Canada heads into T&T friendly focused on Panama

The 79th-ranked Canadian squad will meet 80th-ranked Trinidad and Tobago in a friendly on Wednesday, with an eye toward crucial World Cup qualifiers against Panama next month.
While Canada will be facing Trinidad and Tobago in an international friendly on Wednesday, all eyes are squarely focused on Panama.

The Central American side is the next opponent for Stephen Hart's team, as the Canadians will face Panama in a crucial home-and-home series in World Cup qualification next month.

The exhibition match against T&T serves as a big part of the preparations ahead of the pair of games against the group-leading Panamanians, and Hart says Wednesday's friendly could help sort the final pieces ahead of the bigger tests.

"It gives us a chance to come together and keep talking about what our objectives are [and] what our aims are," the coach told CanadaSoccerTV on Monday. "In terms of the game itself, it'll be more about looking at individual performances, who can fit in where, maybe try something different and see who can give us a little more flexibility in the squad."

Both Canada and its Caribbean opposition will be testing a lot of younger and more inexperienced players in the match, as the short midweek window doesn't allow for much flexibility in calling up some of the bigger names based in Europe.

Despite both teams having to field some lesser lights alongside more established players, Hart feels that T&T - which was knocked out of contention for Brazil 2014 last year - will still pose a good challenge for his side.

"I think they've got some very good players called in and it's a matter of how long they've been together, how much time they've been together," he told the Canadian Soccer Association's video channel. "I think, if you look at their program, they'll be looking at it over a four-year period where I'm looking at it over the next month."

With the matches against Panama under a month away, Hart and his staff have been hard at work studying not only Canada's upcoming opponent, but also its own performance in the previous round of qualification matches versus Cuba and Honduras.

After winning 1-0 in Cuba to open the round, Hart felt his team played well enough to grab maximum points against the Hondurans in Toronto, but a lack of finishing saw the two teams split the points in a scoreless draw, which allowed Panama to jump into the group lead unchallenged.


"I think now, after watching the game [against Honduras] numerous times, I'm a little more disappointed that we didn't come away with the points, but that's behind us now," Hart said. "We know we've got to go into this [first] Panama game arguably against a team we felt was the danger team in the group and we've got to get something out of those two games."

To accomplish that, Hart says the formula is simple, even if the execution isn't.

"We have to be a little more clinical, a little more efficient, in front of goal," he explained. "It might sound like if we're singing the same old tune, but that's the reality."