PUEBLA, Mexico – In his time as a player for the Canadian national team, games against the United States were always special for Nick Dasovic.
Now that he’s in charge of the Canadian Under-20 team, little has changed – especially on the eve of a make-or-break quarterfinal game here at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship between the two regional foes in which the winner will earn a spot at this summer’s FIFA U-20 World Cup.
“They’re our neighbors, so it’s a derby match, so we always got pumped up for them,” Dasovic told reporters after the team trained on Sunday. “Even as a coach, it’s one of the games I look forward to on the calendar. But there’s no any extra animosity or hatred. It’s a complete respect for their country and what they’ve done in their program.”
As a player, Dasovic was never on a winning side over the United States – a pair of ties and a shootout loss in the 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup was the closest he’d ever get.
But as a coach, Dasovic has had more success. He’s in line to be in charge of back-to-back wins over the American side at the U-20 level should things go to plan – Canada beat the Americans 2-1 in their last meeting at a tournament in Marbella, Spain.
But the thought of a second straight win on Tuesday (6 pm ET, Fox Soccer, sportsnet.ca in Canada) pales in comparison to the ultimate prize: qualifying for the World Cup.
“Really, at this point, nothing,” Dasovic said when asked what consecutive wins for Canada over the US means to him. “The only thing that matters to me is that our club gets to go to the World Cup. The game in Marbella is done. It was finished in October.”
Dasovic and his staff have had plenty of time to scout out their opponents. Apart from the game between the two teams last year, the Canadian coach has seen plenty of video on the Americans. In this tournament alone, they’ve also been able to see what the US have in person as both teams have played their group stage games in the same stadium.
“They’ve got speed going forward. I think patience is a big word,” he said. “It’s just going to come down to who makes the least amount of mistakes on that day. It’s going to be interesting but I’m looking forward to it.”