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  • Friday, June 30, 2000

    We're kickin' and grinnin'

    Gold Cup crown giving Canada greater respect

    By SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

     Canada's sudden success on the soccer pitch certainly caught the country by storm.

     A surprising Gold Cup championship and an undefeated streak that has reached 15 matches has made folks take note of our footballers and even caused some commotion around the world.

     Lars Hirschfeld wasn't with Team Canada when it claimed the illustrious title in California, but he did get a first-hand glimpse at the some of the reaction from those in soccer's hierarchy.

     "They are pretty unfamiliar with our qualifying groups but they know teams like Mexico and Colombia and Costa Rica, and when we beat them they said, 'OK, they didn't do too bad,' "said the Germany-based Edmonton native who is one of Canada's reserve goalkeepers.

     "We're slowly putting Canada back on the map."

     And being at least a small part of this surging Canuck pack is something quite special. Hirschfeld and his mates, who now occupy the No. 54 spot on FIFA's world rankings, hope the smooth sailing continues July 16 at Commonwealth Stadium when Canada takes on Trinidad and Tobago in a qualifier for World Cup 2002.

     IN A GOOD RHYTHM

     "We're in a good rhythm right now, but anything can happen in a game," cautioned Hirschfeld, who expects Holger Osieck to summon his squad together about a week before the tilt here.

     "We've gone 15 in a row without a loss and hopefully we don't let that get into our heads."

     In the meantime, the NAIT grad will spend some time at home with his family and keep close to the phone awaiting word on where he'll play when the club season begins again. The 21-year-old netminder has spent the last two years with Energie Cottbus in Germany and even though the club has achieved promotion to the First Bundesliga, Hirschfeld is not anxious to return.

     Although Cottbus has offered him a solid contract for another year's service, Hirschfeld is more likely to look at an offer from another German club - perhaps one closer to his relatives in the western portion of the country - or from an English team. Basically, it's anyplace where he feels he can further develop his skills.

     A BUNCH OF LITTLE THINGS

     "It's a bunch of little things that make me not want to go back. It's a big compilation of things that have started to make me turn away and look at it sourly," explained Hirschfeld from his parents' home.

     "As a young goalkeeper, you have to step up to a different level and as a backup, you feel you should be playing all the time. And they have no goalie coach there and it's time I started to learn a few more things.

     "I'm talking to a few people and now it's just playing the waiting game. It doesn't really matter to me where I go. Just somewhere where I'm comfortable and where I've got a good opportunity to play and further myself."

     At least with his national side, Hirschfeld feels he's been given a chance to improve his stock despite all the action he sees coming during practice sessions.

     "Craig (Forrest) and Pat (Onstad) have put their time in and it's their time now and until they leave it's not going to happen for me," Hirschfeld said.

     "But I'm learning from Craig and Pat - I've got the best teachers right there. Basically, the rest of the team has to get comfortable with me and after a while you earn their trust. You just have to make sure that they have confidence in you."



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