Path to redemption? Canada U-20s hopeful ahead of WCQ

TORONTO – Toronto FC defender Doneil Henry thinks Canada’s Under-20 national team has what it takes to raise the spirits of demoralized Canadian soccer supporters.

With no World Cup on the horizon for the senior team, attention turns to the youth side, which will attempt to earn a berth the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup in February's qualification tournament.

Canada haven't qualified for the tournament since 2007, when they hosted and lost all three games they played. Still, this is a new group, and spirits within the group are high.

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“I think we’re definitely going to surprise people,” Toronto FC defender Doneil Henry told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday as TFC players faced the media one final time before dispersing for the offseason. “We have a lot of younger guys, but we bring a lot of quality. The only part we might lack is the experience, but I think with time we’ll be there.”

As the senior team was crashing and burning in Honduras last month, falling short of the Hexagonal, the U-20s were on Spain’s south coast participating in the Marbella Cup.

Canada opened the tournament Oct. 10 with a 2-1 win over the United States in a game that featured a highlight-reel goal from 17-year-old Samuel Piette, who picked up his first senior cap in a scoreless draw in June, also against the US.

Two days later, Canada were beaten 1-0 by Azerbaijan before finishing the tournament by dropping a 2-0 decision to Scotland on Oct. 15.

Despite consecutive losses, Henry is confident the team has what it takes to get one of the four spots up for grabs when CONCACAF qualifying takes place in Mexico in February.

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Two years ago, as Henry was making his first steps into the world of professional soccer with TFC, Nick Dasovic was the interim head coach. Dasovic is now at the helm of the Canadian U-20 team and Henry is glad to be reunited with the former Canadian international.

“He took me under his wing,” said Henry. "He did extra work with me, and when I found out he would be the U-20 coach, I was really excited to work with him again. He’s a players’ coach. We have a lot of respect for him and he has a lot of respect for us, so I think this U-20 team can be really dangerous.”