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  • Saturday, June 10, 2000

    Canadians look to dispatch Cuba

     WINNIPEG (CP) -- The Canadian players are thinking more than World Cup in wanting to dispose of Cuba today and move on.

     Summer vacation, what's left, awaits.

     The Cuba home-and-away playoff, an extra hurdle due to Canada's poor performance in the final segment of the qualifying for France 98, has cut into what little time professional soccer players have off these days.

     Defender Paul Fenwick had planned a two-week holiday in Canada with his wife Debbie after the Scottish season ended. The qualifying series and uncertainty over its dates quickly nixed that.

     Fenwick had to join the national team and spent all of one afternoon with his wife.

     "She's not too happy with me right now," he said.

     He has to be back with Hibernian, his new club in Edinburgh, on June 28. That means five days with his parents in St. Catharines, Ont., and hopefully a week away with his wife before the season starts again.

     Instead of weeks off, the Canadian players are counting days away from the game this year.

     For Pat Onstad and his wife, it's a week at a friend's cottage before heading back to Dundee United in Scotland.

     Forward Paul Peschisolido could have had seven weeks off with his wife and two young children. That's gold considering he spends most of the time during the season in London with his club Fulham while Karren Brady, managing director of Birmingham City, lives in the Midlands.

     Instead he has two weeks off before returning to Fulham on June 26.

     "She gets three weeks (off) but you can't really take them," he explained. "During the season, I can't go anywhere, she can't go anywhere. The only time for us is off-season.

     "She's taking a day or two now while I'm over here. Hopefully when I get back we might get a quick week somewhere but that's it."

     With long domestic seasons and a crowded international schedule, that does not jive with the European docket, the players expect such conflicts. But it doesn't mean they like it.

     There is almost no time to recharge their batteries or spend quality time away from the pressures of the game with their family.

     Captain Jason deVos, for example, estimates he has played 100 games over the last two years. For trips back home, the Dundee United defender is up at the crack of dawn to drive to Edinburgh and a morning flight to London before taking the red-eye to North America.

     FIFA is trying to add some order to that crowded schedule and has come up with a unified global calendar to kick in in 2002. That might ease the club versus country dilemma that Canadians in Europe face but unless FIFA can invent a warp drive it won't do much about the long transatlantic flight.

     For some like Fenwick, there are other concerns. He was unsigned going into camp with Canada, knowing an injury would deter clubs from going after him. Fortunately he emerged unscathed before signing a two-year deal with Hibernian.

     Canada holds a one-goal edge over the Cubans over last week's win in Havana so a win or a tie will preserve their qualifying bid.

     A 1-0 Cuban victory would send the game into two 15-minute overtime halves and then penalty kicks if needed.

     But if Cuba forces an aggregate tie and scores two or more goals, Canada will be out because away goals count double in the event of a tie.

     The Cubans have trouble scoring, however, especially away from home. They only registered one road goal in the three home-and-away series that preceded this one.

     Cuba, ranked 73 in the world by FIFA, defeated the No. 157 Cayman Islands 4-0 on aggregate and No. 162 Surinam 1-0 before losing 5-4 on penalty kicks to No. 93 Barbados after the series ended at 2-2.

     Canada is currently ranked 59th.

     CTV Sportsnet is showing the Canada-Cuba game at 8 p.m. EDT.



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