Canada look to long-term goals
Gordon Williams, Gleaner Writer
SUNRISE, Florida, United States:
Two national senior football teams on near-identical rebuilding paths, are set for a head-on collision when Jamaica faces Canada in a friendly international on Sunday at the National Stadium.
But while locals may demand not just victory but a good show from the Reggae Boyz, especially since they whipped Canada 3-0 the last time, the two teams played at The Office in a November 2008 World Cup qualifier, the visitors have more cautious expectations.
According to Canada's head coach Stephen Hart, while the desire is to beat Jamaica, the long term goals for his team are equally crucial. He believes Jamaica's coach Theodore 'Tappa' Whitmore has a similar plan.
"I think Tappa will be looking to blood some talent and basically try to see what he'll have available in the future," Hart, who will be in charge for his first game since being confirmed permanently as head coach following an interim stint, explained yesterday.
Increasing player pool
"I myself am looking to do the same thing, trying to use 2010 as a platform to increase the player pool and try to create competition - healthy competition - within the squad for places. For me, this is the smart thing to do. Of course everybody wants to get some results, but right now the results could be placed on the back burner in preference to actually finding players that can be part of the future."
Canada's squad, which is scheduled to arrive in Jamaica this evening after completing a rigorous training camp here which lasted almost two weeks, will include some new faces. Defender Nana Attakora and forward Randy Edwini-Bonsu are two players drafted from Canada's youth team. But most of the players are in their club's off-season and the team still short of match sharpness. On Wednesday Canada drew 1-1 with a local pick-up team.
"They are way off," Hart said. " ... They're no way international physical calibre at the moment."
Much will depend on the veterans. Like the Reggae Boyz, who also failed to qualify for World Cup 2010 in South Africa, Canada have included several who played in that campaign, including midfielders Dwayne De Rosario and Julian de Guzman, plus goalkeeper Pat Onstad. They are expected to provide leadership.
"For me it's important to have senior players because they could pass on their experience," Hart said.
Canada's main danger, he said, is playing in an atmosphere where Jamaica has been dominant.
"I think probably, for some of the young players, being overwhelmed within CONCACAF itself," Hart said. "You know, Jamaica is a unique sort of country to play because they are so strong at home ... I think that is a lesson in itself for us."
Hart hopes that 'lesson' will help his young squad on the road to qualification for World Cup 2014, the same course Jamaica has plotted.
"We play games to win, yes, but the important thing is to build towards those competitions that are necessary to win," he said.