ALSO ON SLAM!
Sunday, May 28, 2000
Just good enough
Holger's Heroes run unbeaten streak to 12
Canada wasn't exactly sterling in its first game since winning the Gold Cup three months ago.
But the national soccer team's 1-0 exhibition win over Trinidad and Tobago yesterday before a surprisingly pro-Canada crowd of 8,870 at Varsity Stadium served its purpose.
The Canadians kept their unbeaten string alive at 12 games (8-0-4) and continued to show tremendous progress under coach Holger Osieck.
"It seems like everything Holger touches turns to gold," said Canadian midfielder Jeff Clarke, who headed in a Martin Nash free kick in the 51st minute for the game's only goal. "We're not Brazil. But every time we step on the pitch now, we believe we can win."
Canada controlled much of the play yesterday, despite missing five key members of its Gold Cup team because of injury and fatigue from recently completed pro seasons.
Canadian keeper Pat Onstad, who replaced injured Gold Cup MVP goalie Craig Forrest, did not face a single shot from a Trinidad squad made up mostly of reserve players.
"We're happy we won the game, but we have lots to work on to get ready for Cuba (in World Cup qualifying next month)," Osieck said. "Trinidad didn't have all of their great names, but we still couldn't outclass them. The coming week will be very important for us."
Canada takes on Honduras on Tuesday in Winnipeg in another exhibition before embarking on its World Cup qualifying quest next month.
Canada faces Cuba in a home-and-away series, June 4 at Havana and June 11 at Winnipeg, to determine who advances to the semi-final round of Football Confederation (formerly CONCACAF) qualifying.
Trinidad coach Ian Porterfield elected to leave his top players, including Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke, at home for yesterday's friendly. Porterfield argued that with Trinidad possibly facing Canada again in World Cup qualifying on July 16 -- should Canada get past Cuba -- he did not want to give the Canadians an opportunity to scout his first team up close.
Canada has never lost to Trinidad, including a 1-0 win in the semi-finals of the Gold Cup, and improved to 6-0-2 with yesterday's win.
Canada may have played its final match at Varsity Stadium, which is scheduled to be torn down in the coming months.
The support for the home side from the fans in attendance -- it was an official sellout because only the west stands are being used for sporting events -- surprised the Canadian squad.
Several fans even lit colourful hand-held flares -- a practice often seen in Europe or South America -- after Canada's goal and two Canadian supporters beat on drums for the entire 90 minutes.
"Usually, it's the visiting team that gets that kind support (at Varsity)," Osieck said. "To be honest, I was amazed. It was beautiful."