By KURTIS W. LARSON
Last month the CSA released a list of friendly dates in preparation for the 2014 round of qualification. Head coach Stephen Hart stated his goal to field a competitive side in 2012 to improve on Canada's shocking performance in the 2008 semifinal qualification round as Canada finished with two points behind Mexico, Honduras and Jamaica, including a -7 GD.
The CSA appears to be heading in the right direction with an opportunity to bring in a host of players with limited national team experience. The team travels to South America later this month with a game against footballing giants Argentina, before returning home to host two matches in Sept.
Here is a rundown of the matches:
May 24 – vs. Argentina (Buenos Aires)
May 29 – vs. Venezuela (Merida)
Sept. 4 – vs. TBA (Rumored to be Iran or Ecuador) (in Toronto)
Sept. 7 – vs. Honduras (Montreal)
Oct. 8 – vs. Ukraine (TBA)
The CSA announced Canada's match in Buenos Aires will be televised and they hope to do the same in Venezuela. The game will muster up interest in Canada as Argentina will undoubtedly play the likes of Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano and Juan Sebastian Veron in preparation for SA. But who will Canada bring? Will they bring a side of mostly European prospects and young guys or a side of significantly capped veterans including Paul Stalteri (79caps), Atiba Hutchinson (47) and Kevin McKenna (46)?
More than likely Canada will suit a mix of youth and experience and use the game as a marker to see who can compete against the world's most talented as it seems the CSA is taking things seriously in trying to get back to the World Cup for the first time since 1986. With teams like Honduras and El Salvador improving immensely over the past two CONCACAF cycles, a daunting task awaits. It’s a task that's attainable if Canada can secure its young, overseas prospects and give them time to gel with a solid mix of more experienced players. Argentina 4 - Canada 0
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Nutrilite Canadian Championship – Montreal couldn't hold an early lead letting the home side Vancouver Whitecaps come back in dramatic fashion on an 81st minute penalty. Montreal was unbeaten in five games against the 'Caps dating back to last season and needed a result following a 2-0 dismantling by TFC last week. Peter Byers put the visitors on top in the 31st minute after receiving a cutting through ball and placing it to the far side of the net.
Montreal controlled large portions of the first half and seemed the better side heading into the break. Entering the 80th minute of the match the referee ruled that Adam Braz had taken down Vancouver forward Marcus Haber in the box. Braz received his second booking of the game and was sent off. Haber stepped up to the spot and slotted it past Impact keeper Matt Jordan to level things at 1-1.
There will be all to play for next week when TFC visits Montreal for third game of the tournament. A win for TFC and they will take a stranglehold on the Canadian Championship. A win for Montreal and they will overtake Toronto in the standings. By salvaging a point Vancouver find themselves very much in it after playing less games then both TFC and Montreal.
Vancouver – Home to Crystal Palace Baltimore. Vancouver is first Place in the NASL Conference on 7 points from 4 games played.
Montreal – Back at Saputo for a home date with NSC Minnesota. Montreal tied for 2nd with 4 points from 3 games played. Discipline remains and issue for Montreal as there is no news from the Impact camp on when Panamanian Roberto Brown will come out of a team-issued suspension. Adam Braz will now miss next week's crucial Canadian Championship vs. TFC.
Toronto FC – Toronto will attempt to keep an unblemished home record against Chicago. Three massive points are on the line as the Fire look to cement themselves behind first place New York while Toronto hopes to keep pace in early-season playoff positioning. Toronto FC 1 – Chicago 2
David Hoilett (Blackburn) – The Good: Hoilett is back with parent club Blackburn after a loan to the German second division because of a work permit dispute. Featuring over the weekend as a second-half sub in a 2-1 win vs. Arsenal, the Canadian teen's opening touch saw him lace a shot that seemed destined for goal but was palmed over. The Bad: Hoilett's work permit dispute was because of a lack of Canadian national team caps. Now that he has been granted a permit, the teen may elect to play for Jamaica.
Simeon Jackson (Gillingham FC) – In League One action Canadian forward Simeon Jackson returned to the starting lineup helping bring Gillingham out of the relegation zone. Jackson had a towering header glance off the woodwork in the 50th minute that would have put the game out of reach. Jackson has 17 goals in all competition to lead Gillingham.
What do you think of the friendlies Canada has lined up? Will there be any surprises in this year’s Nutrilite Canadian Championship? Share your thoughts below.