A real house of pain

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:22 AM ET

If Canadian Soccer Association executives really wanted to inject a world-class flavour into tomorrow night's huge Canada-Jamaica showdown, maybe they should be digging a moat between the emerald pitch and the BMO Field stands, a common feature of stadia in Brazil and Argentina.

Not that it would ever happen in real life, but can you imagine the sight of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. head honcho Richard Peddie, spade in hand, shovelling dirt like that?

Richard's legions of critics often have accused him of shovelling the, well, you know. But we digress.

As it is, the Canadian team, plagued by performing in front of moribund home crowds in the past, should get a refreshing boost from the vocal pro-Canada throng that will be on hand for this World Cup qualifier, its first of six CONCACAF Stage III matches.

Before tickets were even made available to the public, the CSA pre-sold about of them ducats to the various Toronto FC support groups along as well as the Voyageurs, who bill themselves as the largest community of soccer supporters in this country.

While players can expect songs to fill the air and rolls of toilet paper to flutter on to the field, the support groups will get an early start by combining for a march to the stadium prior to the shrill opening whistle.

Oh Canada is said to be on the playlist of those in the parade.

Bob Marley, understandably, is not.

"We want to show the players that yes, they do have a home-field advantage," Dino Rossi, one of the many organizers of the march, said last night. "Toronto FC supporters have pushed the visibility and enjoyment of going to games to the forefront."

About 1,000 fans, if not more, are expected to take part in the jovial walk.

"(From) everything we hear, it's going to be an electric atmosphere, very pro-Canadian," Canadian coach Dale Mitchell said. "The players are excited about that."

They should be. They need any edge they can get.

Canada, after all, has not qualified for the World Cup, the sport's grandest stage, since the 1986 tournament in Mexico City. Made 1,000-1 long shots by the oddsmakers, Las Vegas prognosticators even laid odds that Canada would not score a goal.

They didn't. But at least they reached the World Cup some 22 years ago.

In failing to make the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Canada can point to a pathetic 0-2-1 record on home soil in the qualifiers for much of its downfall. This time around they must be much better in front of the home Canadian fans, especially being in the toughest CONCACAF group with Jamaica, Mexico and Honduras.

"I think if you'd ask any of the team if they'd want to be in another group, they'd probably take it," Mitchell said.

Mitchell was asked how this Canadian team, ranked 79th in the world, stacked up against the 1986 World Cup edition, a squad he played on.

"One big difference is we have a lot of players playing in Europe right now," he said.

One of those players is midfielder Issey Nakajima-Farran of Calgary, who plays for FC Nordsjlland in Denmark. Unfortunately he was injured over the weekend and is unavailable against Jamaica, leaving Canada opting to go with 17 players, one under the limit.

If Canada really wants to leave its mark in more ways than one, they should build a game plan around rough-and-tumble defender Adrian Serioux, a Toronto native who plays for FC Dallas.

If ever there was a soccer version of Scott Stevens, this is the guy.

Not so long ago, his hard foul against L.A. Galaxy glamour boy David Beckham earned Serioux a red card and plenty of criticism.

Too bad. Serioux is not about to change his game.

"That's just my style of play," he said. "I don't go out to intentionally injure anyone. But, whether it's my brother or Beckham, I play the same."

If that type of talk doesn't get the flag-waving throng at BMO Field cranked up tomorrow night, nothing will.


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