CANADA VS. BERMUDA
Sunday, January 22, 2 p.m. ET
Bermuda National Sports Centre, Hamilton, Bermuda
If you’re like the average Canadian soccer diehard, your first thought upon learning of this friendly’s existence was probably as follows:
Luckily, the Canadian Soccer Association (which knows its audience) has you covered.
But while we may have to wait years for those tasty matchups against Aruba, the Bahamas and Montserrat, the 2017 edition of Camp Poutine (i.e. the non-FIFA-window January camp, which the Yanks call Camp Cupcake) brings what’s sure to be an epic clash against No. 186-ranked Bermuda.
Now, sure, for Canada this match isn’t so much about “entertainment” or “getting a result” – it’s about taking a look at some kids (Canada named a 28-man roster to its Jan. 12-18 training camp in Florida, trimming it to 18 players heading to Bermuda) and helping get domestic-based players in shape to go out and win jobs this season.
So, if you’re seeking a game that will have a grandiose impact for years to come, this isn’t it. But if, for 90 minutes, you’d like to try and drown out the cacophony of uncertainty that continuously suffocates your thoughts by watching some men kick a ball around a nice sunny park on a lovely island – this just might be the ticket!
So, as luck would have it, recent friendlies between the two teams in Hamilton have been a portent of, well, exciting things to come for Canada.
A 2-0 Canada win in January 2000 preceded the team’s remarkable and unexpected Gold Cup triumph that summer, while a 3-0 win in March 2007 came three months before another stupendous Gold Cup run that could also have ended in hardware if not for a certain phantom offside call on Atiba Hutchinson.
The two teams also met in a pair of World Cup qualifiers back in 1992, with Bermuda actually holding Canada to a 0-0 draw in Hamilton (!), after also getting a home draw against Jamaica (!!) and a win over El Salvador (!!!). They came nowhere near qualifying for USA 1994, but hey, that was still probably a fun little run for the local fans.
Overall, Canada has four wins and four draws in eight matches against the Gombey Warriors.
Hey, did you know this is actually Canada’s fourth game since being eliminated from 2018 World Cup qualifying in September? It’s true! A magical trip to Marrakesh in October provided a 4-0 win over Mauritania and a 4-0 loss to Morocco, while a November sojourn to Cheonan brought a 2-0 loss to South Korea.
As usual, Canadian fans are staring off into a blurry horizon, reassuring themselves that once the fog lifts, the grand reward for their loyalty will reveal itself. Perhaps it’ll come at this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup? Having gone goalless in the last two Gold Cups, the bar for success at this July’s tournament is set pretty low.
Who’ll guide them there? Who knows! The CSA hopes to have a full-time head coach named prior to the Gold Cup, but isn’t dead-set on that timeline. In the meantime, Michael Findlay – who was an assistant under Benito Floro – has the interim reins, and says he’s ready to take the team into the big CONCACAF tournament if need be.
He’s also told MLSsoccer.com that, as part of the CSA’s newfound commitment to having the team play in every FIFA window, he thinks fans might actually be able to look forward to home friendlies in 2017! What a reward indeed!
Bermuda’s efforts to reach the 2018 World Cup actually ended way back in June 2015, with a heartbreaking 1-0 aggregate loss to Guatemala (after actually nicking a 0-0 road draw in the first leg, Bermuda lost 1-0 at home in the second leg).
They also won’t be going to this summer’s Caribbean Cup, after falling short in the qualifying process last year. A 3-0 loss to French Guiana on June 19 officially sealed their fate.
The nation’s player pool does sport a few players with name recognition, including a pair of former Toronto FC players (Reggie Lambe and Freddy Hall), and Zeiko Lewis, who turned some heads with his speech after being selected by the New York Red Bulls in last week’s MLS SuperDraft.
Player to watch
Canada – Jonathan Osorio. The 24-year-old midfielder has become a mainstay at TFC, which is why many were confounded by his year-long national-team absence under former manager Benito Floro. With midfield veterans like Atiba Hutchinson and Julian de Guzman likely done with Canada, the time is now for Osorio to begin asserting himself as a mainstay for the national team as well.
GOALKEEPERS (2): Sean Melvin (Vancouver Whitecaps 2); Callum Irving (Ottawa Fury)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Marco Bustos (Vancouver Whitecaps); Kyle Bekker (unattached); Will Johnson (Orlando City SC); Jonathan Osorio (Toronto FC); Ben McKendry (Vancouver Whitecaps); Ben Fisk (FC Edmonton); Adam Straith (unattached); Jay Chapman (Toronto FC); Tesho Akindele (FC Dallas)