With Canada sitting atop Group D after two games in the second round of CONCACAF’s 2014 World Cup qualification tournament, head coach Stephen Hart and his team can look forward to Friday night’s match against hosts St. Lucia (6 pm ET, live audio only) with some peace of mind.
“I think offensively, our movement — our attacking dynamic — has been good,” the coach told reporters in a conference call last week. “We need to be a little more composed in and around the goal. We also have to realize that the game is played over 90 minutes, we have to show a little more patience when we play.”
The Canadians are in control of their own destiny after dominant performances last month over St. Lucia and Puerto Rico, whom they face in Toronto on Oct. 11. Canada will look to replicate the first two wins before facing off against the group’s other opponent, St. Kitts and Nevis, in back-to-back games in November.
In addition to seeking out the full six points over a four-day span, Hart’s charges will be looking to make improvements in all areas on the pitch.
Hart felt that in the first game against St. Lucia, his players were too eager to put their stamp on the match, looking to score early and often and exposing themselves to counterattacks. This led to a quick response from the St. Lucians after Canada had gained the lead within the first 10 minutes of that game.
This time around, he wants his attacking players to focus on protecting the ball as well as the back line.
“We have to be very aware and be solid at the back and how we recover the ball, because if you want to attack you need the ball,” he explained. “I think we have to pay close attention to those things, continue to do what we’ve been doing well, and work better on our concentration and on how we recover the ball and how we shape ourselves as a team.”
Even though the Canucks have dominated their competition thus far — scoring seven goals and allowing just one — Hart said that they have benefited from playing these early-round qualification matches.
As the familiarity between the players grow, so does the confidence that comes from big wins.
“I think playing more together, more consistently, will sort of help that,” he said. “I saw good moments of it after I re-watched the games. I saw some very good moments of the players really doing their best to transfer what we work on, what we talk about, what we practice, into the games. I just think it’s a matter of time, and the more we play together, you’ll see it come together better.”