While the distraction of a big friendly between neighbours is nice, both teams have eyes on bigger things.TORONTO -- It's always nice to compete against your nearest neighbour.
That said, it's even better if you could help each other out in preparation for more important battles, and that's something that the U.S. and Canada intend to do when they face off on Sunday night.
When the North American sides meet at BMO Field, they'll both be playing in their final exhibition match prior to the next round of World Cup qualification, which begins five days later. And while the rivalry between the teams will always make for an intense game, both have eyes on the bigger picture.
"[The game versus the United States is] important to us in terms of our preparation because that's what it is," Canada head coach Stephen Hart told assembled media at a press conference on Friday. "The most important thing is the opening game against Cuba."
The Canadians will leave Toronto on Wednesday and head straight for Havana, where they are scheduled to face the Cubans on June 8 in the crucial opener of Canada's next phase of the qualifying tournament. On that same day, the Americans will host Antigua and Barbuda in Florida to kick off their own journey towards to Brazil.
With that in mind, U.S. head coach Jürgen Klinsmann echoed Hart's sentiments about Sunday night's friendly.
"We are in the same boat [as Canada]. We're trying to prepare the team as strong as possible for World Cup qualifiers," Klinsmann said. "That's when it all begins, the road to Brazil 2014, and that's where we want to go, both teams."
With just one more preparatory match to look forward to, both sides feel as though they are ready for qualification - and all that comes along with it in a tricky region such as CONCACAF - to begin.
"Our preparations have been good," Canadian striker Simeon Jackson said. "We're going to take it into this game on Sunday against tough opposition, but we'll put what we've been doing into practice and bring it into the qualifiers."
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U.S. defender Steve Cherundolo explained that his team found many things to work on thanks to its midweek match versus Brazil, especially when it came to remaining focused throughout the game.
"At key moments [against Brazil], we weren't concentrating enough, and I'm looking for that this game," Cherundolo said. "We really need to focus on the 90 minutes, and the chances that we have we need to bury them. We need to be a little more aggressive on the defensive end in deterring Canada [from] scoring goals."