'Meaningless' match actually means a lot

Toronto FC's Ashtone Morgan should earn his second cap when Canada plays St. Kitts and Nevis on...

Toronto FC's Ashtone Morgan should earn his second cap when Canada plays St. Kitts and Nevis on Tuesday at BMO Field. (Getty Images)

Kurtis Larson, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:24 PM ET

The wrong "mindset" and "naivety" is to blame for Canada's poor performances in the second round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying -- showings that question its ability to advance beyond a difficult semifinal round next June.

"(St. Kitts and Nevis) fought like crazy," midfielder Will Johnson said of Canada's shock draw in the Caribbean Friday night. "We didn't expect them to play as well as they did. There was naivety ... after having its o easy."

Ahead of a final group match against a fiery St. Kitts and Nevis at BMOField tonight -- a formality after Friday's draw sealed Canada's passage -- media swarmed Stephen Hart at yesterday's training, looking to Canada's manager for answers as to why is side has been shutout in consecutive matches during a round which the Canadians were supposed to dominate.

"When you don't start with the right mentality, it's very difficult to pick your game up," Hart said. "Next thing you know, you're on the back foot."

Had the Kittians been more clinical around the box, the Sugar Boyz might have pulled the shock of the tournament a month after Puerto Rico travelled north and nearly spoiled Canada's perfect second-round record.

While Canada had chances to win both, it's no secret a pair of CONCACAF minnows played level against a nation that was thought to be strong enough to compete for a place in the region's last six for the first time in two decades.

"I hope it's lesson learned," Johnson said. "You can never take anything for granted in this game because you'll find yourself out of the spot really quick. There's a lot of positive energy now to fix that (tonight)."

And it begins with Hart potentially making changes to a toothless attack that has seen a number of quality chances go begging since the opening night of qualifying.

Since then, an attacking formation featuring Norwich City's Simeon Jackson and Major League Soccer Golden Boot winner Dwayne De Rosario has failed to consistently link up or convert the infrequent times it does.

"A number of players need to get that experience and need to get a game in," Hart said. We're a little thin up front, but there will be some subtle changes here and there and as the game goes on as well."

Beyond seeking a consistent, in-form scoring combination to develop a needed partnership ahead of a far more difficult semifinal round, Hart said he will include a number of fresh faces who are looking to justify roster inclusions moving forward.

With TFC's Ashtone Morgan searching for his second appearance after entering as a late substitute in St. Lucia last month, former TFC mainstay Nana Attakora could earn his first cap in two years for what is a far-from-solidified back four.

"To some, (tonight) might be a meaningless game, but to the players, it's for us to build on for the next group stage," Attakora said. "I've been training real hard since I got my fitness back and this week has helped me."

Although the group is wrapped up, things are far from settled.

A meaningless match in terms of placement is just as important as the list of exhibitions the Canadian Soccer Association is set to schedule in the buildup to next summer.

Playing an always-competitive Honduras, a surging Panama and a widely unknown Cuba in the semifinal round, Canada's preparation begins tonight.

"We're going to go from these nice island countries (to Central America)," Johnson said. "It's brutal, it's harsh ... and extremely tough."


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