PANAMA CITY, Panama – On the road thus far in 2014 World Cup qualifying, Canada have had to play in some pretty uncomfortable settings.
When they entered the second round of the competition last year against some of the minnows of CONCACAF, they had to play in some far-flung places on surfaces that could probably only very loosely be called “soccer pitches.”
In Puerto Rico, it was on a rock-hard refurbished baseball field. In St. Lucia, it was a cricket oval. St. Kitts was perhaps the best facility in that round, but it had anthills hidden in the surface of the small venue. Cuba may have the poorest as the length and quality of the grass had Canadian captain Kevin McKenna saying it was probably the worst field he’d ever played on.
Finally, here in the Panamanian capital ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier at the Estadio Rommel Fernández (9 pm ET, Sportsnet One), the Canadians get a nice pitch – and they couldn’t be happier.
“It’s a fantastic pitch,” defender David Edgar told reporters at Monday’s training session at the stadium.
Added head coach Stephen Hart: “Beautiful – it’s a beautiful pitch.”
The stadium itself was renovated in 2009 and the grass is well maintained and should provide a fine venue for the two evenly matched teams.
Heading into this week, forecasts had temperatures in the 90s and with the humidity factored in, could go higher than 100 degrees. But overcast and rainy conditions have made everything tremendously comfortable.
The rain was heavy and there were a few cracks of lightning as the Canadian national team bus pulled into the stadium for Monday’s training, but the rain died down as the session progressed. More thundershowers are expected for Tuesday during the day, but the forecast is merely for overcast conditions at kickoff.
That, combined with the game taking place in the evening, should diminish the advantage the Panamanians would have enjoyed had the game been played in sweltering heat.
“It doesn’t necessarily favor anyone,” said Edgar of the advantages of playing when it’s wet, “it just stops the dryness and the stickiness on the ball. “I’d say these are perfect conditions and, hopefully, it stays like this.”
WATCH: Behind the scenes as Canada prep for Panama