Canada tar­gets an­other win against U.S.

An­other win against U.S. would go long way to­ward team’s chances of a World Cup berth

Windsor Star - - FRONT PAGE - DEREK VAN DIEST

The Cana­dian men’s na­tional soc­cer team still has a lot of heavy lift­ing to do for a top-six spot in CON­CA­CAF World Cup qual­i­fy­ing.

Yet, an im­pres­sive 2-0 vic­tory against the United States in Na­tions League Group A play just over three weeks ago at BMO Field in Toronto has the team in a con­fi­dent mood head­ing into the re­match on Nov. 15 in Or­lando, Fla.

A draw would be good enough to get Canada into the semi­fi­nals of the in­au­gu­ral con­ti­nen­tal tour­na­ment and, more im­por­tantly, would earn them valu­able Fifa/coca-cola World Rank­ing points in the quest to get into the main group (Hex) in qual­i­fy­ing for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“We have big­ger mo­ti­va­tions than any­thing that can be said down south,” said Canada coach John Herd­man in a con­fer­ence call Fri­day, fol­low­ing the an­nounce­ment of the ros­ter for the game. “Our mo­ti­va­tion is to win the Na­tions League Group A with one rea­son in mind; to qual­ify for the Hex which will take us to the World Cup.”

The win against the United States vaulted Canada into the top six in the lat­est world rank­ings. How­ever, it’s a pre­car­i­ous po­si­tion as Canada is just three points ahead of El Sal­vador, 16 up on Cu­raçao and 29 in front of Panama.

The top six ranked teams prior to the start of World Cup qual­i­fy­ing next year will face each other for three guar­an­teed CON­CA­CAF spots in Qatar. The rest of the teams in the con­fed­er­a­tion will vie against each other for the half spot awarded to the CON­CA­CAF to be con­tested against an­other re­gion.

Qual­i­fi­ca­tion for Qatar from out­side the top of six would be ex­tremely dif­fi­cult, so Canada’s best chance to play in a World Cup prior to likely re­ceiv­ing an au­to­matic berth as co-hosts in 2026 would be to qual­ify for the Hex.

For the Amer­i­cans, a spot in the Hex is al­ready guar­an­teed as the sec­ond-high­est ranked team in the re­gion be­hind Mexico. They need a win in Or­lando to move on to the Na­tions League semi­fi­nal and re­store some pride.

The United States took the loss to Canada hard as it was the first time in 34 years they had fallen to their north­ern neigh­bours. The Amer­i­can men’s team is in a bit of a tran­si­tion pe­riod, hav­ing failed to qual­ify for the 2018 World Cup in Rus­sia and sus­tain­ing some sur­pris­ing losses this year.

“I think what­ever is hap­pen­ing south of the bor­der is their busi­ness, it’s for them to deal with,” Herd­man said. “I’ve been pretty clear in­ter­nally here with the play­ers we have.”

Herd­man may have the most tal­ented crop of male play­ers Canada has ever pro­duced at his dis­posal.

Along with bud­ding su­per­star Alphonso Davies, the Cana­dian team also fea­tures tal­ented play­ers such as Jonathan David, Lu­cas Cavallini, Ju­nior Hoi­lett, Scott Ar­field, Stephen Eus­taquio, Jonathan Oso­rio, Doneil Henry, Steven Vi­to­ria and Derek Cor­nelius.

The win against the United States helped erase bad me­mories of the 3-2 loss to Haiti at the Gold Cup this past sum­mer and also earned them a spot into the 2021 edi­tion of the tour­na­ment.

Herd­man and his staff got the for­mula right in the first game against the United States and they want to keep the mo­men­tum build­ing.

In­ter­est in the game has peaked as the men’s pro­gram has be­come pop­u­lar af­ter years of dis­con­tent among fans for the team’s in­abil­ity to qual­ify for a World Cup since Canada’s only ap­pear­ance in 1986.

“I think we have to keep it at a high level,” Herd­man said. “I think go­ing into a game like this the mar­gins are tight and that’s prob­a­bly up to the U.S. to fig­ure out how Canada might ap­proach this game. Mind­set-wise, it’s the same ev­ery time we come into camp, to keep im­prov­ing as a group to be bet­ter than we were in the last camp and to keep bring­ing that same will and in­ten­sity.

“Whether we play one way or an­other, with one for­ma­tion or an­other, it comes down to will and that’s what we’ll be work­ing on to build that con­sis­tency against that type of op­po­si­tion.”

There won’t be any lack of mo­ti­va­tion for Canada go­ing into the game against the United States, know­ing what is at stake for the men’s pro­gram. But af­ter fi­nally clear­ing the hur­dle of win­ning a com­pet­i­tive match against the Amer­i­cans for the first time since 1985, Canada’s con­fi­dence should be at an all-time high.

“We know the U.S. will add a cer­tain level to the per­for­mance be­ing at home, so for us we not only have to bring a cer­tain level of con­sis­tency but im­prove­ment on that last per­for­mance as well,” Herd­man said. “Speak­ing to the lead­er­ship group, they’re very clear; these four or five days and the short win­dow we get to­gether the work we do is go­ing to be crit­i­cal to push for an­other re­sult.”

John Herd­man

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