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Canada v St. Lucia. The Game You Won't See

Dwayne De Rosario continues his pursuit of the all time scoring record for the CMNT.
Dwayne De Rosario continues his pursuit of the all time scoring record for the CMNT.

Going in to this Friday's match against St. Lucia the biggest buzz has probably come from the fact that if you are a fan of the Canadian Mens National Team and did not manage to get down to St. Lucia to spend your Thanksgiving you will not be able to watch this match.  Rogers Sportsnet, who have the contract to broadcast Canadian soccer games, have informed fans that it is just not viable from a financial standpoint to get a tv broadcast for this match.  A lot of fans are sure to be angry with Rogers about this but the fact of the matter is that with no coverage of the game in St. Lucia, the folks at Sportsnet would have had to find a way to get their own cameras and crew set up in the stadium, and that would have led to an enormous overhead on a game that sadly not that many people will actually want to watch.  That means for those who do want to follow the match it will be a mad search to find any sort of information.  I will offer some potential solutions after the jump.

But what about the match itself?  What can we expect from Canada in this one as they take on a woeful St. Lucia team which they beat 4-1 in September  despite some very poor finishing from the Canadians.  That match showed just how large the gap in quality is between the teams so I think it is safe to say that the biggest obstacle Canada is going to face in getting a result in this game is not going to be the actual St. Lucian players.  They will instead have to deal with playing on a field that is held to a much lower standard and is also a converted cricket playing surface, they will likely deal with hot and humid conditions, and potentially a hostile crowd.  Those are all the normal things that come with an away day to the Caribbean though so most of the Canadian roster should be used to it by now, we would hope.

On Friday night I would expect to see a lot more of the same from Coach Stephen Hart.  He has proven that he is willing to stick with his formation and as long as it continues to get the desired results I think he is right in doing so.  Going forward to the next rounds the key will be to get consistent performances, so the more players that are used to their role in Hart's system the better off the national team is going to be.  With that in mind, the lineup will probably remain similar to what it was for the last two games, but Hart will of course have to make changes to fill in for the absent players. 

The only area where there is a real question about who should get the start is probably up front.  That was the one section of the team that struggled the most back in September as they wasted more chances then I would like to count.  Duncan took a look at who Canada can rely on as a target man yesterday and he could not come to any real conclusion but I think Friday nights starting lineup will give us a small indication of who Hart would like to see make that role their own.

Last month we saw Iain Hume get a shot in that role but his performances did not do enough in my eyes to really cement the role as his own.  Sure he managed to get on the score board but he did not show any real aerial presence or a great ability to hold the ball up.  That said though I still expect he will get the start on Friday and Tosaint Ricketts will once again be used as an impact sub. 

The other attacking positions seem to be a little bit more straight forward as Josh Simpson and Simeon Jackson both proved to be quality in the last round and are both players that Hart has proven to be willing to count on.  Jackson normally plays in a central role with his club team Norwich but for Canada he has been much more successful when played in that wider role that allows him to use his pace more frequently and means he also avoids having to fight so many aerial battles which he almost always loses because of his short stature. 

The midfield is another area that should be pretty straight forward in terms of who gets the start.  The only real question for me is who will Hart put in for Atiba Hutchinson who is not in the squad due to injury.  The likes of Dwayne De Rosario and Julian de Guzman are givens to be in the midfield for Canada any time that they are fit and available so I expect them to both be given the start.  De Guzman was rested in the last game by Toronto FC so he should be fresh and if his improved league form carries over to the national team he will be primed to have a major impact on this match.  The other midfielder in Hart's system is normally more of a deep lying role alongside De Guzman.  That means the likely choice for the spot is Terry Dunfield even though he is on a yellow from last match.  The other midfielders include Will Johnson who is better suited to a more attacking role and Joseph Di Chiara who unless he really impressed in training likely will not be handed a start so quickly as Hart still won't even be sure what role he is best suited to. There is also the last call up, Jonothan Beaulieu-Bourgault, who could be used in the midfield but I think his ability to play in the back line makes him more valuable there.

The back line is a whole other question as there are only 5 defenders with the squad now plus Beaulieu-Bourgault.  That means that newcomer Ashtone Morgan is very likely to get some serious involvement in these two games and could even be in line for a start on Friday.  I do think that Hart will go with the most experienced back 4 available to him this time around and that would be David Edgar and Adam Straith in the middle with Ante Jazic on the left and Nik Ledgerwood on the right.  That would leave Morgan and Beaulieu-Bourgault on the bench to provide a bit of cover but with so few natural defenders and Edgar already being on a yellow those two will more than likely have some role to play before the end of Tuesday's game.

In net things are pretty much straight forward in my eyes.  Last time around Lars Hirschfeld was given the start in both matches and I think at least until Milan Borjan is healthy and back in the squad then Lars is the number 1 option.  I have very little faith in Lars going forward for the later rounds but it is not like their are any promising young keepers ready to break in to the squad so I expect him to continue to be a regular call up. 

football formations

On the whole this is still a very strong squad that Canada will be putting out and they should be expected to win again with ease.  In fact anything less will be greeted by all kinds of negative reactions from Canadian supporters.  These games have to be about building confidence and chemistry among the squad so scoring a few good goals will help in that area and they are also about building support around the country so a score that gets people excited is the only way to salvage some momentum from a game that won't even be shown on tv back here.

That brings me all the way back to the point I was making in the intro to this piece.  That is the question of where does Rogers inability to provide coverage of this game leave us?  I have been in contact with Rogers about this and they have assured me that they are doing their very best to provide fans with some sort of alternative but so far the only thing they have provided is a nice reply to me and then some blog posts and a photo of the score board from Gerry Dobson.  Sadly that is not going to sit well with many fans who already have a strained relationship with the CSA and with Sportsnet.  A lot of fans are going to feel like we are being screwed over because they will not take the time to understand the logistics and costs that would be involved in providing coverage of a game from a country that still has very limited infrastructure.  So your options are basically as follows:

- hope that someone can dig up an English language radio feed of the game

- follow the CSA on twitter as they have promised to tweet some updates of the game

- follow Red Nation Online on twitter who have someone down there covering the games and will try to update

- follow myself or Duncan on twitter and join us for the game thread as we will pass on anything we hear

- wait until after the game and see if anyone at least comes up with video highlights on youtube

Sadly none of these options are ideal and at this point in time not even the radio feed is a guarantee.  The only thing I can promise is that there will be some form of twitter updates available.  I Guess we take for granted that everyone has access to modern technology and high speed internet, but get used to it,  the fact of the matter is that this problem will almost certainly repeat itself when Canada travels to St. Kitts and Nevis in November.