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High Hopes for Canada's Gold Cup Squad

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Canada's young talent has a chance to shine at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup and continue to put together good results under head coach Benito Floro.

Adam Straith in action against Colombia
Adam Straith in action against Colombia
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

No Atiba Hutchinson. No Will Johnson. No Dwayne DeRosario. No Milan Borjan. Less than two years ago, that would have sounded like a recipe for a 3-and-out Gold Cup for Canada. Three games, possibly emerging with a pair of points and a participants medal. Now, though the losses certainly sting, Les Rouges are in position to make noise at the Gold Cup.

First, there's the team itself. Although the team is young, many of the players are experienced in the professional and international game. Youngsters Ashtone Morgan and Jonathan Osorio are regular TFC starters. Cyle Larin leads MLS rookie scoring.

Only two representatives from Unattached FC on this Gold Cup Squad - Simeon Jackson (whose looks set to stay on at Coventry) and Andre Hainault. The average age is 26, even with seasoned veterans like Kenny Stamatopoulos (35), Julian DeGuzman (34), and Lars Hirschfeld (36).

Then, there's the recent play. Larin and Tesho Akindele are fantastic additions to the program, Samuel Piette looked quite the player in the World Cup Qualifying games. Combine that with the club form of Morgan and Osorio, the leadership of DeGuzman, who always looks keen when playing for his country, and the more defensively sound approach that Floro has instilled, and Canada looks set to make a knockout stage appearance.

In the Dominica games, the team looked to have found a rhythm, a lineup and tactical approach to the game that suited their strengths and hid some of their weaknesses. Floro has settled on a single striker, almost undoubtedly Larin, who has 3 international goals in only 7 caps.

With Larin leading the line, the rest of the team falls into a loose 4-2-3-1/4-1-4-1. Samuel Piette manages the bulldog role in the midfield, while DeGuzman and Osorio work as more box-to-box players. Osorio's defensive play with TFC of late is encouraging for Canada fans as it helps win the choppy battles in the middle of the park that CONCACAF unfailingly provides. Expect them to continue with that tactic going into their first game against El Salvador.

My Predicted XI

football formations

No surprises in most spots on the field - the same 11 that started against Dominica. Some points of possible change include a straight swap of Marcel DeJong for Ashtone Morgan or Dejan Jakovic for Adam Straith, as well as the possible insertion of Russell Tiebert into the midfield, centrally or on the wings.

Its tough predicting a finish for this team. CONCACAF is a strange animal in that, outside of Mexico, USA, and more recently, Costa Rica, any two teams have a real chance at a win on any given day. Canada should advance beyond the group stage - either as the Group B second seed, or by virtue of a strong 3rd place finish.

In their group, Costa Rica come in as the heavy favourites, with El Salvador the underdogs. Jamaica recently had a short run at Copa America, and though they did not advance past the group stage, game time together will make a big difference.

Finally, there's the part we can control - a Gold Cup Home game, the first since 1985 when Canada qualified for its first and only World Cup appearance. As Toronto FC fans, BMO Field is our house (that's what the marketing tells us, anyway). When the Argos were announced as tenants, we decried the death of a national soccer stadium. We get one last kick around while BMO is still Canada's house as well. Let's make the most of it.