In just over four months time, the Canadian men's national team will play its most important game since 2014 World Cup qualifying in 2012. The 2015 Gold Cup provides Canada an opportunity to repeat one of the greatest moments in the country's soccer history when they became only the third team to win the tournament in 2000. That's not all, it could also give them a chance to qualify for the Confederations Cup and the Copa America Centenario.
However, four months is a long time, and Canada are a long way away from any of the three aforementioned targets. While Benito Floro does have the team in good form, none of their recent performances, save perhaps a narrow loss against Colombia, could get them a result against the top CONCACAF teams they will have to beat in order to get anywhere near winning this competition.
So the preparation continues, with the hope that the team can find a style and identity just in time for the opening match on July 7. Today it was confirmed on the CONCACAF website that the next step in the Canadian preparation process will be a March 23 friendly against Guatemala. The Central American side are 82nd in the World, but have not played since October when they defeated rival Honduras 2-0.
Canada will likely use the game to try to solve the same problem that has plagued the program essentially since its inception: scoring goals. The goalscoring has improved as of late, after scoring just one goal in a forgettable 2013 the team has bounced back with seven in its last seven games. The source of those goals, however, is concerning: only two have come from open play. Dwayne De Rosario has as many goals as anyone at this point, worrying for a team looking to find a new goalscoring source.
The positive has been the defense, as Canada have also only conceded seven times in the last seven matches. Even with the makeshift backline the team deployed against Iceland, they were a difficult team to break down. Under Floro, David Edgar has played some of his best soccer in a Canadian uniform. The same can be said of Marcel De Jong.
More help may be on the way for the backline as well, as Steven Vitoria's loan from Benfica to the Philadelphia Union has brought up the conversation as to whether or not he will finally make his debut for the Canadian national team as a 28-year-old. A recent media conference call seemed to indicate that should Floro come calling, he will answer.
There are many who would hope that the call never takes place. Vitoria rather infamously chose to play for Portugal over Canada on Canadian soil at the 2007 U20 World Cup, and sour grapes have lingered for many Canadian supporters. However, that was long ago and both the player and the Canadian program have changed immensely in that time. Considering the importance of upcoming games, the team really could use all hands on deck.