|Canada's Josh Simpson (centre) celebrates with teammates Ante Jazic, Atiba Hutchinson (left) and Simeon Jackson (right) after scoring against St. Lucia in Toronto on Sept. 2, 2011. (REUTERS/Fred Thornhill)
Consider Game 2 of Canada's CONCACAF qualifying game another crapshoot.
Canada will play Puerto Rico in San Juan Tuesday in the second game of the second round of qualifying to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Canada won its first game of the round 4-1 over St. Lucia in Toronto Friday while Puerto Rico and St. Kitts and Nevis tied 0-0.
The belief is that this away game may be the toughest of the qualifying. The reality is that like Game 1, other than rudimentary knowledge of these teams, Canada won’t know what to expect until it begins to play.
It’s like rolling the dice and hoping things work out.
Tony Fonseca, an assistant coach with the men’s national team, came up with one of the best descriptions of what it’s like to play these teams. Fonseca was speaking to CanadaSoccerTV after arriving in San Juan. He was talking about how St. Lucia played but the description will probably fit the other teams as well especially St. Kitts and Nevis.
“It’s always very challenging for any player to [be] playing against a team that is wild,” Fonseca said. “There are no tactics, no formations. They just play very wild.”
St. Lucia was ranked No. 184 in the world. Puerto Rico is No. 144 but a number of their players play for one team, the Puerto Rican Islanders of the North American Soccer League.
The Puerto Rican nationals team is also known as the Blue Hurricane.
Both head coach Stephen Hart and Fonseca believe one of the more difficult things Canada will have to deal with is the condition of the field when it plays away from home.
But there are several more issues Canadian players have to deal with that in the past greatly affected the outcome.
The first is anxiety. Canadian players are driven to distraction by the style of play of some Caribbean and Latin American countries. The constant flopping and time wasting puts everyone on edge, including the referee.
Players with St. Lucia were constantly delaying the game when they went to ground. Hart talked about how difficult it was for Canada to find any rhythm.
Should Puerto Rico take a lead, you can be assured it will do what it can to destroy the game’s flow.
But Fonseca believes Puerto Rico will play a more standard type of soccer.
“Most of the players play in a league, a completely different team,” he said. “They will be more organized and obviously playing at home will be more difficult.”
The second issue is Canada’s inability to convert scoring chances. Canada cannot allow inferior teams to remain in games because of missed chances. That is especially true on the road.
Canada had 30 shots on net against St. Lucia. Only 15 found the target.