TORONTO — When the Canadians take the field on Sunday evening against the United States (7 pm ET, NBC Sports Network, Sportsnet, live chat on MLSsoccer.com), they won’t necessarily have their southern neighbors front and center in their minds. Everything — from their training to lineup selections to public comments — is focused on next Friday’s World Cup qualifier in Cuba.
Les Rouges have not reached the World Cup since 1986, and the 2014 tournament could mark the final chance for a generation of players who helped put Canada back on the soccer map, a generation led by D.C. United attacker Dwayne De Rosario.
“I know that this could be potentially my last go at it,” De Rosario told MLSsoccer.com on Saturday after Canada’s training session. “Definitely, there’s something inside of me that’s burning. I know I speak for my teammates, I speak for the association, I speak for the fans who support Canada soccer and the growth of this sport in this country, when I say: We desperately want to make the World Cup.”
WATCH: Canadians preview US match
No one can say De Rosario hasn’t done his bit over the years. Consistently one of the most electrifying and productive players in MLS over the past decade, he has also elevated his game at the international level. He has scored 19 goals in 60 international appearances for Canada since debuting in 2000. Last December, he was named Canadian Player of the Year for the fourth time.
All of those accolades, as he readily acknowledges, come with expectations, none of them bigger than the one to qualify for Brazil.
“I have to lead the charge,” De Rosario admitted. “I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure we accomplish that.”
First, though, is Sunday’s game against the US, and De Rosario is trying not to get ahead of himself.
“I can’t put too much emphasis on [my desperation to qualify] because I don’t want to let my emotions get the best of me going into Cuba,” he said. “So it’s one game at a time.”