It’s been more than a year and a half since Canada’s men’s soccer team tasted victory.
Too long for Benito Floro.
So while Canada’s pair of friendlies against Bulgaria and Moldova in Austria are a continuation of the coach’s plan to bring young players into the Canadian team fold, they’re also very much about winning.
“We need to win because it is very important for us to improve our psychology and mentality,” Floro said Thursday from Laa an der Thaya, Austria, where the team has been based. “For us, they are two games that are very important.”
Canada – 110th in the FIFA rankings – faces No. 73 Bulgaria on Friday in Ritzing then meets 99th-ranked Moldova in Mauer on Tuesday.
The Canadians went a woeful 0-13 last year, and scored just one goal – by Marcus Haber – in a 2-1 loss to Japan. Their last victory came in October 2012, a 3-0 win in World Cup qualifying against a Cuban side that dressed just 11 players (several Cubans left the team before the game kicked off in Toronto).
“We’re longing for a win,” Atiba Hutchinson said. “It’s been a while so I think we’re motivated enough to get that. We just have to go out and work as we always do and hopefully we’ll be a bit more fortunate with getting that result, but we’ll have that working spirit.”
Floro summoned a mix of veterans such as Hutchinson and Julian de Guzman and promising young players including Caleb Clarke, Samuel Piette, Daniel Stanese and Cyle Larin for these friendlies.
Eight of the Canadians have yet to make their national senior debut, as Floro focuses on developing younger players one year out from the next CONCACAF Gold Cup and the resumption of World Cup qualifying.
“The objective is the same for every camp: to prepare players on our system of play because we need to improve our level in attack and defence. At the same time, we want to take the young players because the experienced players are good at teaching them how to work as an individual and in a collective,” Floro said.
“For the young players, this is a very good experience because our experienced players are very good people and they are always focused on teaching the young players how to do things in a good way.”
Floro is counting on players such as the 31-year-old Hutchinson, who plays professionally in Turkey, to help bring the younger ones along.
“We’re developing well and mixing some younger players is going to help us,” Hutchinson said. “It’s going to take some time to jell a little bit more but I think we’re trying to go in the right direction.”
On a team that sorely needs goal scoring, eyes will be on the six-foot-two Larin in these two friendlies. The 19-year-old from Brampton, Ont., earned conference rookie of the years honours after scoring a team-high 14 goals for the University of Connecticut.
“We brought Larin into the Florida camp (in January) because we had a very good reference and we want to test him because he’s a striker and we need a lot of players in this position,” Floro said. “In that camp, we realized he is a young player but with good experience playing as a striker. He has a good desire to learn a lot about that and for us he is a good player for the present and the future.”
Canada’s roster is comprised mostly of European-based players. Among the other veterans on the squad are Andre Hainault, David Edgar, Tosaint Ricketts and Simeon Jackson.