LAUDERHILL, Fla. – It’s a rare sight to see Stephen Hart smiling on the sidelines of a Canadian national team game.
Stoic even when Canada win, it takes quite a bit for Hart to show he’s pleased with his team’s performance.
But seconds after Will Johnson scored Canada’s second goal of the night in their 2-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday, Hart was grinning ear to ear.
“I was pleased with everything in the second half,” said Hart, which explained the break in the usual facade. “We defended well, we came up with the ball, we counterattacked and we built attacks very well. Our left side was dynamic.”
Hart was particularly impressed with Marcel de Jong, whose runs down the left caused the Trinidad defenders fits in the second half and also led to Canada’s opening goal.
De Jong, who plays with Augsburg in the German Bundesliga, had been out of action with the national team ever since he dislocated his shoulder sleeping after the game against the United States in last June’s Gold Cup. That injury was followed up with an ankle injury that needed surgery and kept him out even longer.
While Ante Jazic was solid on the left side in the first half, de Jong is much quicker and brought an extra dimension to the Canadian attack that paid dividends.
“He wanted to perform, he desperately wants to be back in the squad – it’s been over a year,” said Hart. “I think we’re reaching a stage where we can’t have any complacency. There’s a lot of competition for places.”
While Trinidad were certainly outmatched by the Canadians, Hart was still encouraged by the performances he got from a number of players making their national team debuts and other players who have been left out of the squad over the past few months.
“I was really surprised with some of the performances and I think some of the clubs should take notice,” said Hart. “You take a chance and you give players a chance with them because you know they need the game but I was really impressed.”