Jump to content
  • Does Stephen Hart stay the course or cap the kids?


    ccs-3097-14026401065_thumb.jpgNow that everyone has had a few days to recover from the men's national team's disappointing draw with Puerto Rico (the reaction to which ranged from mild irritation to apocalyptic furor, depending on who you asked), head coach Stephen Hart faces a conundrum ahead of Canada's next two matches, both against St. Kitts and Nevis.

    His squad needs just one point from the home-and-away pair of matches to clinch a spot in the next round of World Cup qualifying. St. Kitts and Nevis, mind you, has a population of around 50,000 and sits #123 in the latest world rankings. Their most notable player is the Whitecaps' Atiba Harris, but he's been out for months after knee surgery.

    So, what does Hart do? Call a squad that's as close to full strength as possible? Or throw a collection of youngsters out on the field and see what sticks?


    There's merit to both sides of the argument though, for what it's worth, Hart has said that players won't get time on the field simply for the sake of it. Case in point would be 19-year-old Joseph di Chiara, who sat on the bench for both of Canada's last two World Cup qualifiers, much to the consternation of many fans. Considering Canada's recent history of losing talented young players to other nations -- and given that, due to Canada's multicultural makeup, virtually every player eligible for Canada is also eligible for some other country -- such nerviness is understandable.

    So should Hart use these games to quell fears over potential turncoats? Should he grab any promising young kid with ties to Canada and toss them out on the field during a World Cup qualifier, for the cynical purpose of permanently cap-tying them to this nation? Some would say so. But maybe a kid like Keven Aleman or Fraser Aird would see the move for what it was and refuse the call-up out of disgust. And would the youngster that most fans really have their eye on -- Junior Hoilett -- suddenly decide to make up his mind and play of us in a game in St. Kitts? Not likely.

    Of course, there are kids in our U20 player pool likely to have some future role with the senior team who could benefit from the early experience in a World Cup qualifier: the likes of Matt Stinson, Roberto Stillo, Julian Latendresse-Levesque, Jonathan Osorio, Ethan Gage or Jaineil Hoilett could reasonably join Ashtone Morgan in winning their first national-team cap this fall. (Calling Jaineil has the added potential benefit of convincing his brother of the worthiness of playing for Canada... though, come to think of it, that didn't work so well for the de Guzmans.)

    So, do you call one of the kids? A few of them? All of them? After all, it's just St. Kitts, right? Canada just needs one point, right? And Hart has said that, at the end of the day, all that matters is moving on, and even an ugly draw gets the job done (and surely even a collection of kids could get that, right?)

    But then, where does that leave us for next summer? Drawn into a group with Honduras, Panama and Cuba, the task of advancing further isn't easy, but it's certainly doable if the team can come together at the right time. Few, if any, of those kids will feature on the roster when the pressure is really ratcheted up. So shouldn't the emphasis be -- as Hart has said -- on maximizing the "A" team's sense of unity, familiarity and camaraderie ahead of the more difficult challenges ahead?

    There are players who'll likely be on the squad next summer who likely won't in November: Atiba Hutchinson is injured, Patrice Bernier is working back to 100%, and Hart may think twice about calling Will Johnson or Iain Hume, so as to not further anger their clubs after both players picked up knocks this past week while donning the red and white. It's up to Hart to decide whether those open spots get filled by established players currently on the fringes of the national team, or by as-yet-untested youngsters.

    So, if you're in his shoes, how are you looking at these next two games? As a formality? As an opportunity? As an annoyance?

    Or as an effort to save your job... and the entire 2014 qualifying campaign?


  • Create New...