The Canadian national team’s first training session in advance of its May 28 friendly against Costa Rica in Edmonton comes Friday, and when Colin Miller’s squad takes to the field, it will a barebones affair.
Players are slowly trickling into Alberta's provincial capital over the next few days, and there won’t be much time for Miller – in his third stint as interim boss – to work on the game plan they’ll use against the Ticos.
“The numbers are small to start with,” Miller admitted in a conference call on Thursday. “We’ve probably got eight outfield players for the first session tomorrow, with three goalkeepers. Some guys just finished the season in Europe, so we’re hoping that fitness won’t be a problem.”
The full 18-player squad likely won’t be complete until Tosaint Ricketts arrives from his club team in Norway on Monday, but it’s something that’s become part everyday life for Canadian players.
National team members have always had to travel long distances to get together. But with the bulk of the squad looking to impress and perhaps get into the picture for this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, travel concerns and early makeshift practice sessions won’t distract them from a tremendous opportunity.
“I’m told that their attitude is good,” Miller said of what he’s heard from the squad. “Their enthusiasm for the game is good. It’s a terrific opportunity for some of these players.”
Much as it was in January when he was in charge of a very young squad, Miller will have to balance the pressures an international friendly against a team much higher in the rankings with helping to develop the next generation of Canadian talent.
In two games under Miller in January, Canada were easily outclassed 4-0 by Denmark before putting together a much-improved performance against the United States, playing their southern neighbors to a scoreless draw.
With a similar scenario on his hands for next week’s game, Miller plans a similar approach in guiding this squad.
“They’re enthusiastic, they’re willing to learn and I’ll continue to develop players at any level,” Miller said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a senior guy or it’s a younger guy. I’ll continue in teaching mode and hopefully the guys will buy in.”