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Rudi Schuller: Canada needs to keep the ball rolling

Rudi Schuller: Canada needs to keep the ball rolling

Canada Soccer / Giamou

The Canadians are fresh off their best start to World Cup Qualifying in over a decade, and they need to keep that momentum going by maximizing their use of the FIFA friendly window

Two games, four points.

Despite the feeling that Canada left points on the table in a 0-0 draw against visiting Honduras at BMO Field last week, a look at the bigger picture shows almost nothing but positives on the road to Brazil 2014 so far.

The Canadians are off to their best start in the semifinal round of World Cup Qualifying since the 90's, which is - not coincidentally - the last time a team from the Great White North advanced to the Hexagonal final stage.

With lots of high-pressure soccer still left to be played in this round, it's best not to get too far ahead of ourselves based on the undefeated start, but the early returns are encouraging, especially if Canada figures out that pesky finishing problem.

But there's the thing. As of right now, the Canadians are not scheduled to play another game until qualification kicks back into high gear just after Labour Day. By then, it'll have been three months between fixtures for a Canada squad that gets together all too little as it is.

With so much on the line, it's imperative that that changes.

"At the moment our team is in a good rhythm, showed good balance and team spirit, and it would have been nice to continue along those lines," head coach Stephen Hart said last week when asked about the potential three-month break hindering any progress that his team has made so far this year. "But it is the situation that we'll have to wait until September."

Hart's side doesn't have to wait until September, of course. The next FIFA international date is set for Aug. 15, and while it's just a solitary midweek friendly date set right as many European leagues are kicking off, it's the only possible time for Hart to gather his charges before facing Panama in what amounts to a do-or-die pair of matches in September.

"The only window is a very short, one of those 48-hour, kind of windows, which are not very helpful outside of the fact that you may play a game together," Hart explained. "We're looking at what is possible on that time frame. The August date is notorious for clubs being extremely difficult, and especially in Europe."

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I don't profess to know the ins-and-outs of international soccer politics more than Stephen Hart, but to me it seems as though any extra time together would serve to benefit the national team, even if that means ticking off the players' professional clubs.

There's a time to play nice with the club teams, and then there's a time to do whatever it takes to get Canada prepared for biggest pair of matches it will play in four years.

Three weeks before the first Panama match seems an obvious fit for the latter.

You know Honduras will be playing on Aug. 15, and you can be doubly sure that the Panamanians will have something lined up as well.

The Canadian Soccer Association needs to schedule a friendly for that date, as it could be the difference between keeping the momentum going or having it stop almost before it started.

Rudi Schuller is the Chief Editor of Goal.com Canada.

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