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Hart brings Canada's Gold Cup plans into clearer focus

When the CONCACAF Gold Cup kicks off in June, Canada coach Stephen Hart will be counting on a number of MLS players to play key roles for his side.

Speaking about the upcoming tournament and the Canadian national team’s opening group-stage match against the US in a teleconference on Tuesday, Hart was coy when asked about specific roster selections but did hint at certain players who may be relied upon in a month’s time.

Hart mentioned New York Red Bulls playmaker Dwayne De Rosario, Andre Hainault of Houston (pictured above), D.C. United’s Dejan Jakovic and Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Terry Dunfield as MLS players who could play a big part in Canada’s Gold Cup plans.

“If we were to select Dwayne, we expect him to be there for the tournament, it’s as simple as that,” Hart said, referring to the minor controversy last week when Red Bulls coach Hans Backe told the New York Post that he expected De Rosario to miss the tournament — a claim that the player himself has since denied.

Hart said he felt for Backe, who could lose a large number of his starting 11 to Gold Cup duty, but still expects De Rosario to answer the call.

“I don’t think the Red Bulls will object,” Hart said. “They will not be happy — nobody’s going to be happy that they’re losing potentially quite a few players to this tournament — but it is the official tournament of the confederation and, if selected, Dwayne will be there.”

A defender from De Rosario’s former team should also receive the call, as Hart indicated that Dynamo defender Hainault is very much in the team’s plans going forward.

“He had a very good game for us against Belarus under some difficult circumstances because he flew in late [following Houston’s 1-1 draw at Seattle on March 25],” said Hart. “I think overall he’s been solid.”

Hainault and Jakovic will likely be in competition for a starting spot in the central defense alongside longtime veteran Kevin McKenna, who plies his trade with FC Köln in the Bundesliga and has amassed 49 caps for the national team.

“Dejan had an excellent outing for us against Greece [a 1-0 loss on February 9], Andre had a good outing against Belarus,” Hart said. “The center backs are showing a good working relationship together. Once we get into camp and they get to work a little more with each other, I think we’ll be fairly comfortable in those positions.”

In the midfield, it is expected that Real Salt Lake’s Will Johnson and Toronto FC Designated Player Julian de Guzman will get the call, but Hart says Dunfield’s consistent play with Vancouver may have earned him a shot at his first Gold Cup.

“[Dunfield] does the simple things very efficiently,” Hart said. “With the Whitecaps, he’s added a little extra dimension to that team. He also seems to bring some leadership to the Whitecaps. He’s impressed me a lot.”

Another MLS veteran who could make the cut is Red Bulls ‘keeper Greg Sutton, although Hart may hesitate to bring the 34-year-old in as a backup while his club team continues in MLS play.

In addition, Sutton only recently returned from an early season concussion that kept him out of action for much of the 2011 season so far.

“Greg was playing recently, unfortunately he picked up a bit of a concussion,” said Hart. “Overall, we know who we want into camp and you don’t want to bring too many players and just have them sitting around on the bench not playing — especially if their league’s playing — so we have some decisions to make there.”