A golden op­por­tu­nity

Span­ish coach Floro fi­nally gets chance to lead Cana­dian men at Gold Cup

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY NEIL DAVID­SON

Two years and three days af­ter be­ing named coach, Ben­ito Floro fi­nally gets to lead Canada at the Gold Cup.

The 63-year-old Spa­niard was named coach on July 5, 2013, but missed out on the CONCACAF cham­pi­onship that year be­cause he didn’t of­fi­cially take over the Cana­dian men un­til Aug. 1.

Un­der in­terim coach Colin Miller, Canada went 0-2-1 in 2013 and failed to ad­vance past a first round that in­cluded a 1-0 loss to tiny Mar­tinique with Floro watch­ing from the stands.

Floro gets his first real taste of the tour­na­ment Wed­nes­day at the Stub-Hub Cen­ter in Car­son, Calif., as Canada, ranked 109th in the world, takes on No. 89 El Salvador in Group B play.

“We be­lieve in our play­ers, we be­lieve in their progress. It’s time to test it,” Floro said on a media con­fer­ence call Mon­day night.

Af­ter El Salvador, Canada plays No. 65 Ja­maica on Satur­day in Hous­ton and No. 14 Costa Rica next Tues­day in Toronto.

Floro in­her­ited a team that had gone 0-6-2 while scor­ing just once since it was drubbed out of World Cup qual­i­fy­ing con­tention in a hu­mil­i­at­ing 8-1 loss un­der Stephen Hart in Honduras in Oc­to­ber 2012.

Floro went 0-4-3 be­fore reg­is­ter­ing his first win, a 3-1 de­ci­sion over Ja­maica in Toronto in Septem­ber 2014.

Floro’s record at the helm has since im­proved to 5-6-5 and Canada is cur­rently rid­ing a four-game win­ning streak — and five-match un­beaten string. But be­fore mak­ing any 2018 World Cup travel plans, it should be noted that the av­er­age FIFA rank­ing for Canada’s last five op­po­nents is No. 116.

Still the Spa­niard had won praise from his play­ers for his metic­u­lous prepa­ra­tion, of­ten us­ing video to make his point. And he has been able to at­tract and in­cor­po­rate young tal­ent like Cyle Larin and Tesho Akindele into the pro­gram.

Canada will mount its Gold Cup cam­paign with­out in­flu­en­tial midfielder Atiba Hutchin­son and de­fender Doneil Henry ( both in­jured) and goal­keeper Mi­lan Bor­jan (club com­mit­ments).

With Bor­jan un­avail­able, Floro sug­gested Kenny Stam­atopou­los would be his likely starter in goal.

While July 25 is cir­cled on Canada’s cal­en­dar — that’s when it finds out its next op­po­nent in World Cup qual­i­fy­ing — the Gold Cup of­fers Floro a chance to test his team against CONCACAF op­po­si­tion, rise in the rank­ings and to spend valu­able time work­ing with his play­ers.

“It would be bet­ter for us to play not only three, (but) four or five games here,” he said. “Be­cause at the same time we (have) a good Gold Cup, we are pre­par­ing in the best con­di­tions the team for the sec­ond World Cup (qual­i­fy­ing chal­lenge).”

CONCACAF cov­ers North and Cen­tral Amer­ica and the Caribbean.

The Gold Cup, which opened Tues­day, runs through July 26 with 12 teams play­ing in 14 cities in­clud­ing Toronto.

The top two teams from each of the three groups and the two best third-place fin­ish­ers ad­vance to the knock­out rounds.

“We be­lieve in our play­ers, we be­lieve in their progress. It’s time to test it.” Canada’s head coach Benit Floro

AP PHOTO

Canada’s head coach Ben­ito Floro re­acts dur­ing a friendly soc­cer match against Moldov in Am­stet­ten Mauer, Aus­tria, Tues­day, May 27, 2014.

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