EDMONTON — Canada's men's soccer team, riven by dissension and erratic play, promised Tuesday that even though it missed the World Cup cut, it won't play out the string against Mexico.
"We've got to show a bit of character, show a little bit of what we're all about," defender Kevin McKenna of Calgary said at a news conference prior to the Wednesday night match at Commonwealth Stadium.
"We're not going to go out there and let Mexico walk all over us. We need to go out and show the home fans we're not a bunch of mugs."
The 0-3-1 team was mathematically eliminated from qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa by losing 3-1 in Honduras over the weekend.
At the same time Mexico, a traditional soccer powerhouse, was upset by Jamaica and needs a win over Canada to ensure a trip to the final qualifying round next year.
"We'd like to show the home fans that we're a team that is capable of winning games in the group," said Canadian coach Dale Mitchell.
"And certainly we do have a responsibility to Honduras and Jamaica - who are still in the qualifying process - to put out our best team possible and do everything we can to get points."
Canada hasn't been to the World Cup since 1986 - in Canadian terms a year before Sidney Crosby was born - and had high expectations heading into the second round of qualifying in the CONCACAF region, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.
But after a disappointing 1-1 tie at home against low-ranked Jamaica in August, Canada has slid to three consecutive losses. and is last in the four-team Group 2. Only two teams go through.
On top of that, in the last week players Jim Brennan and Dwayne De Rosario have sniped publicly at Mitchell and the governing body, the Canadian Soccer Association, or CSA.
Brennan has said he won't play for Mitchell and De Rosario was quoted wondering why Mitchell would get the senior team job after leading Canada's U-20 squad to a winless performance at last year's world championship.
Brennan is off the team and De Rosario won't play Wednesday.
At his news conference introduction, Mitchell asked reporters to limit their queries to the Mexico game and not the off-field controversy.
The armistice lasted four questions.
Mitchell, who told The Canadian Press on Monday he has no plans to quit over the team's poor showing, admitted there were high expectations on the team.
"Because you don't get the results, a lot of stuff can surface. There's frustration and excuses that come from a lot of different quarters. It's part of the game," he said.
"We've done well at times, but our biggest problem has been that we haven't been complete for 90 minutes. And when you make small mistakes against good quality teams they end up putting the ball in the net."
To help spark the offence, Mitchell has brought in Vancouver Whitecaps striker Charles Gbeke.
Gbeke, part of the national team camp in January, scored both goals and was named MVP in the Whitecaps' 2-1 win over Puerto Rico in the USL Championship game Sunday.
"There's no pressure," said Gbeke.
"I think it's a good opportunity for me to show what I can do. This is football. Nothing is for sure."
Honduras and Mexico are tied at the top of Group 2 with nine points at 3-0-1. Jamaica is third with five points at 1-1-2.
Forward Ali Gerba acknowledged the tournament has been devastating.
"It's been dream-crushing. You grow up trying to have a chance to go the World Cup and I thought this team was the one. It's just disappointing," he said.
But he said the finger-pointing has not hurt the team.
"Everybody is a professional and everybody has their own opinion," he said, "so if anybody speaks their mind it's their own personal thoughts."
So what needs to change, a reporter asked him.
"I'm not the CSA."
What if your were?
"I'm not. I'm just a player."
CORNER KICKS: Defender Adrian Serioux from FC Dallas, who missed the Honduras game while serving a suspension, is back ... Midfield star Julian de Guzman, who plays in Spain with Deportivo la Coruna, remains out with a thigh injury ... Lars Hirschfeld is expected to get the start in goal ... It's unfortunate deja vu for Canada, which also finished last in the qualifying group in 2006.