Canada looks to continue learning against the United States

Coming off a 4-0 thrashing by Denmark over the weekend, Canada hopes to use its next game as another means of educating its mostly young, inexperienced squad.
Fresh off a 4-0 loss to Denmark over the weekend, things don't get any easier for Canada as it prepares to face the United States on Tuesday night in Houston.

"We're going into the lion's den," Canadian interim head coach Colin Miller quipped in a conference call on Monday. "We knew that from the start with both of these international friendlies that we have. Mood in the camp is fantastic, actually, given the prior result on Saturday.

"We've managed ... the group and the guys are -- if today's session is anything to go by -- really looking forward to it tomorrow night."

Canada's previous meeting with its southern neighbour ended in a spirited 0-0 draw at BMO Field last June, but a lot has changed since that match. The Canadians brought themselves to the brink of advancing to the final round of World Cup Qualification before crashing out in Honduras in October, a result that prompted former head coach Stephen Hart to quit and also accelerated a changing of the guard on the player front.

On Saturday, the new look -- and very inexperienced -- Canada squad found itself overmatched against the Danes. Despite the lopsided scoreline, Miller said there were positives to be had from the performance.

"There were aspects of the game I was really pleased with," he stated. "We played some good possession at times, particularly for me in the first half. I thought we knocked the ball about well."

Not looking to sugar-coat what was, in the end, a thrashing, Miller explained that it was what Canada did without the ball that was its undoing.

"Certainly on the other side of [Saturday's game] was our defending, and we've addressed that, and we'll continue to address it," he said. "If we don't defend well, it doesn't matter whatever level of football you're talking, then we will get punished.

"And we certainly got punished for poor defending on Saturday."

While Miller and his coaching staff will hope that the young Canucks have learned from the Denmark loss, he expects that the Americans will look to continue the one-way traffic on Tuesday night. And while many have pointed fingers at the back line for Canada's poor defensive showing, Miller said there was plenty of responsibility to spread around.

"We have to make players aware of the mistakes that they're making, and with young players you expect that," the coach said. "You're hoping to minimize these mistakes -- and it wasn't just aimed at one particular player, it was throughout the group -- so that we all continue to learn from it."

As if the defensive unit didn't have enough to worry about, it was announced by Miller that veteran goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld had to return to Norway after struggling all camp long with a back injury. That leaves Canada with two 'keepers who have one senior cap between them -- Simon Thomas earned his first action with the full national team in the second half of Saturday's loss.

"We'll throw a young goalkeeper into the mix tomorrow night," Miller stated. "But again, you have to learn from these things and I have no concerns at all about who plays in goal."

Whether Thomas, who is unattached and will trial with the Vancouver Whitecaps after Tuesday's match, or Genoa youth prospect Roberto Stillo -- or both -- will get the call in net against the U.S. remains to be seen, but Miller said Thomas impressed during his 45 minutes of play over the weekend.

"When you consider his personal situation, he's come from the wilderness [and] all of a sudden he's playing for the Canadian national team against Denmark," Miller said. "I thought he handled the occasion, generally speaking, very well."