TORONTO — Ecuador may only be a friendly opponent for the Canadian national team on Wednesday, but for Canada coach Stephen Hart, the South Americans are the perfect warm-up doppelgangers as his side ramps up for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
“When we were looking for a game, I thought Ecuador was an excellent choice because technically, they play very similar to the teams we play in CONCACAF,” Hart said at a press conference on Monday. “Physically, they are a special team. So we thought that it would sort of balance off the opposition we would face in the opening round of the Gold Cup.”
Hart’s squad began slowly trickling into Southern Ontario for training camp late last week, with many of the players still busy with their clubs over the weekend. It wasn’t until Monday morning when Hart and his coaching staff were able to put together a full training session, although there were still a few faces missing.
With such a short lead time to the Gold Cup, Hart stressed that Wednesday’s Ecuador friendly at BMO Field (7 pm ET, Rogers Sportsnet) is a key step in getting his players on the same page.
“Today was the first day we’ve had 17 players in training due to club commitments,” Hart said. “It’s important for us to play the game [against Ecuador] as we prepare towards the Gold Cup. It’s a good opportunity to get some relationships going.”
The Canadian brain trust is confident that the Ecuadorean side can deliver a match similar in style to their Group C opponents.
“Panama, Guadeloupe and the United States are all hard-running, physical teams, and of course they all have their technical abilities as well,” Hart said. “So we thought it would be important to sort of match up with a team like Ecuador.”
For the players, any match is an opportunity to win, and the Canucks will be looking at Wednesday’s game with a desire to come out on top.
“It’s always exciting for us to come back and play in front of our home fans, and to play against Ecuador, we could expect a very tough game,” said Canada and PSV Eindhoven midfielder Atiba Hutchinson (pictured at top). ”Hopefully we can start off by getting us a result here in front of our fans.”
Canada open their Gold Cup campaign on June 7 vs. the host United States at Ford Field in Detroit.