Canada learning from big World Cup qualifying victories

Despite winning their opening two matches by rather comfortable margins, Canada still look to use their remaining early World Cup qualifiers as learning experiences.

The Canadians made it look easy on the scoreboard in wins against St. Lucia (4-1) and Puerto Rico (3-0) over the past week, but there were still many areas to improve upon, said coach Stephen Hart.

“We’re getting to play a fair amount of games, and more importantly in environments that are very difficult,” Hart told reporters in a teleconference on Thursday.

Learning to cope with the environmental crapshoot often present in CONCACAF away matches is one of the biggest things Hart feels his players can take away from a round of games in which Canada are the overwhelming favorites.

“The night before [Canada played Puerto Rico in Bayamón], we trained only 45 minutes on a wet pitch and with a different ball that we’ve never played with,” Hart explained. “The next day, the pitch was like concrete and the ball was all over the place. That’s a huge sort of learning [experience] for players coming from environments where the pitch is always well watered and the ball moves at a certain speed and consistency.”

In addition to the team adjusting to the away conditions, Hart was pleased that some of his attacking players have started to find the back of the net, especially following a Gold Cup in which D.C. United star Dwayne De Rosario scored Canada’s only two goals from the penalty spot.

England-based strikers Simeon Jackson and Iain Hume both found the back of the net in Puerto Rico after long droughts for the national side. Also, Josh Simpson scored a pair of goals vs. St. Lucia after being held scoreless in the Gold Cup.

Even so, Hart feels his side could still do better.

“It’s good to see the scoring being spread around because that makes it a little more difficult for [opposing teams] to just sort of isolate one player and it’s also good for the confidence of the players,” Hart said. “We still could be, in all honesty, more clinical with the chances we’ve got. We created so many chances in both games and we need to be a little more clinical, a little more composed.”

All in all, the Canada coach said he was satisfied with the six points from the opening two matches, and that he and his coaching staff know where efforts need to be focused.

“We know where we need to improve, and I think you will see us building from game to game upon each performance,” he said.

With four more matches still left to play in Group D of CONCACAF’s second round of qualifiers — including two against challengers St. Kitts and Nevis — Hart refused to look ahead to a possible third-round group that could include Panama, Honduras and Cuba. Instead, Canada will aim to do more of the same on the score sheet while getting better overall on the field.

“We still have games to play and games to win, and that’s all we’ve been talking about,” Hart said. “We’re not worried about the next round until the next round.”