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CP: Canada Finds Out Wednesday Re: Gold Cup group

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Canada to find out Wednesday what lies ahead at summer Gold Cup

TORONTO (CP) - Canada finds out Wednesday where it will open at the Gold Cup this summer with coach Frank Yallop guessing Miami as a likely venue.

The 12-country CONCACAF championship, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean, is spread across seven venues in six cities. The July 6-24 tournament features 25 matches. Group A will be based out of Miami while Group B plays out of Seattle and Foxboro, Mass., and Group C is hosted by Carson, Calif., Los Angeles and Houston.

The Canadian thinking is that Canada (ranked 85th in the world), the U.S. (No. 11) and defending champion Mexico (No. 6), the three automatic qualifiers, will be kept apart in the first round.

Mexico will probably end up in Group C, because of the Hispanic fans in California and Houston while the U.S. is able to draw big crowds in both Seattle and Foxboro.

That leaves Miami for Canada, which suits Yallop just fine since it is close to the team's traditional Florida training base in Sunrise.

The quarter-finals are set for Foxboro and Houston, with the semifinals and final at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

The Canadians failed to advance out of the first round in Foxboro, Mass., at the 2003 tournament, a showing that eventually cost Holger Osieck his job.

In 2002, Canada started in Miami and progressed to Pasadena, Calif., finishing third. In 2000, Canada stayed on the West Coast, playing in San Diego and Los Angeles en route to the championship.

The Gold Cup field also includes Costa Rica (No. 27), Cuba (No. 71), Guatemala (No. 70), Honduras (No. 58), Jamaica (No. 46), Panama (No. 101), and Trinidad and Tobago (No. 62). There will also be two invited teams: South Africa (No. 40) and another to be announced Wednesday. Yallop guesses Colombia (No. 26) might round out the field.

Yallop has a March 26 exhibition game in Portugal and hopes to stage another friendly, probably against a CONCACAF country, on July 1 in Canada. If that game comes off, possibly in Kingston, Ont., the team will have a five-day camp in Canada and another five-day camp in Florida before the tournament starts.

Yallop hopes to make the most of it, bring 20-odd players into camp.

He would like to spend more time with his players ahead of the summer, but knows he is walking a tightrope. Players out-of-season in June need some time off, others in season are wanted by their clubs.

Yallop doesn't anticipate too many changes to his squad, coming off 1-0 away wins over Northern Ireland and Guatemala, although he admits the recent victory in Belfast "wasn't pretty at all."

"I want to make sure I'm not weakening the squad for the sake of giving guys games, but I've got to see some of these guys under pressure," he explained.

In central midfield, the coach says he is happy with his options so don't expect a recall for Marc Bircham unless there are injuries. Julian de Guzman should be back for the Portugal game, with Daniel Imhof and Adrian Serioux also available.

Midfielder Sandro Grande is back from injury but may not be ready for the Portugal game. Jim Brennan may be ready after an ankle injury.

Forward Iain Hume will miss the Portugal friendly because his club Tranmere is in a promotion race and has games slated for March 26 and 28. He should return to the team for the Gold Cup.

Striker Tomasz Radzinski, rested for the last two games, has reaffirmed his commitment to Canada, Yallop said.

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quote:Originally posted by Daniel

I just spent a week there and I agree. Although I've never been to Miami...

I lived there two and half years and agree! I guess its alright if you lie on the beach all day and only see the resorts but otherwise it sucks. Never was happier to get back to Canada even a minus 25 degrees.

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quote:Originally posted by Gian-Luca

But is that going to be it for friendlies before the Gold Cup - no games in between March 26th & July 1st?

That's way too long of a gap for my liking.

I thought with two fairly quick friendlies scheduled for early 2005 that they might have learned their lesson. Unfortunately with that proposed schedule, it doesn't look like it.

That it is a huge gap.

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Canada to start play in Seattle at summer Gold Cup men's soccer tournament

posted March 2 @ 19:02, EST

(CP) - Canada's draw at this summer's Gold Cup men's soccer tournament appears full of both challenge and opportunity.

Frank Yallop's team, ranked 85th in the world, has been placed in Group B for the July 6-24 CONCACAF championship with the host United States (No. 11), Costa Rica (No. 27) and Cuba (No. 71) with first-round games in Seattle and Foxboro, Mass.

The top two teams in each group and the two best third-place finishers will advance to the quarter-finals of the 12-team tournament, which includes two non-CONCACAF guest sides in Colombia and South Africa.

The challenge comes in the form of the U.S. and Costa Rica, ranked No. 2 and No. 3 respectively after Mexico in CONCACAF, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.

The opportunity for Canada includes playing two games - July 7 against Costa Rica and July 9 against the U.S. - in front of appreciative Canadian fans at Seattle's QWest Field, a relatively short drive from the border.

Canada's final first-round game is July 12 against Cuba at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. With Cuba one of the weaker sides in the field, that provides Canada with a final first-round match where a win should entail survival.

The draw also allows the Canadians a chance at redemption. Cuba beat Canada 2-0 at the 2003 Gold Cup, hastening the team's departure, while Costa Rica defeated Yallop's team 3-1 and 1-0 in World Cup qualifying play last year.

"Some unfinished business with them," Yallop, speaking from Vancouver, said of the Cubans. "And Costa Rica, I'd like to have another crack at it to see if we can get over that hump.

"Obviously the U.S. is a great game for us. I'm really excited about that one."

There is also opportunity in finishing in the top two of the group. That means staying in Foxboro for the quarter-finals. A third-place finish could entail a trip to Houston against the top team in Group C.

Group A, based in Miami, features Honduras (No. 58), Panama (No. 101), Trinidad and Tobago (No. 62) and Colombia (No. 26). Group C, playing out of the Los Angeles area and Houston, comprises South Africa (No. 40), Guatemala (No. 70), defending champion Mexico (No. 6) and Jamaica (No. 46).

The semifinals and final are at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Canada had asked to play the first round in Seattle, but expected to end up in Miami. So team officials were pleasantly surprised at Wednesday's draw, noting the more temperate Pacific Northwest weather would be more suited to Canada's European-based players than the oppressive heat of south Florida in July.

Still players from Europe may find the extra three time zones an unwelcome addition to an already awkward transatlantic commute.

The tournament is CONCACAF's prime money-maker, so the draw is heavily impacted by box office factors. CONCACAF officials said Canada was put in Group B because of the proximity of Seattle to the border.

"Certainly while there are many snowbirds in Miami, we haven't found that has provided a major attraction to Canada's participation in Miami venues," CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer said in a conference call.

That's also why Mexico was placed in Los Angeles, and Honduras, Panama and Colombia were drawn in Miami.

On the competitive front, CONCACAF also ensured that the six teams in the final round of World Cup qualifying in the region were equally divided across the three groups.

The draw may prompt the Canadian Soccer Association to move a planned July 1 friendly against an as-yet unidentified CONCACAF team to Vancouver from Kingston, Ont.

In 2002, Canada started in Miami and progressed to Pasadena, Calif., finishing third. In 2000, Canada stayed on the West Coast, playing in San Diego and Los Angeles en route to the championship.

Tickets for the Gold Cup will go on sale March 16.

Notes: The Vancouver Whitecaps will operate reserve men's and women's teams (aged 18 to 21) this season, playing in the Pacific Coast Soccer League .... The Toronto Lady Lynx have made Canadian under-19 midfielder Amanda Cicchini their first ever signing.

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