Canada's men's national soccer team admit to not knowing much about Belize, tomorrow's opponent in round 3 of CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers. However, this lack of knowledge will help them focus on what is most important in this game: themselves.
"It's about us, we have to focus on us," said Canadian midfielder Will Johnson at training today. "I know that if we play to our potential that we will win the series so that's what we are focused on doing."
Canada are not underestimating their opponents, but see it as an opportunity to force their style and game plan on Belize.
The team has been able to do some video scouting of their opponents, which Johnson does acknowledge will help them key in some minor details that they can exploit.
"Similar to Dominica," said Benito Floro of tomorrow's opponent. "We believe they are a serious team. We need to consider this a team to respect."
The national team had an open training session today for media at BMO Field, the venue of tomorrow's match. The team looks to be in good shape and were possessing the ball well in a number of scrimmages.
A number of the young players Canada has brought into camp were the standouts during this session, as they look to earn subsequent call ups. Michael Petrasso looked strong up top, while Luca Gasparotto continues to impress on the backend.
Potentially the most standout player in the session, however, was Sam Adekugbe of the Vancouver Whitecaps. The young fullback had a one-on-one talk with Benito Floro before the scrimmages and clearly took what he said to heart. Technically he is incredibly gifted, and showed that throughout the training session.
For the most part Floro is very happy with what he was seen so far in camp, saying that the majority of the squad is both in very good form and health.
"We have recalled several players," explained Floro of the team's positive outlook. "The rest are in good condition."
One of those important recalls is Atiba Hutchinson, who just recently re-signed a 2-year-dear with Besiktas in Turkey. A groin injury kept him out of the Gold Cup.
"Atiba is physically, tactically and socially a very important player for us," explained Floro. "He is key to results because we need to control the ball, to have a little more experience."
Another player with plenty of experience coming back into the lineup is Will Johnson. The Portland Timbers midfielder has been met with questions of how much commitment he has in the national team in recent years, but he is ready to put that behind him.
"I don't listen to the noise a whole lot," he explained. "There were a few friendly games in 2013 when Portland was in the playoffs that people wanted me to potentially go to, and I got asked questions about. For me MLS playoff games are more important than [friendlies]. If people want to hold that against me it's fine."
Johnson explained how as a professional it is important to balance club and country. He has also been injured as of late, breaking his leg in a match against Toronto FC last year. But he is looking forward to returning to the scene of the worst moment in his career.
"I'm excited, I'm kind of at peace with the injury it is what it is," said Johnson. "It frustrates me sometimes when it holds me out of games still almost a year later but I have no regrets."
Johnson hasn't played for the national team in two years, therefore coming into this camp he has some fresh perspective on how the team is developing. What he has taken in so far has impressed him.
"I think this group of youngsters is probably more talented and has more resources and opportunities than [my generation] had," said Johnson. "Now we've got to take that talent and turn it into something more than we have in the past."
That transformation of talent could start tomorrow, as Canada try to return the round of World Cup qualifying that gave them so much pain last time around. They will be looking to show how much they have grown.