This one came a little out of the blue, but thanks to the CSA for reacting fast and announcing that Canada will be facing off against Armenia in Cyprus on February 29th.
Armenia is ranked 46th in the world, which is probably a tad surprising to most at first glance, as many wouldn't consider Armenia a top 50 team. For those that paid attention to Euro 2012 qualifying however, they will remember that Armenia almost made it in. Armenia finished 3rd in their Euro 2012 group, right behind Russia and Ireland. This is a great chance for the men's national team to play a solid opponent in a foreign venue. Also another interesting factoid, is that these two nations have never played each other in international soccer.
For TFC fans worried about losing guys to Canada for this one, it's safe to say that they'll be left alone as Hart is looking to use a European based squad. "I can't confirm if any TFC players will be called for the game at this point. I did speak with the coaching staff," Head coach Stephen Hart said. "I told them as much as I can, that I will avoid any conflict with their club's schedule."
Hart talked about the February friendly. "I'm really happy that we have a game to play, it's the last FIFA date before June which is not ideal. So we really wanted to get this game in," Hart said. "The opposition (Armenia) is an excellent one."
Hart said Canada was originally trying to get a game against New Zealand in London, but the friendly fell through because of some complications in playing in London.
"I saw that Armenia were a really good attacking team, and I thought it would be a really good test for us," Hart said.
For Atiba Hutchinson fans, the wait to see him back in a Canada jersey will have to be even longer as Hart noted that Hutchinson won't be ready for selection in late February. "He's only just started training with his team consistently, he played about ten minutes in a reserve game."
This will be the last friendly Canada can play until June, and fans will be wondering what Hart will be doing in the months leading up to the big game against Cuba to prepare.
"Once it's not a FIFA date, it becomes very difficult to get my players away from their clubs," Hart said. "We just have to make sure that our guys are in full swing with their clubs. And after that, we're looking at an exhibition game in late May, early June."
Hart also said Armenia will be a great test because many of their players have Champions League, Europa League and Euro 2012 qualifying experience. And for those fans concerned over USA' s friendlies against Italy and Brazil, Hart said it come down to the depth of his player pool and availability.
"If you look at the numbers, it's no surprise. They can have a camp for strictly North American based players, and we're not at a spot where we can do that yet."