CANADA VS. JAMAICA
Tuesday, September 9, 7:30 p.m. ET
BMO Field – Toronto
TV: Sportsnet One/Sportsnet World
The last time these two CONCACAF rivals met at BMO Field, things were so much different.
It was Aug. 20, 2008 for the opening match of the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying. Canada boasted what many considered the “best midfield in CONCACAF” – Dwayne De Rosario, Julian de Guzman, Atiba Hutchinson and Patrice Bernier. A raucous, standing-room-only crowd packed the newly-minted stadium on Toronto’s waterfront, in a game that was full of hope and promise for both sides.
Shortly after halftime, de Guzman struck for the hosts, sending the Canadian crowd into ecstasy. But just five minutes later, Toronto-born Andy Williams took a corner for Jamaica that found its way into the back of the net to equalize. The 1-1 draw ultimately did few favours for either Jamaica or Canada, both of whom were knocked out just short of the Hex.
Flash forward to six years later. The artificial turf at BMO Field is long gone. Canada and Jamaica have both endured another unsuccessful World Cup qualifying campaign. And Toronto FC, somehow, still haven’t made the MLS playoffs yet.
For the national team, the quartet of De Rosario, de Guzman, Hutchinson and Bernier are reunited on the Canadian roster (for possibly the last time, as all are now into their 30s). BMO Field will surely attract a fair share of Jamaican fans to complement the hometown faithful. And for both of these teams, there is once again hope and promise, as the road begins towards next summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup and, eventually, the qualifying process for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The two teams last met in a friendly in Kingston, Jamaica on Jan. 31, 2010, won 1-0 by the hosts. Prior to that, Canada bested Jamaica 1-0 in the group stage of the 2009 Gold Cup. Overall, Canada has a record of seven wins, four losses and four draws against Jamaica.
To say the last 18 months have been difficult on Canadian supporters would be a supreme understatement. A 3-0 win against Cuba on Oct. 12, 2012 (also at BMO Field) represents Canada’s last international victory. Since then, Les Rouges have endured a horrendous 8-1 defeat in Honduras that ended their World Cup qualifying campaign and a 16-game winless streak that included a goal drought of over 10 consecutive games.
But this, according to head coach Benito Floro, is where things are meant to start turning around. Canada is undefeated so far in 2014 (don’t get too excited; that just includes a pair of 1-1 draws with Bulgaria and Moldova back in May) and after spending much of his first 12 months as manager experimenting with the player pool, Floro says the Jamaica friendly represents the next stage of preparation for the Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying – when earning results really matters.
Those results can’t come fast enough, as Canada has slipped to an all-time low No. 122 in the FIFA rankings, and will need to pick up points fast to optimize their seeding in the run-up to Russia 2018.
Though missing the midfield presence of Will Johnson and exciting youngsters such as Lucas Cavallini and Tesho Akindele, this veteran-heavy roster will give Canada the best shot at full points that it’s had in a while. A victory here in front of the home crowd could perhaps, finally, restore some semblance of momentum to the program.
Roster note: A pair of Toronto FC defenders – Doneil Henry and Ashtone Morgan – were released from national-team duty to help out their injury-depleted club. But Morgan, after being sent off against Philadelphia on Sunday, returned to Canadian camp. D.C. United’s Nana Attakora took Henry’s place on the Canada roster.
Just like Canada, the Reggae Boyz had a difficult, winless 2013 – five draws and five losses in the Hex, along with losses to Trinidad and Tobago in a pair of friendlies. Jamaica opened 2014 with a pair of wins over Barbados and Saint Lucia, but have lost three and drawn one since then, including a 8-0 humiliation at the hands of France in their last match on June 8.
But they will be eager to turn their fortunes around in this match, their penultimate friendly before hosting the Caribbean Cup in November. That tournament will hold extra significance this year, as the winner qualifies directly for the 2016 Copa America Centenario. Jamaica won the tournament in 2010 but shockingly finished last in their group in 2012.
Manager Winfried Schafer, like Floro, has named a mix of veterans and newcomers for the friendly at BMO Field, with the similar goal of finding the proper mix of talent to carry the national team into crucial matches ahead. Also, like Canada, Jamaica will be keeping a keen eye on earning FIFA points, given their importance in seeding for World Cup qualifying – as it stands, Jamaica is seventh in CONCACAF, while Canada is ninth.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Canada – Marcus Haber. To win, Canada will need goals. And if Canada scores goals, it’s likely the 25-year-old striker from Vancouver will be involved. A move to Crewe Alexandra this season has revitalized the big man; in his first start for the club, on Aug. 19, he scored twice. He added a stoppage-time goal in League Cup play a week later, giving him three goals in first six appearances.
Haber was also the only man to score for Canada in all of 2013, a header against Japan during a friendly on March 22. That was his first goal for the senior national team, but given Haber’s size, Canada’s traditional reliance on set pieces for goals and his recent run of form, don’t be surprised if he finds his second before very long.
Jamaica – Darren Mattocks. Some Canadian fans – especially those in Vancouver – are already well aware of how dangerous the 24-year-old striker can be, with his blazing speed and dynamic play. After a sophomore slump last season, Mattocks has rediscovered his groove, with six goals so far this year for the Whitecaps.
Mattocks has three goals in 13 appearances for his national team, with all three of them coming earlier this year in Jamaican victories. For most strikers, goals come in bunches, and if Mattocks is feeling confident and motivated on Sept. 9, he could prove difficult for the Canadian defense to handle.
GOALKEEPERS: Kenny Stamatopoulos (AIK/Sweden); Milan Borjan (unattached); Quillan Roberts (Toronto FC)
DEFENDERS: Nik Ledgerwood (Energie Cottbus/Germany); Andre Hainault (VfR Aalen/Germany); Nana Attakora (D.C. United); Dejan Jakovic (Shimizu S-Pulse/Japan); Adam Straith (unattached); Karl W. Ouimette (Montreal Impact); Jeremy Gagnon-Laparé (Montreal Impact); David Edgar (Birmingham City/England)
MIDFIELDERS: Ashtone Morgan (Toronto FC); Julian de Guzman (unattached); Pedro Pacheco (CD Santa Clara/Portugal); Kyle Bekker (Toronto FC); Atiba Hutchinson (Besiktas/Turkey); Marcel de Jong (FC Augsburg/Germany); Issey Nakajima-Farran (Montreal Impact); Patrice Bernier (Montreal Impact)
FORWARDS: Tosaint Ricketts (Hapoel Haifa/Israel); Simeon Jackson (Coventry City/England); Marcus Haber (Crewe Alexandra/England); Randy Edwini-Bonsu (Stuttgarter Kickers/Germany); Dwayne De Rosario (Toronto FC)
GOALKEEPERS: Ryan Thompson (Tampa Bay Rowdies); Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union)
DEFENDERS: Nyron Nosworthy (unattached); Wes Morgan (Leicester City/England); Nicholy Finlayson (Waterhouse/Jamaica); Upston Edwards (Portmore United/Jamaica); Alvas Powell (Portland Timbers); Kemar Lawrence (Harbour View/Jamaica); Keithy Simpson (VPS/Finland)
MIDFIELDERS: Kenardo Forbes (Waterhouse/Jamaica); Omar Holness (University of North Carolina); Evan Taylor (Waterhouse/Jamaica); Je-Vaughn Watson (FC Dallas)
FORWARDS: Jermaine Anderson (Waterhouse/Jamaica); Darren Mattocks (Vancouver Whitecaps); Simon Dawkins (Derby County/England); Deshorn Brown (Colorado Rapids); Jamar Loza (Norwich City/England)