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Canada looks to previous game before Cuba

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Canada looks to previous game before Cuban encounter

by Tyler Adamsky

To say that Canada’s most recent victory was expected is to speak little truth. Holger Osieck’s crew fought gallantly against the odds, and against tough Costa Rican opposition, to obtain three points via the most secure means possible.

Following the match, many commented on the boring defensive shell that the Canadians fortified themselves with. The Ticos’ manager - a humbled American by the name of Steve Sampson - has been the most recognizable figure throughout this escapade. His negative comments lashed out against a seemingly inferior Canadian side, and criticized the tactics that ultimately subdued his best eleven.

Echoing Sampson’s fool-hearted sentiments are countless individuals on the popular Internet forums at BigSoccer.com. In this instance, some of the more favourable comments denouncing Canada’s win still labelled the success as, “larceny.”

Tactics in mind, Canada did well to perform to the best of its ability given the circumstances. Many verbal attacks disapprove of a lacking Canadian offence; however, the absence of star strikers Tomasz Radzinski and Dwayne de Rosario, along with gifted midfielders such as Jim Brennan, Tam Nsaliwa and Julian de Guzman cannot be given enough due course. Missing this many critical players cannot help but alter the dynamic of a national side. As a result, the firehouse Canadian team that was seen in the first half of the Scottish friendly, and throughout the preceding Swiss match, was not expected to make a return. Defence was the order of the day, and Canada should not to be slandered for it. It’s unfortunate that the majority of viewers fail to recognize this.

Since an incomplete line-up seems to be Canada’s consistent order, tonight’s encounter against Cuba should not be any different. Rumour has it that Jason Bent - patroller of the right flank - has a nagging foot problem. There is no word yet on his status, but it is assumed to be questionable.

As a result, Osieck has a dilemma as to how to deal with the situation. The Canadian back line clearly lacked pace in comparison to the speedy Costa Rican attack. Look for a similar style from Cuba, with the only exception being a lowered level of organization and overall aptitude. While the Cuban team is not being discredited, there is little argument in stating that they are not at the level of the full Costa Rican side.

Daniel Imhof, who is often a defender for his Swiss Club, St. Gallen, may be an option to replace Fenwick in the back. If Bent is then determined to not be game fit, then look for Atiba Hutchinson to be inserted into his spot. Paul Stalteri drops back from an attacking midfielder’s role to replace the aforementioned Imhof, and Iain Hume is inserted for Stalteri.

If Osieck heeds these adjustments, then look for an attacking due of McKenna and Hume, supported by a midfield of Nash, Stalteri, Dasovic and Hutchinson. The back line, of course, will be comprised of Hastings, de Vos, Imhof and Pozniak.

Cuba in many ways represents the ideal opposition on which to test such bold changes. While Canada still needs to be wary of offensive attack, Cuba is not the threat that the Ticos are. Imhof working out of the back, and Hutchinson with Stalteri in the midfield are all changes that aid ball movement. Unquestionably, this area was a sore spot against Costa Rica. The previous triumph affords Canada a little bit of breathing room in its preliminary group. The pressure to win, while still high, is not paramount. The time is right for experimentation.

With strategy as effective as what was employed against Costa Rica, Canada should place well in this upcoming match. A victory solidifies top spot in the group, which would mean great relief to the Canadian faithful. It would be Canada’s first Gold Cup of the millennium without the lottery determining the next round’s competitors. Canada has toyed with games of chance too many times in these tournaments. Hopefully this time all of that can be avoided.

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