Canada in a must-not-lose match with Cuba

Panama's goalkeeper Jaime Penedo makes a save as Canada's Tosaint Ricketts (9) tries to score next...

Panama's goalkeeper Jaime Penedo makes a save as Canada's Tosaint Ricketts (9) tries to score next to Panama's Felipe Baloy (23) and Luis Henriquez during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Panama City on Sept. 11, 2012. (REUTERS)

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:57 AM ET

It’s one of the few lullabies intended to lead to a nightmare.

“I’ve never seen anything like (the disturbance in) Panama,” Canadian national team head coach Stephen Hart said.

His first media availability since returning from a World Cup qualifying loss in Panama two weeks ago, with his mind firmly on October’s final two third-round CONCACAF matches, Hart recounted the circus in Central America before hinting Canada wouldn’t fall victim to the same tactics in Honduras next month.

“We (couldn’t) do anything about it,” Hart said of the estimated 1,000 Panamanians that swarmed the team’s hotel until 4 a.m., the night before Canada’s fourth of six third-round qualifiers, shooting off massive fireworks and blaring music overnight.

“We can’t control what goes on in the street, but we will be taking a number of precautions (in Honduras). I don’t want to talk about it for obvious reasons.”

During the buildup to Canada’s 2-0 loss in Panama City ‹ one that saw the Reds outplayed in every facet for 90 minutes ‹ Hart spoke candidly about the disturbance, telling the Toronto Sun it was to be expected and even calling it “normal.”

On Thursday, Canada’s bench boss was singing a different tune.

“What can I say about it? The officials that were supposed to monitor it could do nothing about it,” he said. “You were there, you saw the length of the organization.

“I don’t want to make any excuses. We lost.”

The region’s governing body, which has had its fair share of blushes, didn’t return requests for an interview on the matter. But as similar acts ‹ while not as large and organized ‹ have taken place in neighbouring nations such as El Salvador, it’s safe to say CONCACAF will again look the other way come October.

“That is for the governing body to decide,” said Hart, when asked if he thought Panama should forfeit points for the display. “It’s not for me (to decide). I have to deal with it here and now.”

DERO DINGED UP

First on that list is dealing with an injury to Dwayne De Rosario ‹ Canada’s career leading goal scorer -- an injury that will without a doubt have an impact on decisions next month.

Hart voiced concern over the loss of De Rosario, who limped off in Panama five minutes in with an MCL sprain that will keep him out for another two months.

“You can’t replace Dwayne in terms of his skill set and what he brings to the team both on and off the field,” Hart said. “Now Marcel de Jong comes in.”

After tinkering with his lineup ahead of Panama, moving De Rosario from the left side of midfield and playing him as a withdrawn attacker in a 4-4-1-1, Hart will again have decisions to make in terms of who will fill the attacking void. Canada lacked a certain bit of edge and willingness to push forward in Panama like it did four days earlier in a 1-0 win over the Panamanians at BMO Field -- something Hart attributed to the early setback.

“Early in the game, Dwayne got injured so we never really got a chance to work on what we trained on,” he said. “I can’t say there’s much more we would have done differently.”

But as he reiterated Thursday, Canada is not exactly deep when it comes to finding players to play in the final third, a concern ahead of a must-not-lose match on Oct. 12 against the lowly Cubans.

“Bring in offensive players from where? The players that we have are the players that we’ve been using,” said Hart, when asked if he’d look to infuse more offence into his next qualifying roster.

Other than that, it’s slim pickings for a team that has managed only two goals through four third-round games, but still finds itself in position to advance to CONCACAF’s last six.

With Honduras travelling to Panama on Oct. 12, the result that comes out of the Estadio Rommel Fernandez will tell Canada what it will need to advance four days later.

DOT DOT DOTS

Should Honduras lose or draw in Panama, no matter what Canada does against Cuba on Oct. 12, the Reds would advance with a win in Honduras ... Should Honduras lose and Canada draw against Cuba, a draw against Honduras on the final matchday would see Canada progress ... An improbable Canada loss to Cuba combined with a Honduras win in Panama on Oct. 12 would make it next to impossible for Canada to advance ... First things first -- Cuba. Hart told reporters despite Cuba already being eliminated “they’re a very proud people and I think they will come to (Toronto) to show that they are a team that probably could have done better than they have shown ... Hart didn’t attribute Canada’s poor performance in Panama entirely on the ruckus outside its hotel. “We’re looking at some of the things we did in our recovery and maybe we might do some things a little differently (next month).”

 


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