August 25, 2011
Gerry Dobson| sportsnet.ca
Canada’s skill and chemistry should be enough against competition that rarely plays.
So here we go again, only this time the dangerous part starts earlier.
In previous World Cup cycles Canada warmed up by playing a home and away against the likes of Belize or St. Vincent and the Grenadines. This time around it’s a four team group stage with only the winner advancing.
To be fair, Stephen Hart’s team should have no trouble with the likes of St. Lucia and St Kitts and Nevis as these tiny little island nations rarely play.
Having said that, Canada’s skill level should see them through as the team he has put together retains 16 of the players that were on the Gold Cup squad. Recalls that weren’t there include Iain Hume, Ante Jazic and Olivier Occean.
Don’t underestimate the value of less skilled players playing together on a regular basis, it’s the great equalizer.
The 35-year-old Jazic is an interesting addition. In Hart’s opinion he has played very well for Chivas USA of MLS this season and in fact he has started in 20 of the club’s 26 games.
Hart is also looking for veteran leadership on this squad and you get the feeling there wasn’t enough of that during the Gold Cup.
Not called in this time were Rob Friend and Ali Gerba who are struggling to be fit. Friend is also dealing with a family issue as is Marcel De Jong.
Another concern is that many players are just starting their seasons or haven’t yet.
Josh Simpson, Mike Klukowksi and goalkeeper Milan Borjan all play in Turkey, which is currently dealing with a match fixing scandal left over from last year. There are more than 30 people in jail, and last year’s league champions, Fenerbahce have been removed from the Champions League because of their alleged involvement.
The Canadian players are not involved but the scandal has caused a delay to the start of the season there.
And so it begins in earnest on Sep. 2, at BMO Field with the opener against St. Lucia. Get out there and show your support and if you can’t make it, that match and the following away game in Puerto Rico Sep. 6, are televised on Sportsnet.