recoveries. He even won seven of his eight defensive duels on the day. You can watch some of those highlights below (Buchanan is No. 17).
Having logged just over 750 minutes of league action for Brugge, we can properly examine Buchanan’s statistical radar thus far. As evidenced by the video above, he’s going to be a constant two-way threat, but is prone to turnovers. That comes with the territory with a technically gifted wingback. So long as Buchanan keeps wreaking havoc and creating opportunities, the turnovers can be stomached.
• In the Belgian second division, Liam Fraser was solid yet again in around 83 minutes for Deinze, who lost 2-1 to Lierse Kempenzonen. Like Buchanan, the 24-year-old has played enough to build and analyze his statistical radar.
Anyone who’s watched Fraser with Toronto FC or Canada knows that this is his modus operandi. He progresses the ball and orchestrates so well, which the past weekend’s match showed.
I highlighted Fraser’s lack of strength, aggression and anticipation in defensive situations in a previous roundup. He seems to be slowly improving those aspects of his game, though.
• Stephen Eustaquio had eight minutes off the bench for Porto in its narrow 1-0 win versus Vitoria de Guimaraes on Sunday. There are six games remaining, including the Taca de Portugal final against Sporting CP, for Eustaquio to gain more minutes ahead of the Nations League window in June.
• Steven Vitoria was back in the matchday squad for Moreirense after battling a minor injury. He should be back in the lineup next week if all goes well in training.
• There was no Cyle Larin for Besiktas after his red card on April 3. He’s eligible to play this Sunday. Atiba Hutchinson was an unused substitute in the 4-1 win over Alanyaspor on Saturday.
• New week, same Sam Adekugbe. The Hatayspor defender regularly producing man-of-the-match performances in the Turkish Super Lig to the point where he may not need mentioning in the roundup until his form falls off a cliff.
The 4-1 loss to Antalyaspor and a 67th-minute red card for Hatayspor meant Adekugbe was under more duress than usual. However, he still finished the game with two interceptions, two clearances, 29 of 33 completed passes and one key pass.
• In the English Championship, Junior Hoilett and Reading’s four-match unbeaten run — which might’ve helped them avoid relegation — came to an end with a 2-1 loss to Cardiff City on Saturday. Hoilett logged 60 minutes and despite his best efforts, couldn’t penetrate Cardiff’s compact defence.
Since we’ve already seen two others, here’s Hoilett’s statistical radar for the season. Obviously Reading has struggled, plus the numbers are in line with Hoilett’s 2020-21 campaign. He’s become less of a scoring threat the last two years, yet he remains a strong dribbler with good ball security. That’s still very valuable.
• Richie Laryea continues to be an unused substitute for Nottingham Forest despite left wingback Max Lowe being ruled out for six weeks in mid-March. Laryea is making the squad for league matches, though, which hasn’t always been the case. But if multiple defensive injuries still can’t allow him to debut, there’s little chance of the Canadian defender seeing any time this season.
On the bright side, Forest is up to fourth in the Championship and are in good shape to claim a promotion playoff place after a 2-0 win over Birmingham City on Saturday.
• Daniel Jebbison was also an unused substitute for Sheffield United’s match on Saturday. This followed a 20-minute spell in midweek against QPR.
However, Jebbison received his first start for United since he was recalled from his loan at Burton Albion. He wasn’t a real scoring threat but he showed some promise, like better close control, composure around the box and willingness to engage in aerial duels. Watch for No. 36.
If Jebbison gains more strength and is more eager to win aerial balls, then he’ll take another major step forward in his development.
• If anyone has been paying attention to Theo Corbeanu’s recent appearances, they’ll notice he’s come off the bench in five of his last six games with MK Dons. Corbeanu was a regular starter up until March, so many will ask if coach Liam Manning has an issue with the Canadian.
Corbeanu has attempted more dribbles per 90 minutes (13.02) in League One this season than any other player. Yet when parsing through Opta‘s player carries, Corbeanu isn’t in the top 25 in any category.
The correlation is that, despite his incredible dribbling abilities, Corbeanu doesn’t create chances with them. Scott Twine and Troy Parrott do, and that’s likely why they start.
• Make that seven league goals for Liam Millar this season, and 10 in all competitions for Basel after this sensational strike helped his side secure a 2-2 draw with St. Gallen.
Considering this is one of Millar’s first proper first-team experiences in a top-flight European league, he’s been terrific. Unlike his loans from Liverpool in the past, Millar is afforded the freedom to drift inside and dart into the box. That translates well on his radar.
• Centre-back Scott Kennedy got about 10 minutes for Jahn Regensburg in their 1-1 draw with Ingolstadt on Friday in the 2. Bundesliga.
