Canada looking to ‘make history’ in Nations League qualifier vs. Dominica

TORONTO — The last time Canada’s men’s national team hosted Dominica at BMO Field was three years ago, with the home side claiming a four-goal victory.

The team hopes to do better this time around.

John Herdman will be making his home debut as head coach of the Canadian team on Tuesday when Dominica returns as the visiting side on Matchday 2 of the CONCACAF Nations League qualifiers. The Canadians are looking to put on a show, with goals aplenty the target.

Even with the disparity between the two teams, Herdman says there’s no lack of motivation for his players. 

“There’s a couple of opportunities to make history here,” Herdman told reporters on Monday after Canada’s training session at BMO Field. “The highest number of goals scored in Canada [by the men’s team] is five. The highest number of goals scored on this field is four for a Canadian [men’s national] team. The last time we played Dominica, it was 4-0 here. 

“The players are clear, they’ve got a clear outcome in their mind and they’ll go after it whistle to whistle. I’ll not need to say anything, they’re ready.”

But don’t just take Herdman’s word for it. Midfielder Atiba Hutchinson, who at 35 years old is by far the most senior member of a young Canada squad, said the players are eager to impress the Toronto crowd in Canada’s first competitive home match since 2016.

“That’s what we’re hoping to go out there and do,” Hutchinson said. “We want to go out there and have a good start to the game and just play our good, attacking football. Creative, lots of movement. We want to go out there and score some goals, so that’s the mindset that we have and hopefully we can bring that on the pitch.”

Aside from his team simply aiming to take advantage of the opportunity to overwhelm an opponent 98 places below it in the world rankings, Herdman noted that Tuesday’s game also holds significant importance in terms of positioning for the Nations League and future competitions as Canada looks to rebuild its men’s program.

And even though the Canadians won their first Nations League qualifying game 8-0, the nature of the qualification tournament is such that they cannot afford to take their foot off the pedal, even as heavy favourites.

“It’s critical,” Herdman said of the need for Canada to win each qualifier by as big a margin as possible. “For us, it’s our qualifying for the Gold Cup. It’s our qualifying for the League of Nations Group A, and realistically it’s our qualifying for the World Cup. Every game matters. Every point we accumulate matters, every goal we score matters. 

“At the minute we’re sitting ranked 12th in the table because games have gone on over the weekend and teams have been scoring a lot of goals, so there’s a bit of pressure on us coming out here [Tuesday], but these boys thrive under that and that’s the environment we want to create.”

While unlikely, there’s also the possibility of Canada stumbling, which has happened in the past. That’s also a motivating factor, for both sides. 

“These [smaller] teams always have a chance, [they] always have a puncher’s chance, and we’re mindful of that,” Herdman said. “If they get a result against Canada they’ll make history. So, this has to mean as much to us as it does to them.”

Not one to dwell on negativity, Herdman feels that his squad is coming together after more than a week of training north of Toronto. With this being his third camp in charge, the coach hopes to see more signs on Tuesday night that the team is taking shape under his vision.

“The camp’s been good, there’s a great energy. You can feel it out there,” Herdman said. “They’re enjoying playing together. There seems to be a level of trust that’s just building. Every camp we come together, the trust’s there, and I think that when that trust builds you get more from people. You get more craft, more creativity. So I think you’ll see a top performance from the boys.”

 

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