TORONTO – There’s going to be no more tinkering for the Canadian national team by head coach Stephen Hart.
Hart took the opportunity in the previous round of World Cup qualifying last autumn to give some new faces a look against the minnows of the CONCACAF region. But now it’s time to get down to business as Canada prepare for the friendly against the Americans on Sunday (7 pm ET, NBC Sports Network, Sportsnet, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com), and the third round of qualifying that comes after.
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“The time for experimenting is finished,” pronounced Hart at Friday’s press conference at BMO Field. “We had a series of games in the first round of qualifying. Due to injury or unforeseen circumstances, I had a lot of different players go through that system. Now we sort of know what we need to do and any sort of changes – it’s not necessary now.”
Hart confirmed at the conclusion of the press conference that Lars Hirschfeld will get the start in goal on Sunday against the Americans. The goalkeeper position is arguably the only spot where Canada have no shortage of depth, with Milan Borjan and Kenny Stamatopoulos also in camp.
Already having to survive without veteran midfielder Josh Simpson, who’s out for eight months with a broken leg, Hart also conceded that he’s worried about the fitness of a few more players ahead of the crucial stretch of games, including qualifiers against Cuba and Honduras.
Hart answered with a very curt “yes” when asked if there were any injuries before elaborating.
“I’d rather not talk about it, actually. I’ll have to speak to my medical staff tonight,” said Hart. “One trained today and the other one didn’t train.”
While Hart wouldn’t name names, it’s clear that midfielder Atiba Hutchinson was the one who didn’t train. He was in running shoes and watched Canada’s Friday session.
Hutchinson’s persistent knee problems over the past year have been well documented, and he only made his return to fulltime action late in the Dutch season for PSV. The veteran midfielder, however, didn’t seem to be in any difficulty and was in good spirits around the group.
Canada’s training session Friday was supposed to take place outside at Toronto FC’s training facility but a torrential downpour and bitterly cold winds forced the team to train indoors.
Both Canada and the US are scheduled to train at BMO Field on Saturday.
PREVIEW: USA vs Canada