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  • With a depleted lineup, how should Hart adjust?


    outside the visiting team's hotel into the wee hours? Check.

    Random people attempting intimidation of the Canadian team/media on the streets of Panama City and on social media? Check.

    Panamanian drivers intentionally pulling out in front of Canada's team bus and stopping, delaying their arrival at their training session? Check, as Canadian coach Stephen Hart told the media on Monday.

    All par for the course ahead of a massive World Cup qualifier in a Central American country. And while there's not much Hart can do to offset the Panamanian fans' tactics other than telling his players to laugh it off, he does bear full responsibility for some very important personnel decisions, yet to be made.

    Yes, as if all of the environmental adversity wasn't enough, Canada will also need to overcome the loss of Olivier Occean (injury) and Will Johnson (suspension), neither of whom made the trip south. So, what does Hart do?


    As it relates to the midfield, Hart said it's "one position where we have quite a bit of depth" -- indeed, having a battle-tested and red-hot Patrice Bernier ready to step is a nice luxury for Hart to have. But Bernier is by no means the only option, with Terry Dunfield also in fine form with his club, and Pedro Pacheco having impressed Canadian fans with his appearances for Les Rouges thus far.

    Given Hart's reluctance to break up the defensive quartet of Ante Jazic, Kevin McKenna, Andre Hainault and David Edgar, another potential option at midfield is Marcel de Jong, particularly if Hart needs someone that's acclimated to patrolling the left flank.

    The de Jong option becomes an interesting possibility when considering Hart's (limited) options for replacing Occean. The striking options at his disposal consist of Simeon Jackson, Tosaint Ricketts and Dwayne DeRosario. Bernier, if he is indeed Johnson's replacement, will likely line up on the right side of midfield. And if DeRosario, who's been on the left side for Canada as of late, is pushed forward to replace Occean, it creates a potential opening for de Jong.

    Such a scenario -- as opposed to keeping DeRo in midfield and using Ricketts and Jackson up front -- would leave either Ricketts or Jackson (whichever one doesn't start) available as a sub, which could be vital if Canada is in need of an equalizer. On the flip side, pushing DeRosario up front would largely absolve him of the sort of defensive responsibilities that de Jong could surely handle, also important given Hart's expectation of an all-out offensive assault from the Panamanians.

    But this is all just spitballing. Hart always insists that his roster decision-making is based on how players look in training, so perhaps he's formulated a plan even more sensible than this one (of course, the suggestion that this plan makes any sort of sense is a bit of self-flattery on my part).

    Either way, Canada's got the deck stacked against it on Tuesday night... but then again, what else is new?

    If you're in Stephen Hart's shoes, working with these conditions and this lineup, how do you run them out on Tuesday?

    EDIT: After going through that whole thing, I suddenly realized he's probably just going to start Nik Ledgerwood.


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