Canada has dug itself into a massive hole ahead of Thursday night's contest against Mexico, but head coach Colin Miller is hopeful that his players can rise to the occasion.After losing to unfancied Martinique in the Gold Cup opener last Sunday, Canada's chances of advancing to the knockout round have fallen dramatically, especially with the next match coming against CONCACAF powerhouse Mexico on Thursday.
Just don't tell Canada's interim head coach that the task is impossible.
"If I go into this game with a negative approach and build Mexico up to be some superpower, then we might as well just give them the three points," Colin Miller said in a press conference on Wednesday. "I have been in many fights in my life. This is the biggest one I've been in. Our players are well aware of the task at hand."
Standing in front of the Canadian players is a Mexican side that is also coming off an unexpected loss. The Mexicans dropped their tournament opener to Panama, an historic defeat as Mexico had never lost to the Central American side in any previous match.
That puts both Mexico and Canada in desperation mode, as both countries will look to gain their first points before the group stage finales on the weekend.
“Both teams are fighting for survival here," Miller said. "It's a huge occasion for both countries. We have to be positive as Canadian players and Canadian staff.
"We have to be optimistic that we can still get something from this game.”
The task at hand got substantially tougher with the news that Canada will be without the services of several players. Team captain Will Johnson has returned home to Portland to recover from an illness that forced him to exit the opening match early, and attackers Simeon Jackson (contract negotiations) and Randy Edwini-Bonsu (knee injury) have also left the squad.
The trio joined defenders Nana Attakora and Dejan Jakovic as expected contributors who are unavailable to Miller. Both defenders were ruled out of the tournament just days prior to the opening match.
It has all led to some major selection headaches for Miller and his staff.
"As one door closes, another one is slamming in our faces at the moment," Miller said. "We have Russell Teibert in bed at the moment with some ailments, as well. He could be a doubt for [Thursday] night as well."
The absences mean that others on the squad will have to step up, Miller said. One player who could take advantage of the situation is D.C. United's Kyle Porter, who flew into Seattle as a replacement after initially being left off the 23-man final roster.
"It means that there's another opportunity for someone else to come in and take an opportunity to play in front of our new head coach," Miller said, referring to incoming gaffer Benito Floro, who is attending Canada's matches strictly as an observer before taking over on Aug. 1. "That's how the players have got to look at it."
Kyle McCarthy contributed additional reporting from Seattle.