It’s been a year of difficult lessons for the Canadian men’s national team.
But in the aftermath of their latest setback – a 2-0 loss to the Czech Republic on Friday, their ninth straight goalless performance – the hope is that a painful 2013 will help the team break some bad habits. Not to mention establish some good ones.
“In this match, our plan was to press hard and to maintain the possession of the ball,” head coach Benito Floro told reporters following the defeat. “If we take away the result, we can say that we did both things well.”
Those spells of possession did result in several decent scoring chances and even a penalty kick, which was saved by Petr Cech, though when it came down to the final moment, Floro said his team “didn’t have good luck.”
While the losses are piling up for Canada, who haven’t won in 12 games in 2013, defender Adam Straith believes that playing against tough opponents such as the Czech Republic and Slovenia (Tuesday, noon ET, Sportsnet One) will help ready the team for Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying games in the years ahead.
“I think this is exactly what we need,” he said. “I think everyone’s bought into it. These are the opponents we want to play.”
Still, there are clearly improvements needed before Canada can consider themselves truly competitive. Floro identified two key areas: converting goalscoring opportunities (unsurprisingly) and properly defending set pieces.
The latter deficiency was hammered home when the Czech Republic opened the scoring off of a free kick in the third minute of play on Friday.
“We just got caught sleeping,” said Straith. “The first couple of minutes of the game and right after the half are key moments where you have to be tuned in, and we weren’t.”
All in all, though, Straith is taking positives from Friday’s performance.
“I think today is a step forward,” he said. “We also have a lot of things to keep working on, but there are some positive things we need to take out of this.”
Indeed, Floro stressed that at this point, with nearly two years before Canada’s next meaningful contest, the process is just as important as the end result.
“In these kinds of games, we have two aims," the Spaniard said. "Win the match, as always, and to do well what we have been preparing in camp.”
While the former hasn’t yet happened for Canada in 2013, their long-suffering fans will need to keep faith that the team is, in fact, a work in progress – slow as it may be.