Team Canada coach: 'Taste the soup'

Stephen Hart, head coach of Canada's National Soccer team  at a September 2, 2010 presser for a...

Stephen Hart, head coach of Canada's National Soccer team at a September 2, 2010 presser for a game September 4 in Toronto against Peru. (MICHAEL PEAKE/QMI Agency)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:26 PM ET

If and when coach Stephen Hart departs company with Canada's national men's team, he may have a future as a slogan writer.

He's already coined a pretty good phrase for what he's hoping will be increasing support as his team continues on the road to qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

He wants Canadians to "Taste the soup."

The hope is Canadians will like it and acquire a taste for the national team as it plays its final four qualifying matches in Round 2 of CONCACAF qualifying.

Right now, Canada sits on top of the group with six points. St. Kitts and Nevis is next with four while Puerto Rico and St. Lucia round out the group.

When Canada plays at home its fans are often outnumbered by fans supporting the opposing country. When that isn't the case, the national team often plays in front of less than full stadiums.

"It's almost like, taste the soup," he said Thursday, when asked about support for the men's national team. "Come out and see what it's about and push the team along. If it's truly something you want to see, your team getting to a World Cup, you could be a big part of that. And you could also have bragging rights to say I was there from the very beginning."

Hart talked about his club being in a situation of being expected to win in this round and not getting a lot of attention for doing it. But if the team lost, it would be headline news.

"It's somewhat expected. There's a certain apathy around the national team and the international sport in general in Canada," Hart said. "In the games that you are supposed to win, it's expected really."

Most national teams have the benefit of a large and boisterous fan base that support them. Something Canada lacks.

" . . . that sort of 12th man that quite frankly does not exist," Hart said. "It should exist even when the team is playing well or even when the team goes down, it should raise the team."

Taste the soup is a nice catchphrase.

Now the question is what kind of soup will the fans be tasting? Will it be the wonderfully smooth, satisfying soup where all the flavours blend together? Or will it be a watered-down product in which the taste is difficult to identify?

Even though the team has come out of the two matches with full points, the culinary experience has been less than memorable.

Canada has played well enough to win but against opposition that ranks well below them in the world rankings.

While they played much better in Tuesday's 3-0 win in Puerto Rico than their opening 4-1 victory over St. Lucia, Canada has to improve a great deal before they can be taken as serious contenders to qualify in later rounds.

Hart said in some ways, having to play more games in order to qualify is beneficial as long as disasters don't occur.

"All in all, I thought it was a good performance," Hart said of the game against Puerto Rico. "In the sense that some of the playing relationship looks like it's coming together.

"We know where we need to improve. I think you will see us building from game to game on each performance."

It's a question of getting a chance to play together. Many of the players haven't had a chance to play together and several have not become their domestic league schedules yet.

Hart is still looking to set his lineup and he said that there will be changes made before the next round of games next month when Canada plays in St. Lucia and is at home to Puerto Rico.

"I think you will see changes," Hart says succinctly. "We have some players injured that weren't available. Those players are in crucial position. Hopefully they will be healthy and playing for their clubs.

"There are a couple of positions that we know we need certain qualities and we'll keep looking for that."

And maybe one day, they'll provide a full dinner to go with that soup. Twitter: modacoatLFPress Email: morris.dallacosta@sunmedia.ca


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