Short-handed Canadians might play for result at Panama

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PANAMA CITY, Panama – Canadian national team head coach Stephen Hart has said there will be a few surprises on the roster when his side takes the field against Panama on Tuesday night in World Cup qualifying (9 pm ET, Sportsnet One).

With Will Johnson suspended thanks to yellow-card accumulation and Olivier Occean out reportedly with back spasms, Canada will have their depth tested as they look to take a big step towards CONCACAF's Hexagonal.

"It does change things a lot and we have to adapt," Hart said at training on Monday.

READ: Finally, near-perfect road conditions for Canada

That means Les Rouges have to decide whether to push and go for three points – risking exposure on Panamanian counterattacks – or they could simply park the bus and play for a 0-0 draw.

Right now, it looks as if Hart’s leaning toward the latter.

“Of course, if you get the result, you’ll be glad for it," he said. "I really hope we put in a good performance and let the players know that we can play for the result. If we win, so be it. If we tie then it’s sort of the nature of playing away from home.”

Tuesday’s game will be in front of 31,000 fans who will be in full voice, a drastic change from Canada’s previous road games this cycle – which have mostly been on bumpy, rock-hard pitches in front of sparse crowds scattered throughout the Caribbean.

Given the fact that they’ll be in relatively unfamiliar ground on that front, Hart’s hoping his knowledge of Panama’s tactics will help settle any nerves. He said he doesn’t expect los Canaleros will come at them any differently than last Friday's 1-0 Canada victory, and expects them to start with the lineup that finished the last half-hour as it was the most offensive-minded team Panama could deploy.

“We know what to expect," he said. "We’re away from home. It’s going to be a very different crowd than playing at home, of course. But we have to deal with that. It’s a part of playing in CONCACAF.”

 

WATCH: Behind the scenes as Canada prep for Panama