Gold Cup a marathon, not a sprint, Herdman warns Canada ahead of Cuba clash

DENVER – Despite a convincing 3-1 Gold Cup defeat to rivals Mexico, the Canadian national team remain confident heading into their final match of Gold Cup group play.

Les Rouges now shift focus to Sunday and their upcoming fixture against last-placed Cuba (6 pm ET |  TSN 1/3 in Canada, FS2, Univision, UDN in US), who were eliminated following their 3-0 loss to Martinique in the first half of Wednesday night’s doubleheader.

After displaying an attacking mindset in their opening match of the Gold Cup, a 4-0 defeat of Martinique, Canada showed a different look against Mexico. Canadian manager John Herdman shifted to five defenders at the start of the match, aiming to thwart the potency of the El Tri attack.

“There’s a marathon here we’re running,” Herdman explained. “I was proud of the strategy. Defending with a back five. The team did very well; frustrated Mexico.”

Canada and LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye agreed with the assessment, but noted that there’s still room for improvement.

“I think defensively, we were pretty tight,” he said. “I think the goals we let in were a little bit sloppy.”

Having weathered the storm of Mexico while resting some of their key players, it’s likely that the Canadians will return to the attacking style they deployed against Cuba.

“Overall, when we did get into [Mexico’s] half, we were able to play and dictate the game,” Kaye continued. “That’s something that we want to take from, confidence-wise, into the Cuba game.”

With a three-goal advantage in goal differential over third-place Martinique, Canada is well in the driver’s seat to advance out of Group A. Nonetheless, the team isn’t taking the task of dispatching Cuba – who have accumulated a -10 goal differential – lightly.

"We can't underestimate our rivals," emphasized forward Lucas Cavallini, who scored the lone goal against Mexico. "We have to take every game as the same. We have to keep our heads up and prepare for the next game."

Herdman has already begun the task, managing players' minutes while prepping for Sunday. 

“Accumulation of minutes is critical,” said Herdman. “We can’t be arriving at a quarter or semifinal with too many players on red minutes … I didn’t put my best team out there and that was an important step to make sure we have freshness for Cuba. I have a couple players there who are absolutely ready to go and get us through to the quarterfinal.”