Name a Canadian national team member who had no equivalent youth experience before entering a main, full-on men’s camp.
Milan Borjan and Dominick Zator seem to be the only answers to that question until someone from Canadian soccer Twitter or Reddit proves otherwise.
Cavalry FC’s Zator enters this Canada camp as a first-timer, but he’s not the only one without a cap. FC Edmonton defender Amer Didic and Stephen Eustáquio of Cruz Azul have been in the national team environment, but remain uncapped.
It’s a peculiar jump for Zator, a 25-year-old native of Calgary, who is in Orlando ahead of Canada’s Concacaf Nations League game against the United States on Friday (7 p.m. ET/available on OneSoccer).
“My goal is just to make sure I make an impression,” Zator told CanPL.ca. “Make sure people are familiar with me and that I could be a person they could rely on.”
Zator has done more than make an impression in the CPL this season, making the step to pros in dramatic fashion.
“I don’t know many of these players personally so it’s just trying to be familiar with everybody and fit in … it’s hard to right away get into conversations, so it’s about bringing out my personality,” Zator said of trying to fit in the Canadian camp.
It’s quite the first camp to partake in, too, with a lot riding on Friday’s game. A win or a draw in their group finale would send Les Rouges to the Nations League finals, starting with the semifinal next June.
It would also guarantee more high-profile matches and, therefore, a chance for Canada to climb the FIFA rankings further and earn a spot in “the Hex” for Concacaf World Cup qualifying.
“It’s a massive game and it’s something we’re looking towards. This is just going to be another stepping stone for Canada’s chances of qualifying for a World Cup and the Hex. The game plan is to focus and do what we can to win,” Zator offered.
He added: “The biggest thing right now is getting familiar with everyone and stay on the same page and stay on the same page. And then when I’m needed just make sure I fill in and make sure I can jump right into the drills and tactics so I’m not behind.”
Playing a bit of catchup in an intense, biggest-game-of-the-season-type environment? Perhaps not an ideal scenario for a player such as Zator.
But coach John Herdman chose to call up the Calgarian for a reason, regardless of how big the upcoming match is – a vote of confidence that fosters confidence in the centre back as he experiences his first national team camp.
“It feels real now,” Zator said from Canada’s training camp in central Florida.
“It’s a super good experience, it’s a lot of fun. But once gameday comes and you’re in the stadium, you hear the crowd, that’ll be when my eyes will open and I’ll know what I’m apart of.”