Didic, Borges make history as 1st CPLers to play for CanMNT

FC Edmonton defender Amer Didic made history on Friday, as he became the first Canadian Premier League player to suit up in a match for the Canadian men’s team.

Didic was named to John Herdman’s starting lineup for Canada’s friendly against Barbados in Irvine, California. Later in the same game, Forge FC midfielder Tristan Borges became the league’s second player to earn a cap got Canada when he entered as a substitute in the 70th minute.

Early in the second half, Didic headed in a corner for his first-ever international goal, making him the first CPLer to score for the Canadian men’s team, as well. Canada went on to beat Barbados 4-1.

RELATED READING: HIGHLIGHTS: Didic, Borges feature in CanMNT win || WATCH: Amer Didic scores first CanMNT goal by a CPLer

Didic, participating in his fourth national team camp (and third since joining FC Edmonton for their inaugural season), finally earned his first cap after looking on from the sidelines for two camps in October and November 2019. The 25-year-old from Sherwood Park, Alberta caught Herdman’s attention last year with his strong defensive play at FC Edmonton.

Establishing himself as the Eddies’ top central defender, Didic made 20 appearances for his club across all competitions. On top of patrolling the backline defensively, Didic provided three assists in 2019.

“Trying to get myself onto the national team was a big factor in my decision to come back and home and play for FC Edmonton in this league,” Didic told in October when he earned his first call-up as an Eddie. “So, this is definitely validating, especially with the last couple of years and how it’s gone for me; it’s very rewarding.”

Didic’s first national team camp was in 2017, while he was with Sporting Kansas City, but he didn’t make an appearance for that Octavio Zambrano-led side in their friendly against Jamaica. He also represented Canada at the U-23 level in that same year, playing in two matches at a tournament at Qatar.

Borges, meanwhile, had an exceptional year in Hamilton as a new professional, dominating CPL opposition as an attacker. He won the league’s first Golden Boot with 13 goals, and he was named the CPL’s Player of the Year (as well as U-21 Canadian Player of the Year, of course) at the CPL Awards in November. He also scored the championship-winning goal for Forge in Leg 1 of Finals 2019 at Tim Hortons Field.

“(Playing for the national team is) something I’ve been wanting to do ever since growing up,” Borges told when his call-up was announced. “It’s definitely something I’ve been thinking about over the full year, coming back to play in Canada.”

RELATED READING: ‘A sigh of relief’: Borges relishes chance to prove himself in CanMNT camp

Borges returned to his native country to play professionally after a stint in the Netherlands, playing for the youth academy of Heerenveen. He’s represented Canada internationally at several youth levels, playing at the 2015 Concacaf U-17 Championships and the 2017 Concacaf U-20 tournament, although this camp is his first taste of the senior national team.

Canada is trying to rack up victories in order top earn FIFA ranking points so it can catch up to El Salvador, and thus win a spot in “the Hex” for Concacaf’s qualification process for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

They’ll close out this January camp next Wednesday as they take on 39th-ranked Iceland in California.