A golden opportunity
Spanish coach Floro finally gets chance to lead Canadian men at Gold Cup
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
Canada’s head coach Benito Floro reacts during a friendly soccer match against Moldov in Amstetten Mauer, Austria, Tuesday, May 27, 2014.