The Canadian Men's National Team is finally back in the Western half of the country and hopefully all those fans who had strong words for Toronto about attendance at World Cup Qualifiers have done their part to ensure the cavernous Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton will not look too empty.
Sadly for the western fans when they do head down to Commonwealth they are not likely to be treated to much of a spectacle as both Canada and Costa Rice will be fielding teams that only slightly resemble their first team. In the case of Canada it is a mix of young players hoping to lock down a place in the National Team for the future along with some fringe squad players who will be hoping to earn more minutes in the future. It is a team that will be a bit short on talent and experience but there really should be no lack of motivation as almost every single player that will take to the field on Tuesday will have something to prove.
Under the guidance of (once again) interim Head Coach Colin Miller Canada will be looking to play a pressing game that will allow them to keep Costa Rica on the back foot and make them have to work to bring the ball out of the back. When speaking to members of the media last week Miller commented that he wanted the team to be defensively sound but he also realized that playing in front of a home crowd means the team cannot just sit back in defend but will have to play a more exciting style. He is hoping to do that while employing a formation similar to what the team lined-up in for their friendlies in Qatar earlier this year.
That formation could once again open the door for Canada's wide players to take on the staring role. Against Japan it was Randy Edwini-Bonsu that proved to be the star-man as he created all kinds of problems on the wings but a lack of quality in the penalty box from Canada meant a lot of that work went to waste. This time around he will likely be in that role in front of his home city fans. Another Edmonton native, Tosaint Ricketts, will also have the chance to shine if Canada can find that space out wide.
With Costa Rica bringing a squad with very few experienced attacking players, Jairo Arrieta of the Columbus Crew has the most caps at 9, it should give the Canadian coaching staff a chance to experiment with some of the younger players brought into the squad. With the defensive group of Andre Hainault, Nik Ledgerwood, Doneil Henry, Ashtone Morgan, and Adam Straith they have plenty of young faces to chose from. Ledgerwood was brought into the squad to replace the injured Nana Attakora so that does add one more experienced option at the back which should be quite helpful in a very young squad.
Canada will rely on their core of experienced players in the game which despite being quite small does include some talent. If Miller does include Milan Borjan, Hainault, Ledgerwood, Julian de Guzman, and Tosaint Ricketts in his starting lineup at least the team will have an experienced spine. Around them though will be a mixture of young players and inexperienced players.
With players possibly auditioning for Gold Cup spots the likes of Straith, Issey Nakajima-Farran, Pedro Pacheco, and Marcus Haber who have been around the National Team for a few years will want to put in strong performances to possibly crack that squad. The rest of the team is younger guys who will be playing for the future more than this summer but in cases of players like Morgan or Henry a Gold Cup spot is not out of the question.
One name who will be interesting to watch for Canadian fans is Daniel Haber who garnered a lot of attention for his scoring exploits with Cornell last year. He left the school this spring to turn professional and ended up signing a deal with Maccabi Haifa FC in Israel where he is starting to make a contribution. His inclusion in this camp was as a late addition and it is his first time getting the chance to represent Canada at any level so it will be worth keeping an eye on the 21 year-old. He was a player that was linked to potentially playing for another country so it is good to see him representing Canada even if this friendly would not cap tie him.
With Costa Rica bringing a squad made up almost entirely of players who are in their domestic league is should even out the level of competition in the match. The team they will be sending out against Canada will be almost completely different from the team that they will field against Honduras in the Hex on June 7th. That should open the door for Canada to at least keep things close in the match and maybe even grab a win.
The match will be Canada's final game before the Gold Cup this summer and the last chance for players to impress whoever will be naming the squad for that event (likely Tony Fonseca along with an interim coach yet to be named). With FIFA Friendly rules allowing for six substitutions from each team chances are that most of the roster will get the chance to play on Tuesday night.
It may not be the most impressive Canadian roster possible but with their opponent also fielding a weakened team it should at least lead to an exciting game. The game will be live on the four main Sportsnet channels so even folks not in Edmonton will be able to tune and watch starting at 8:00 Eastern on Tuesday night.