Herd­man de­vel­op­ing a ‘no-ex­cuses’ en­vi­ron­ment

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - SPORTS - LORI EWING

TORONTO — Canada’s men’s soc­cer team is done with ex­cuses.

So when John Herd­man’s play­ers ven­ture into the un­friendly con­fines of Warner Park Foot­ball Field — the St. Kitts and Ne­vis sta­dium in which Canada has never scored a goal in of­fi­cial com­pe­ti­tion — they’ll em­brace the ad­ver­sity.

They know they’ ll face tough con­di­tions in more im­por­tant games down the road.

“We’re go­ing to ex­pect bumpy pitches. We’re go­ing to ex­pect a bit of poor ref­er­ee­ing to some de­gree. We can ex­pect the crowd be­ing hos­tile. We can ex­pect the busses be­ing made late. We can ex­pect all sorts of things,” Herd­man said Thurs­day. “The key is we’re craft­ing a no-ex­cuses and ex­treme own­er­ship en­vi­ron­ment for this par­tic­u­lar camp, which will lay a foun­da­tion for our fu­ture.”

Vet­eran Atiba Hutchin­son and teen star Alphonso Davies head­lined Herd­man’s ros­ter re­leased Thurs­day for the Nov. 18 CON­CA­CAF Na­tions League qual­i­fy­ing game ver­sus St. Kit ts, in the coun­try’ s cap­i­tal city, Bas­seterre.

Canada is 2-0 and in third out of 34 coun­tries in Na­tions League qual­i­fy­ing af­ter an 8-0 win ver­sus the U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands and 5-0 win over Do­minica. St. Kitts is also 2-0. The Cana­di­ans have a chance togo 4-0-0 for 2018 with avic­tory next week, which would be a first in the his­tory of the men’ s pro­gram.

With plenty to play for, Herd­man is tak­ing a no-stone-un­turned ap­proach.

Canada has dropped a few in­fa­mous losses on the road. The bleary-eyed Cana­di­ans lost 2-0 in World Cup qual­i­fy­ing in 2012 in Panama the morn­ing af­ter fans blared car stereo sand set off fire­works in front of their team ho­tel. Then their World Cup dreams were of­fi­cially snuffed out in a hu­mil­i­at­ing 8-1 loss to Hon­duras in San Pe­dro Sula, in a wildly rau­cous sta­dium that looked like some­thing out of Prison Break.

The team had a “good two-hour video con­fer­ence” to ad­dress the pos­si­bil­i­ties in St. Kitts. Cana­dian staff is re­pair­ing the bro­ken lights at their des­ig­nated prac­tice fa­cil­ity, and they’re bring­ing in proper goals. And Hutchin­son and fel­low vet­eran David Edgar will ad­dress the play­ers, par­tic­u­larly the younger ones, about what to ex­pect.

“What we’ re look­ing at is cul­ti­vat­ing an ‘em­brace every­thing and be ready for every­thing’ mind­set, and re­ally for the team now to use this and the test in St. Kitts as that ex­pe­ri­ence of build­ing re­silience for when we have to play even harder matches against tougher teams in sim­i­lar con­di­tions,” Herd­man said.

At stake are spots in the CON CA CA F Gold Cup and 2019-20 CON­CA­CAF Na­tions League Group A.

A berth in Group A, Herd­man said, means play­ing top com­pe­ti­tion — Hon­duras, Panama, the United States, Costa Rica, Mex­ico — on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

“The rea­son that’s im­por­tant is to keep test­ing our­selves, go­ing to their coun­tries, pre­par­ing you for the Hex (CON­CA­CAF’s fi­nal round of World Cup qual­i­fy­ing), ac­cu­mu­la­tion of rank­ings points,” Herd­man said. “So to qual­ify for the World Cup in 2022 by March 2020, we have to be in the top six of the CON­CA­CAF rank­ings, we’re not in the top six, we don’t qual­ify for the Hex.

“It’s a process. It’s an im­por­tant pe­riod of Cana­dian foot­ball, and if we drop the ball here, it could cost us later down the road.”

Herd­man is grate­ful for the vet­eran lead­er­ship of Hutchin­son, and had kind words for the 35-yearold mid­fielder — who’s fifth all-time in ap­pear­ances for Canada (79) — on Thurs­day’ s con­fer­ence call.

“He’ s a class guy. He’ s got an in­fec­tious pres­ence where there’ s a bit of hu­mil­i­tythere, there’ s a pos­i­tiv­ity, and I think the young boys can re­ally see what a Cana­dian men’ s player looks like, what we’re striv­ing to be,” Herd­man said. “When he came into the camp, ev­ery­one felt his pres­ence. We’ve got some big char­ac­ters, big per­son­al­i­ties in the en­vi­ron­ment, but he just brings this quiet calm unas­sum­ing con­fi­dence with hu­mil­ity, wit habit of char­ac­ter as well, with a bit of pos­i­tiv­ity, pre­pared to get his hands dirty and go and con­nect in with young play­ers, and lift the group when he needs to.”

Herd­man said he plans to “keep hold of Atiba for as long as his body al­lows him to (play). He’s go­ing to be that im­por­tant to this group.”

Through Canada’s first two qual­i­fy­ing matches, Cyle Larin and Lu­cas Cavallini lead scor­ing with three goals apiece. Ju­nior Hoi­lett has two goals and two as­sists.

THE CANA­DiAN PRESS FiLES

John Herd­man, coach of the Cana­dian men's na­tional soc­cer team, is pre­par­ing for every­thing — in­clud­ing bumpy pitches and lo­gis­tic night­mares — as he makes his first foray in to the un­pre­dictable world of CON­CA­CAF Na­tions League qual­i­fy­ing.

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