ALSO ON SLAM!
Saturday, May 27, 2000
Patience pays for Stalteri
Paul Stalteri has proved that patience can be as important a skill in international soccer as a scorer's touch.
The 22-year-old Brampton native has toiled on the developmental squad of Werder Bremen of the German Bundesliga for the past three years. Stalteri, a talented midfielder, easily could have become discouraged with his club's unwillingness to promote him to the senior squad.
But Stalteri stuck it out and recently was awarded for his patience -- Werder Bremen handed Stalteri a two-year contract extension with an option for a third season and promoted him to the first team for next season.
"This is a big step for me," said Stalteri, who will start at midfield today when Canada takes on Trinidad and Tobago in a friendly at Varsity Stadium (4 p.m., CTV Sportsnet).
"Hopefully, I can start a few games next season and show them what I can do."
Stalteri's patience also has paid off with the Canadian national team. The former youth standout had essentially been shut out of the men's team under former coach Bob Lenarduzzi, who preferred an experienced lineup.
On the rare occasion Stalteri was asked to represent his country on the international stage, he rarely left the end of the bench.
But new Canadian coach Holger Osieck saw something special in Stalteri and made him an immediate starter. Stalteri in turn has thrived under Osieck and will be making his 14th consecutive start for the national team this afternoon.
The Canadians will be using today's game and an exhibition against Honduras on Tuesday in Winnipeg as a warmup to a crucial World Cup qualifying series against Cuba next month.
Canada begins its quest to qualify for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea with a home-and-away series against Cuba, June 4 at Havana and June 11 at Winnipeg.
Stalteri feels the next two warmup games will be key to preparing the national team for what lies ahead. Cuba already has played two World Cup qualifiers.
"Anything can happen," Stalteri said. "We go to Havana and you never know what the conditions are like. That's why it's so important that we go in there in top game shape."
Against Trinidad and Tobago, Canada will be playing its first game since winning the Gold Cup this past February in Los Angeles. However, the Canadians will have several key members from that squad absent from today's game and possibly for the two World Cup qualifiers.
Gold Cup MVP keeper Craig Forrest is out indefinitely while recovering from a hernia operation and will be replaced in goal by veteran Pat Onstad.
Defender Mark Watson will not play because of a sore ankle, while team captain and defensive ace Jason de Vos will skip the next two friendlies to rest from a gruelling Scottish Premier League season with Dundee United.