SANDY, Utah—The Canadian Under-23 national team recognize that the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament is giving their team valuable experience, but they still have a chance to really make it count by qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics, and they’re not seeking moral victories just yet.
Despite losing 2-0 against Mexico in Saturday's semifinal, they aren’t ready to call it quits. A third-place win against the United States on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET, NBC Universo in the US) would mean their Olympic bid remains alive.
Canada captain Samuel Piette spoke over the phone Monday afternoon about the many challenges Canada has already faced.
“I think it’s a pretty tough tournament, first of al,l because we have a lot of games in a short period of time,” Piette said. “So that’s pretty tough on the body to recover and prepare for the next games. We didn’t have a lot of preparation as a team together before the tournament either.
"So for sure, it’s pretty tough for us if you compare us to the United States, but we can’t use that as an excuse tomorrow. We’ve got to get ready for tomorrow’s game because it’s a big one.”
Assistant coach Antonio Floro echoed his captain’s thoughts, saying that this Olympic qualifying tournament presents many unique challenges, especially for the Canadian squad.
“The job is difficult for every team in the tournament," Floro said. "All of us have inconveniences during the tournament. For Canada, it’s even more difficult because we don’t have the facilities that other teams have to train their players, and they have trained together for several years.”
Canada played the US in the group stage opener and made them sweat through the 81st minute, when they came within one goal of a earning draw. Ultimately the Americans triumphed 3-1, but Canada can build on that experience. They believe if they play a complete game, they have a chance.
“If you look at the first game we played against them, I thought it was our best game in the tournament,” Piette said. “I think we’ve got to do what we did in the first game, play well with the ball, try to combine and try to avoid the counterattack from them because they have fast strikers on their side. Besides that, we’ve got to play our game. Stick to the plan and I think we’ll be fine to win the game and qualify in the third spot.”