• When I combed through Derek Cornelius’ match report, I noticed an interesting wrinkle: He’s been deployed at left-back for the past two games with Panetolikos in the Greek Super League. Coincidentally or not, the team has lost both matches. But when his team has the ball, everything is funnelled through Cornelius on the left.
Cornelius remains a centre-back in a lot of ways. He won’t advance too far into the final third, for example. When does, though, he appears uncomfortable and can’t hit an accurate cross into the box (he’s 0-for-8 in the two games). Hence why the early returns on this experiment aren’t encouraging.
• Milan Borjan started Red Star Belgrade’s midweek Serbian Cup win over Backa Topola in their quarterfinal. The semifinals will be played in May.
• Stefan Mitrovic had the start for Radnicki Nis in their 2-0 loss to Mladost Lucani in the Serbian Super Liga. Not for the first time, Mitrovic was driving play for his side but it wasn’t enough to claim a result.
• Fresh off scoring his first goal in the Russian Premier League, Richie Ennin nearly tripled his seasonal output in Nizhny Novgorod’s loss to Dynamo Moscow on Saturday.
Had Ennin reacted a split second sooner in the first clip, and if the ball was hit closer to the 23-year-old in the second video, he could’ve had a brace. Considering how isolated he was up front, that would’ve been a job well done.
• David Wotherspoon returned to individual training with St. Johnstone for the first time since tearing his ACL in November. He’s likely months away from a full return to game action but the fact he was running is a terrific sign.
• In his 100th game for Ross County, Harry Paton helped his side edge Aberdeen 1-0, which guarantees the club a top-six finish in the Scottish Premiership.
It was a frantic game, so it wasn’t a 10-out-of-10 display from Paton but he had some bright moments in the match. Look out for the No. 6 in navy blue.
• There are worse ways to spend a weekend than to sit at a desk with a bowl of jalapeño-flavoured chips and watch Mark-Anthony Kaye clips.
The passes don’t always come off, but the intentions are right from Kaye, who went the full 90 in the Colorado Rapids’ defeat to FC Dallas.
• In a shocking turn of events, Raheem Edwards didn’t log an assist for the LA Galaxy on Saturday in a 2-1 win over LAFC in “El Trafico.” The 26-year-old still leads MLS in that category despite the blank.
• Maxime Crepeau started in goal for LAFC, failing to make a single save in the loss, though it can hardly be pinned on the Canadian No. 2.
• Even in defeat, Dayne St. Clair manages to amaze. He executed one point-blank save to keep Minnesota United’s hopes alive in an eventual 1-0 loss to Austin. It’s hard to see St. Clair relinquishing that starting job anytime soon with his continued heroics.
• Keep an eye on centre-back Julian Dunn over the next several months. The former Toronto FC centre-back signed with HamKam in the Norwegian top flight along with ex-CF Montreal man Clement Bayiha.
Dunn debuted last week in the season opener against Lillestrom, which resulted in a 2-2 draw. He had the start again in a narrow 2-1 loss to Tromso. Like the first game, the 21-year-old was in the centre of a back three and highlighted three main qualities: His calmness on the ball (apart from one mishap), aerial domination and how quickly he covers ground.
With the Canadian men’s national team needing right-footed centre-backs and an eventual replacement for Steven Vitoria, Dunn will be one to watch.
• Charles-Andreas Brym can’t stop scoring for FC Eindhoven. The 23-year-old completed a brace on Friday for his seventh and eighth goals of the season. He received a fortunate deflection for the second strike but those bounces favour the in-form strikers.
• The Canadian U-20 men’s squad for this month’s camp was released last Tuesday. Twenty-five players will play a pair of friendlies versus Costa Rica on April 15 and 20 as they prepare for the Concacaf Under-20 Championship this June.
Of all the names who made the list, Ronan Kratt is one of the most intriguing players. Not only is his father Martin Kratt of Wild Kratts, the 18-year-old is an under-the-radar talent. At 16, he was recruited by Carleton University but turned down the opportunity to play in Germany with SSV Ulm. He also rejected an offer from the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Kratt began the 2021-22 season with Ulm’s U-19s. He immediately showed his quality with 15 goals in 33 games, which led to his first-team debut in March.
Ulm plays in the German fourth tier but is on the verge of promotion to the 3. Liga. Plus, German football is well-known for promoting youth and Kratt has scored against marquee academies, like Bayern Munich, and had an assist versus Eintracht Frankfurt’s U-19s.
Kratt’s shiftiness, pace, close control on the dribble and composure in front of goal transform him into a must-watch player during this April camp for the U-20s.
• If you want to track more of the U-20s who are playing abroad ahead of the April camp and the Concacaf Under-20 Championship this June, here’s my list of players to watch.