VANCOUVER, BC – It’s been nearly two years since Doneil Henry last pulled on the Canada national team jersey, but the wait appears to be finally over.
The 25-year-old centre back is one of four Vancouver Whitecaps FC players who have been called up to Canada for Sunday’s Concacaf Nations League qualifying match vs. US Virgin Islands (watch live at 1 p.m. PT on Concacaf.com).
“It’s been a long time,” Henry said. “From being in a negative place, being annoyed with my injury, to finally getting playing time here at my club and being recognized by the national team, it’s exciting.”
Henry’s inclusion marks his his first call-up since Canada’s 4-0 win over Mauritania in October 2016.
Since then he has struggled with injury, including a torn ACL in late 2016. But the defender has turned a corner and has played an important part of Carl Robinson’s back line this season.
“I’ve started to find my feet and my rhythm playing,” said the defender, who has 22 caps for Canada.
Henry’s good form has not gone unnoticed by Canada national team coach John Herdman, who took over Les Rouges in January.
“When he's come up against tough opponents in MLS, he's managed them well and what I've seen from him, he's brought that leadership as well to manage the players around him,” Herdman said.
Herdman also believes that Henry has come of age as a player since he last played for the national team.
“If you go back to what you saw in his TFC days or his time he spent with Canada, he's developed a level of maturity, that tactical IQ which again evolved in his time in the U.K.,” said Herdman. “He felt that was a period of time in his career that the learning curve was pretty steep, and it's helped mature him as a player.”
Henry is not the only ‘Caps player who has impressed Herdman, who formerly managed Canada’s women’s team for nearly seven years. Alphonso Davies, Russell Teibert and Marcel de Jong have also been selected to the roster. And their selection is no coincidence, as 2018 has been a landmark year for Whitecaps FC’s Canadian players.
The ‘Caps Canadians have played more minutes for the club in MLS this year than in any previous season, combining for a total of 5,474 minutes of playing time. They have also contributed six goals and 15 assists, and will hope to play major roles for Canada and the ‘Caps as they push for the playoffs.
Henry says he’s been impressed by the strong philosophy Herdman has instilled within Canada’s squad.
“He says there are only two people who get to wear the badge: guys who fight for their country and guys who play for their country, so we have to play with respect and pride,” said Henry.
“I think we’re all hungry and ready for the next level and what we can bring to Canadian football.”