Canada was missing a key component ahead of its important match against Costa Rica: a complete roster.
The men’s national soccer team still hadn’t practised with its entire squad 24 hours before Tuesday’s game against the Central Americans, despite training all weekend in Edmonton.
“One player actually arrives (Monday night) so it’s not ideal preparation national team-wise for sure because the guys have come in dribs and drabs,” said interim head coach Colin Miller as training concluded on Monday.
That absent player is Edmonton native Tosaint Ricketts, who will arrive from his club in Norway before Tuesday’s game at Commonwealth Stadium.
“Four of the (Toronto FC) guys arrived yesterday and this is their first training session but the attitude is great,” said Miller.
Included in the Toronto FC quartet was national team debutant Jonathan Osorio. The Major League Soccer rookie has turned a few heads with a pair of goals in what has otherwise been a forgettable season for TFC.
“I’m happy to be with the best of Canada and being away from Toronto and all the media that’s there,” said Osorio. “I guess it’s good. It’s good to relax but you can’t relax too much because we have business to do (Tuesday).”
Miller is in charge of Canada for the second time in 2013 after he was at the helm for two friendlies in January when Canada lost 4-0 to Denmark in Tucson, Ariz., and played the United States to a scoreless draw in Houston.
Miller has remained in charge of FC Edmonton in the North American Soccer League even while on Canadian duty.
On Sunday, he ran a Canadian training session at Commonwealth before dashing across the parking lot to coach FC Edmonton at the adjacent Clarke Stadium in a league game against the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers.
Edmonton lost that game 1-0 but Miller’s hoping a largely inexperienced squad can put in a better outing on Tuesday and give him his first career win as a Canadian coach.
“It’s a great opportunity for these guys to come in, show well and show that they’re capable of playing at this level,” Miller said. “If we can get this group together after a four-day period and play against a quality opposition like Costa Rica then it shows you that there are some terrific tools to work with here.”
Canada, ranked 80th in the latest FIFA rankings, is up against a 48th-ranked Costa Rican side that is just over a week away from their first of three crucial World Cup qualifiers that take place in June.
While Canada’s World Cup hopes were dashed last year, the national team is still preparing for this summer’s Gold Cup tournament, hosted by the United States. Canada is still looking for its first win in 2013 after trying once and losing three times in four previous friendlies this year.
“It’s going to be a very interesting summer,” said midfielder Julian de Guzman, one of a handful of holdovers from the squad that was embarrassed 8-1 by Honduras in October, a defeat that dashed Canada’s World Cup hopes.
“It’s a chance for a lot of the guys to showcase themselves to see if they have a chance to actually be in the final squad for the Gold Cup,” said de Guzman. “The week’s been pretty solid — a lot of positive notes coming up from the young guys and this is a great test for the squad.”
Miller may be positioning himself to be in charge of the team for this summer’s Gold Cup as the search continues for a new full-time head coach.
The tournament happens to fall in a break in the NASL season and while Miller has said a few times that he aspires to be in charge of Canada on a full-time basis, he’s had no contact about coaching this summer but would never pass up the opportunity.
“There is a gap there between the end of first NASL season to the start of the second NASL season so I suppose it is possible,” said Miller. “But I can assure you no one from the (Canadian Soccer Association) has spoken to me about my availability.
“I’m sure they’re looking at full-time head coaches rather than someone that’s part-time.”