Goalkeeper Thomas might face South Korea in soccer friendly

The Milan Borjan era in the Canadian soccer crease is well cemented.

But if there is ever an opening, Simon Thomas of Victoria plans to be ready.

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Borjan has been busy with club commitments this week — Mesut Ozil beat him for the winner as Arsenal defeated Ludogorets 3-2 in Sofia, Bulgaria, to advance to the Champions League Round of 16.

So that means Thomas and Swiss-born Jayson Leutwiler from Shrewsbury Town FC will dress as the goalkeepers for Canada’s friendly on Nov. 11 against world No. 44 South Korea in Cheonan.

Also playing for Canada will be defender Adam Straith from Victoria, looking for his 40th cap, and the dynamic former Victoria Highlanders midfielder Jamar Dixon of the Ottawa Fury. The Islanders Straith and Thomas both play pro soccer in Norway.

South Korea, a staple Asian power, has qualified for eight consecutive World Cups and made the semifinals in 2002. The Koreans are 6-1-1 in Russia 2018 Asian zone World Cup qualifying and are preparing for a game Nov. 16 against Uzbekistan.

No. 110th-ranked Canada, 2-2-1 all-time against South Korea, has been eliminated from CONCACAF regional qualifying for the 2018 World Cup and must now think long-term toward Qatar 2022.

Thomas earned a clean sheet, including a stop of a penalty kick, in a 4-0 Canada win over No. 115th-ranked Mauritania in a friendly on Oct. 7 in Marrakech, Morocco. The Islander then earned his sixth overall cap by replacing the injured Borjan at 72 minutes in a 4-0 loss to No. 60 Morocco on Oct. 12.

“Simon [Thomas] is developing very nicely and is very impressive in his application, both on and off the field,” said interim Canadian head coach Michael Findlay, in a phone interview with Canadian sports media on Wednesday.

Thomas and Straith are both 26-year-old Bays United products and grew up a few blocks from each other in Oak Bay.

“Adam [Straith] is very versatile, very calm and intelligent,” said Findlay, of the Islander’s stabilizing presence on the Canadian back line.

Meanwhile, the England and Scotland teams said they will defy FIFA’s ban on wearing poppies in their World Cup qualifying game at Wembley Stadium on Remembrance Day.

Canada will go by the rules.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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