PASADENA, Calif. – Martinique enter the Gold Cup as a mysterious team and, according to Canadian national team captain Will Johnson, that mystery makes them very dangerous.
Save for a handful of talent that’s based abroad, most of the team plays at home. As a result, there isn’t much video to study and there isn’t much of a scouting report. Johnson feels that’s why Sunday’s game between Canada and Martinique (2:30 p.m. PT, Sportsnet World in Canada, Fox Soccer in US) will be anything but a cakewalk.
“Obviously the Panamanians and the Mexicans are great teams, but they’re known quantities,” Johnson said after the team’s training session at the Rose Bowl on Saturday. “With Martinique, we don’t really know what to expect. I’m not sure what any game is easier than the other, to be quite honest with you.”
Martinique trained right before the Canadians and it was easy to see that they hold a noticeable size advantage. For a team like Canada, whose limited offensive firepower has meant that they've relied heavily on scoring from set pieces recently, that could prove tricky.
But in Johnson’s case, club teammate and Martinique teammate Frédéric Piquionne has given him an idea of what to expect. Apart from their obvious size, Johnson was told that the team is very athletic.
“They’re so athletic, they’re so raw,” Johnson said. “They pose a lot of problems so I think it’s going to be a very tough game for us. If we’re good with the ball and make them do a little bit of extra running I think we’ll have some success.”
There’s a small matter of pride on the line as the team, too, as Johnson and Piquionne exchanged jovial bits of banter before joining up with their respective teams.
Johnson just can’t imagine heading back to Portland if Piquionne and tiny Martinique pull off a result. As Portland captain, it certainly wouldn't sit well with the fiercely competitive midfielder.
“It would be tough to go back without three points to Portland,” said Johnson with a smile. “To know that him and his million dollar smile are going to be sitting in that seat it would help me credibility-wise with the guys if I go back with the three points."