Well, Saturday's game was an ugly one, about as much as could be expected with that group of players, most of whom are in their pre season, against an equally inexperienced but clearly more talented Denmark side. Now on Tuesday night, that squad has to pick itself up and prepare to face another clearly more talented squad, the USA, this time in Houston.
It looks like another mismatch, but let's look for some positives shall we. Firstly, we'll go with the fact that Canada does have a game under it's belt. The talent disparity is a fact, so hard work and organisation and all that have to make up the gap. Understandably enough that was a bit lacking against Denmark, especially in defence. An actual game and more training will help a little with that. The obvious counterpoint to that is that there may well be changes made, to rest players still in pre-season mode or to give some of the players that didn't play on Saturday a cap, which could negate any familiarity gained on Tuesday. Another counterpoint is that the US are at the end of a 3 week training camp, so should actually have the edge in that respect as well as in talent. So not so much positive there.
Instead let's turn to recent history, last year, the teams met twice. The full squads met in the CSA's centennial anniversary celebration game as a warm up for World Cup Qualifying, and that game ended 0-0, with Canada very much on an equal footing. Also, and probably more pertinently for this game, their respective U-23 teams, in Olympic qualifying. Canada of course won that game 2-0, and there are 8 players who played in that game that are in Canada's squad. Andres Fresenga, Doneil Henry (at Centre Back that game), Nana Attakora, Kyle Bekker, Russel Tiebert and Philippe Davies all started, with Matt Stinson and Evan James coming off the bench.
Again though, there's another angle to look at that which doesn't seem so flattering. There's only 2 US players who made this squad, goalie Bill Hamid and Mix Diskerud. Take out the European based players and Canada's left with a very young untested squad, whereas the US have plenty of options available to them at a much higher level, there's a much bigger gap in quality than existed on that night.
I'm on a roll with the Debbie Downer stuff it seems so let's keep going with that. As I mentioned, this is the end of a 3 week camp for the US, something they traditionally do every January and which is always very heavily MLS based. There are always players looking to impress and force their way into the full squad alongside the foreign based players, and this squad has plenty of big names in the world of MLS still looking to make that jump, for example Matt Besler, Brad Davis, Omar Gonzalez, Chris Wondolowski and Graham Zusi, none of whom have made that breakthrough yet. Meanwhile Canada has Evan James, recently released by the Montreal Impact and still looking for a club, and plenty of players who will be looking to make the breakthrough to simply being a regular for their MLS teams this year.
Jurgen Klinsmann has said he expects 'six, seven, eight guys out of this group' could make it into the full squad for their game next week in Honduras for their first matchup of this year's Hex. He previously had this to say about Omar Gonzalez, presumably one of the 6 to 8 he had in mind "He needs to show us he's ready for a big step into international football," Klinsmann told Fox Soccer's Goals on Sunday show. "He needs to show us that he wants to break in. He needs to show us that he's ready to guide a back line, that he's ready to communicate a lot and take over the responsibility." So with that sort of motivation, plenty of competition and the big chunky carrot of an important qualifying game next week, you've got to think there'll be an edge to the US in that department as well. There are too many players with too much to prove to expect the sort of laziness that might let Canada take advantage, or to expect them to cruise home if they get an early goal or two as Denmark did.
So, talent, preparedness, motivation should all favour the US, that doesn't really leave a lot beyond blind luck, anything can happen type cliches and the ever present desire of Canadians to stick it to the US as factors to generate hope. As Colin Miller said, quoted here over at Sportsnet, "It's a local derby. I was brought up on the Rangers-Celtic derby in Glasgow, so I know exactly what a derby is all about. I have these players well wound up and I'm sure there won't be any shrinking violets wearing their Canadian jerseys," Miller offered.
So, who'll be the non shrinking violets out there in red hoping to cause the upset? Well, I'd expect a similar starting lineup at least. Lars Hirschfeld is out with the minor injury that caused him to miss the second half so expect Simon Thomas to start in his place, with Roberto Stillo maybe coming on for his first cap in the second half.
In defence, well Colin Miller confirmed that Andres Fresenga will be available, so bringing him in at right back instead of Doneil Henry is probably the merciful thing to do, and a probable improvement, which would allow Henry to be considered for a Centre back spot, which of course is where he put in a goal scoring man of the match level performance against the US last march. Aside from that there's no obvious changes to make that would vastly improve the team, it's more a case of who's fit enough to play two games at this stage of the season, which youngsters Miller wants to see in action, and how many first caps they want to hand out.
Hope springs eternal of course but it'd be foolish to expect much more from this than Canada got from the Denmark game. A result or even a goal to cheer would be a bonus, really it's about experience and probably some harsh lessons for the younger players, and hopefully a few flashes of potential from the likes of Tiebert or Bekker to keep Canadian fans warm over the long long footballing winter ahead of us. I guess we should probably just consider it a victory if they all merely manage to steer clear of Club Escobar.
Having said all that, a result looked just as unlikely last year, and we all know what happened. The game's live on Sportsnet One, and Sportsnet West at 9pm, until then, enjoy some highlights.