Canada Friendlies Temper Hopes of Future

In the heat of Doha, Qatar, fans of the Canadian men were reminded to lower their expectations for the immediate future
by Henrik Lonne   |   Thursday, March 28, 2013

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Canada has played 4 games this year, scoring 1 meagre goal. But it’s hard to compare the performances in 2 friendlies in a near-empty stadium in Qatar (where Canada loss to Belarus and Japan) to the games Canada played in World Cup Qualifying, or the contests the team will play this summer in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

The squad wisely only had 2 players 30 or older on its squad. It is time for new start, and that has to begin with young players. The 4 games played were never about results, and to be honest, most likely not even about the style of play. It’s hard to expect a brilliant performance when you have a team in which 10 players have less than 15 caps.

The primary gain from games played so far in 2013 has been identifying players with potential that can contribute to Canada in the future and exposing them to the program. The exposure should, however, come in the right dosage. In the Japan game, we were reminded what Kyle Bekker is: A player with just 2 professional games under his belt.

The problem with the sink or swim approach to development is that sometimes it means a player that could have turned out well ends up, well, sinking. And the Canadian program doesn’t have the luxury of allowing that to happen.

It is imperative that interim Canadian manager Tony Fonseca, and whoever eventually takes over the coaching position on a permanent basis, exposes youngsters such as Bekker to games in a manner that suits their individual development, rather seeking a friendly result here and there.

Part of ensuring that helpful learning environment are skillful veterans like Atiba Hutchinson. Arguably the best and most accomplished active Canadian player – especially after Paul Stalteri retired – he showed his teammates, both young and old, the attitude and performance that will move Canada forward.

The World Cup cycle is 5 years away, but the qualification is only 2 years from now. The Gold Cup is this summer and quickly approaching at that. While developing the youngsters is a high priority, the time when Canada needs to perform well will arrive sooner than expected.

Players like Jonathan de Guzman and Hutchinson might not be around for the next World Cup, but they will and should play a central role on the team for years to come. Not only as mentors and inspiration in practice and in friendlies, but also as skilled veterans during Gold Cups and the first World Cup qualifiers in the fall of 2015. 

Henrik LONNE

Copenhagen Business School
Club Domestic:
AGF Aarhus
Club Foreign:
Toronto FC
Born and raised in Denmark, the US performance in the 2002 World Cup dragged Henrik into the world of North American soccer. Subsequent trips to Canada made him a Toronto FC fan from abroad. The passion he now has for MLS outshines most European leagues.