Benito Floro knows that his team is in for a pair of tough battles over the next five days, but he also knows that getting results is crucial to the Canadian national team’s ongoing rebuilding process.
Canada take on Bulgaria on Friday and Moldova on May 27 in a pair of international friendlies as part of a 10-day training camp in Austria. Given the lack of a FIFA international break, Floro’s roster comprises almost entirely of European-based players, with plenty of youthful inexperience on the squad.
But fans should expect veterans such as Atiba Hutchinson and Julian de Guzman to feature heavily in the first of those friendlies, neither of which will be televised.
“We need to play against Bulgaria with good, experienced players because it will be a difficult game,” Floro said on a media conference call Thursday. “I trust in our players because the training was very good and they have a good mentality for playing this game.”
Floro, who officially took over the team on Aug. 1, 2013, said it will be “very difficult” to earn a result against Bulgaria, especially given his team’s recent string of futility. Canada haven't won in their last 13 international games and haven’t scored in their last 10.
Moldova, however, is another situation, he said.
“We need to win because it is very important for us to improve our psychology and mentality,” Floroa said. “For us, there are two games that are very important.”
The majority of players on Canada’s roster haven’t played regular first-team minutes this season, a situation that Floro concedes is less than ideal. But he said all he can do is work with and attempt to teach the players he has.
“It is our situation. We cannot stop that,” he said. “The camps are very important for us because we need to improve the level [of play] about our system.
“The objective is the same for every camp: to prepare players on our system of play because we need to improve our level in attack and defense. At the same time, we want to take the young players because the experienced players are good at teaching them how to work as an individual and in a collective.”
But when it comes to promising European-based youngsters, Floro does have options.
Michael Petrasso and Fraser Aird both attended a training camp in Florida with Canada’s Under-20 team immediately prior to the senior team’s camp in Austria. Both were left off the senior-team roster simply because Floro didn’t want any players taking part in both camps.
As for Aird, the Toronto-born 19-year-old who has also represented Scotland’s youth teams, it was explained to MLSsoccer.com that the Canadian Soccer Association preferred to introduce Aird to the Canadian system via the U-20 team, given that he has an existing relationship with U-20 coach Robert Gale.
Floro also revealed that 19-year-old AC Milan midfielder Bryan Cristante – who was born in Italy but holds a Canadian passport through his father – is on his radar, and that Canadian officials are “waiting for his decision.”
While it appears unlikely that Cristante would choose to represent Canada, the fact that Floro has made overtures should be an encouraging sign for Canadian fans.
For now, though, Floro’s focus is on the players he has in camp and in competing against Bulgaria and Moldova.
“For us, the most important question is to play well and play as if it was an official game,” he said.