Rivalry between Canada and the U.S. far more cordial than most

In any other contest between border rivals, the pre-game chatter would be much more heated. Not so in the case of Canada vs. the USA.
TORONTO -- In almost any other region in the world, a border battle like Sunday's Canada - United States friendly would invoke heated, sometimes violent, passion from the two sides.

Not so in the northern part of North America, where many players from the two sides have extensive experience playing both with and against their counterparts.

“They’re our next door neighbours," Canada striker Simeon Jackson said a Friday's pre-game press conference. "Usually next door neighbours don’t like each other when it comes to derbies, but it’s always going to be intense.”

That all depends on your definition of intense.

Sunday's exhibition at BMO Field in Toronto isn't exactly going to be on the same level of some of the more infamous national derbies from elsewhere in the world. In fact, a U.S.-Canada rivalry would only rank a distant second within the three northernmost countries of CONCACAF.

And that's just fine, say the players.

Sunday's match will be "a fun game more than anything," Canadian midfielder Will Johnson said after training on Saturday. Johnson said he was looking forward to possibly playing against his Real Salt Lake teammate Kyle Beckerman, who he described as "a great guy."

"It'll be interesting to play against him, obviously I've never played against him in a real game before," Johnson said of Beckerman, who has become a regular for the U.S. under coach Jürgen Klinsmann. "I wish him the best of luck, I hope he does well individually. I'm sure he's wishing me the same, and I can see [RSL coach] Jason [Kreis] just watching the game hoping we don't go into any 50-50s."

Speaking after U.S. training on Saturday, Beckerman was full of plaudits for his Canadian teammate.

"His competitive spirit is unbelievable," Beckerman said of Johnson. "I've been fortunate enough to be able to play with him, and he's a guy you want on your team. It'll be interesting tomorrow to possibly go against each other, and I'm sure we'll have some laughs.

"Once we get on the field it'll be all serious, and both guys wanting to win the game."

Houston Dynamo and Canada defender André Hainault joined in the chorus of cordiality, saying that it he's looking forward to possibly facing friend and club teammate Geoff Cameron.

"It's all fun and games," Hainault said of the banter that he and Cameron had taken part in since they joined their respective national team camps. "I wish Geoff all the best. I was happy to see him play against Scotland [last week]. I hope he'll play tomorrow and ... if we see each other, we'll have a few laughs."

For his part, Cameron described Hainault as "a pretty good bud of mine."

"It's kind of cool to see him in a way, but also I'm going to hate him on the field," Cameron joked. "It's just one of those things, a love-hate relationship, you could say."

Some players are taking things a tad more seriously. U.S. veteran Steve Cherundolo, who was a club teammate of Canadian midfielder Julian de Guzman's at Hannover 96 in Germany, said he'll relish the chance to see his old friend again.

And to be victorious against him.

"It means a lot to me to be able to beat him," Cherundolo said with a laugh at Friday's press conference. "Julian and I had a great time together in Hannover, and we stayed in contact also all through his time in Spain as well.

"Whether it was battles in training, or playing against each other a few times for the national team, it's been a lot of fun. He's a great competitor, and any time you can win games like that it makes it more special."


In the end, players will be players, and even though both sides are firmly focused on the impending World Cup qualifiers in less than a week's time, they still want to win whenever they can.

"The reality is we're going into a World Cup qualifying and we've tried to downplay this game in the sense that it's a preparation game," Canada coach Stephen Hart said. "The players, deep down, they want to come out and perform and show well for the fans, of course, but we have to be realistic. We need to go into qualifying and come away with points this month."