After seeing his attackers fire blanks for the better part of three games in June, Canadian national team head coach Stephen Hart is hoping some rest will do them good.
Canada's lineup at forward in their recently completed slate of two World Cup qualifiers and a friendly vs. the US comprised mostly players who had just put the wraps on their respective club seasons in Europe prior to linking up with the national team in Florida.
With little rest prior to the Canadian camp, Hart felt the team hadn’t fully recovered from their respective club seasons. Hopefully by the time they play Panama in September, Olivier Occean and Simeon Jackson (above left) will be playing closer to their best.
“They’ll be in better physical shape mentally and physically,” Hart told media in a conference call on Thursday. “It’s hard to come down from a long season and then have to go into camp and then perform.”
Fully aware that his players were coming in at the end of a 10-month marathon with their clubs, Hart knew physical recovery would be paramount with three games in 10 days. The one thing they couldn’t help with was the mental fatigue of the players.
“It is a very difficult situation," he explained. "We tried to mix the recovery well with the maintenance of their physical fitness, but the mental state is something that you can’t really measure. Hopefully in September, they’ll be back to full strength.”
With their destiny still in their own hands, Canada need someone to find a rich vein of form. Hart’s hoping that with the mental break his team will manage to come back and convert missed opportunities into goals.
Jackson’s close-range miss at the end of the friendly against the US comes to mind as the sort of chances that Canada can’t afford to continue to miss. In the Honduras game on Tuesday, Canada’s attempts came close, but most of them missed the net entirely — something Hart wants to change.
“Not only we missed the chances, we failed to make the goalkeeper work, and that was significant,” he said.