TUCSON, Ariz. — For a team cobbled together from players who are out of season, starting seasons or simply looking for a club to play for this season, the Canadian national team squad currently assembled here in the Grand Canyon State has performed as well as hoped for interim head coach Colin Miller.
The team has been training in Scottsdale for the past few days and Saturday will be the first chance to see what this team is made of as Canada take on Denmark in a friendly at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium (3 pm ET, LIVE STREAM on KICKTV in the USA and Sportsnet.ca in Canada).
In a squad with chock full young faces and including 10 players in their first national team camp, there is nonetheless some continuity from the old guard – Dwayne De Rosario (above), Lars Hirschfeld and Terry Dunfield, among others – who have played an invaluable leadership role for Miller.
“The senior guys who have been brought in the conversations have been fantastic,” Miller said in a media conference call media on Friday. “[De Rosario] has set a good example for the younger players. Dunfield has been an example. He lets them know if they’ve done wrong and praises them when they do well and Lars is just Lars. He’s an experienced goalkeeper who’s played at the highest level.”
The book on many senior Canadian players was closed last October when Canada’s World Cup qualifying campaign came to an ignominious end with an 8-1 loss in Honduras, meaning the long rebuild towards 2018 qualifying starts now and will include plenty of young talent.
Miller just has two games as interim coach start laying the groundwork and he’s fully aware of the task at hand.
“What we’re trying to build on is a new group of players, a younger group of players and try to get them believing in themselves,” he said. “Get them to know the difference of playing club level and international level and I think we’ve accomplished that so far this week in training.”
Miller said he would like to get as many players as possible to see some game action in Canada’s two games but admitted that it may be a tough as there will only be six substitutions allowed per game.
He also revealed that defender Andres Fresenga and forward Frank Jonke are facing fitness battles ahead of Saturday and may not be ready. Fresenga ran separately from the rest of the group training on Friday while Jonke had his right ankle iced and sat out the team scrimmage.