HOUSTON – It’s been a summer of soccer in Canada.
The women’s national team played the part of a quality host for the recently completed World Cup, the nation has two strong MLS teams in the Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC, with a third – the Montreal Impact – coming off of an appearance in the CONCACAF Champions League finalist and contending for an Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Now, the men’s national team is trying to get in on the action with a successful run at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Les Rouges didn’t quite get off to the start they wanted earlier this week, playing El Salvador to a scoreless draw at StubHub Center on Wednesday. The result puts some extra pressure on Canada heading into Saturday’s Group B match at BBVA Compass Stadium against an athletic Jamaica side (6:30 pm ET, Sportsnet in Canada, Fox Sports 2 and UniMas in the US).
“Results breed interest, they breed fans and that’s what Canadian football needs,” team captain David Edgar said on Friday. “We need to start picking up results in these types of tournaments and in competitive games to try and build the reputation of our national team. We’re not thinking about the past and we just sort of got to move on … this is a confident group and we’re expecting to go through.
“The last two Gold Cups previous to this we started off with losses. We’ve taken a point already so it’s a step forward. I think now it really comes down to a two-game tournament with everyone in the group. We’re not looking ahead; we know it’s going to be a tough test tomorrow.”
While Canada took some positives away from their Gold Cup opener, they were left with quite a few questions to answer after the draw with El Salvador. Many viewed the match against Los Cuscatlecos as Canada’s easiest of the group stage, but the Canucks weren’t able to walk away with three points, struggling to convert chances in the mostly even contest.
Now they’ll take a step up in competition, facing Jamaica on Saturday before taking on group favorites Costa Rica next week in their Group B finale at BMO Field in Toronto. While Jamaica’s athleticism could pose some matchup problems for Canada, head coach Benito Floro isn’t planning on playing conservatively against the Reggae Boyz.
“El Salvador and Canada have to continue on with their mindset of winning and not fall back,” Floro said. “It doesn’t matter the rival… you need to fight for position. You must know how to combine and how to press. After you do that the possibility to score a goal is true. We are confident.”
Floro did not add pressure to Saturday’s match, opting to take a one game at a time approach. Still, a win against Jamaica would go a long way toward pushing Canada through to the Gold Cup quarters, a round they haven’t reached since 2009.
“We’re under no illusion of what it takes, but we’re building towards something and have got something good going on here,” Edgar said. “The Canadian fans have been fantastic with us. We want more fans to come out and support the team but we need more results to do that.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.