By Neil Davidson
THE CANADIAN PRESS
The Canadian under-20 men’s soccer team finished its European tour unbeaten in three games Tuesday with a 1-0 victory over the United States in Marbella, Spain.
Dylan Carreiro’s fifth-minute goal, with an assist from Manny Aparicio, proved to be the difference. Carreiro is currently on loan to Arbroath from fellow Scottish side Dundee FC while Aparicio is with Toronto FC.
Canada opened the tour with a 2-2 tie with the England under-20 team in Bournemouth last week before defeating the Russian under-21 side 2-1 in Marbella.
For Canadian coach Rob Gale, the tour was a final chance to spend time with the majority of his players before the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship in January in Jamaica where Canada will look to secure one of four berths from North and Central America and the Caribbean at the FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015, which kicks off May 30.
Canada has been drawn in a qualifying pool with Mexico, El Salvador, Cuba, Haiti and Honduras. The U.S. is in the other pool.
Knowing the challenge that awaits his team in World Cup qualifying and possibly beyond, Gale’s objective for the European tour was to “get back-to-back-to-back performances in.”
“And that’s exactly how it panned out,” he added. “All credit to the staff and players.”
Still Gale had a go at his players at the intermission Tuesday.
“We got up early and then I think the boys decided ‘Oh we’ll just sit back on our lead,”’ Gale said. “And we didn’t play the football I knew we were capable of.
“I was probably the most demonstrative at halftime that I have been in a long while with these lads. Because I wasn’t happy at all with our performance … Second half, especially towards the end, it looked like we were picking them off and we looked very very dangerous.”
Gale only took over the U-20 team in March and has had limited time with all his talent, juggling their club commitments. But he has a good handle on his player pool, having coached Canada’s under-16 and under-18 teams and served as an assistant to Sean Fleming at the under-17 level.
Not all of Gale’s players were available for the European tour and Michael Petrasso had to miss the U.S. game to return to England for Notts County’s 2-1 FA Cup loss Tuesday to Accrington Stanley.
Toronto FC striker Jordan Hamilton, currently on loan to a second-tier side in Portugal, scored twice for Canada on tour while Petrasso and Marco Bustos of the Vancouver Whitecaps also scored.
Canada was unable to advance out of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2009, 2011 and 2013 FIFA U-20 tournaments and failed to win or score a goal when it hosted the 2007 U-20 FIFA World Cup.
Gale calls the European tour a confidence-booster, while cautioning that conditions in Jamaica will be far different.
“What I’m really pleased with is the bravery of the players to continue to want to get on the ball and play football in the right way,” he said. “Not just hunker down and hold a result.
“We want to continue to play and build on from this, because ultimately that’s what’s going to help the senior men’s national team here. It’s not about getting result on a U20 tour, it’s taking these guys on to build and learn from these experiences to help our senior men’s World Cup team.”
The senior men were in Panama City for a Tuesday friendly with Panama.
A good chunk of Gale’s under-20 team will likely also play a role in Canada’s under-23 team’s bid for Olympic qualification.
Gale will hold a week-long camp ahead of the CONCACAF tournament but will likely only get his North American-based players with the European players remaining with their clubs until the tournament. He will name his 20-man final roster at the last moment before the CONCACAF competition.
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