Dero Canada Blue
Courtesy of CSA

Canada prepares for first match of World Cup qualifying

TORONTO, ON – Every single Canadian player and coach trained with a smile on their face on Tuesday morning.

Canada’s 0-0 draw against the United States on Sunday has done wonders for the team’s confidence in advance of the resumption of World Cup qualifying on Friday, when the Canucks take on Cuba in Havana (11 a.m. PT, Sportsnet).

“After the other night, I think there’s a lot of confidence floating around although we’ve been a confident group,” forward Iain Hume told at the conclusion of Tuesday's training session. “It’s a good group of lads from top to bottom. I think everyone’s enjoying playing with each other.”

While those who started on Sunday went through a light session, the rest of the squad went through a spirited session that was intense but at the same time had the air of a lighthearted practice more than anything.

As Tosaint Ricketts was being interviewed by some of the Canadian media, goalkeeper Milan Borjan stood behind the reporters and tried to distract the pacey attacker from seriously answering the questions. Ricketts found it nearly impossible to fight the urge to laugh.

Whether the sophomoric humor continues will depend on what happens over the next week with the two crucial World Cup qualifiers posing the potential to bring the team back down to Earth.

But at least heading into those two games, Canada’s lineup is just about as fit as can be. Canadian head coach Stephen Hart said he was happy to see the team emerge from Sunday’s game relatively unscathed.

“We have to be cautious because after a game we had a loosening up session yesterday, and now today, we’re making sure everyone comes back 100 percent,” said Hart.

Even veteran midfielder Atiba Hutchinson, who has been recuperating from a knee injury, took part in Thursday’s training session. The PSV Eindhoven playmaker took part in group drills with the squad and even did quite a bit of running on his own.

Hart said he’ll decide on Wednesday whether or not Hutchinson makes the flight to Cuba. He said the one main concern with Hutchinson is that even if the 29-year-old is happy with how his knee has progressed, there’s still the concern about match fitness, as Hutchinson has been out of training for a while.