Coach defends Canada after Gold Cup exit in 0 0 draw with Costa Rica

By Neil Davidson


TORONTO _ In a lengthy news conference following Canada’s early exit from the Gold Cup, coach Benito Floro defended his team’s progress, pointed to the problems Canadian soccer faces and said how proud he was of his players.

A 0-0 draw Tuesday night with Costa Rica slammed the door on Canada’s progress at the CONCACAF championship. The Canadian men failed to score a goal in three games at the tournament, finishing fourth in Group B with an 0-1-2 record.

Floro, however, saw positives in other numbers.

“El Salvador 0, Canada 0. Jamaica 1, Canada 0 _ one (goal) in the last minute. Costa Rica 0, Canada 0,” he said.

Good results against well-stocked teams ranked much higher than the No. 103 Canadians, in other words.

A Spanish interview earlier in the day had apparently left him dumbfounded when he was asked why Canada was so defensive.

When a local reporter suggested the storyline was Canada’s lack of offence rather than its defence, Floro cited the performance of Costa Rica and El Salvador against his team.

“They didn’t score either,” the Spanish coach said through an interpreter.

Jamaica (2-0-1) defeated El Salvador 1-0 in the earlier game at BMO Field to win Group B and move into the quarter-finals. Costa Rica (0-0-3) joined the Reggae Boyz as group runner-up.

The top two teams in the three groups plus the two best third-place team teams make the quarter-finals. El Salvador (0-1-2), which outplayed Jamaica on the night, will likely join Canada (0-1-2) on the sidelines once Group C play is completed Wednesday.

Canada came into the game needing a win to advance after digging itself a hole by tying El Salvador 0-0 and losing 1-0 to Jamaica on a stoppage-time goal.

Against Costa Rica, the Canadians deserved a better fate.

Canada did put the ball in the net in the 68th minute but Marcus Haber’s goal was ruled offside. The Costa Ricans cleared the ball off the goal-line in the 81st minute in a wild scramble after goalie Esteban Alvarado spilled the ball trying to corral a free kick.

It was a harsh ending for the Canadian men, who played very well against No. 41 Costa Rica. But the inability to convert chances cost them.

For Floro, exiting the tournament after the first round is a major disappointment given how little time he has to work with a team whose players are spread around the globe. Quality Gold Cup time would only have helped prep the team for the next round of World Cup qualifying.

Canadian defender David Edgar was clearly gutted by Tuesday’s result.

“I think overall throughout the 90 minutes we probably did deserve the win,” he said. “It’s tough to take again, not scoring. But from a defensive point of view, we’ve not conceded again against teams ranked higher than us.

“We’ve got to take positives from that and move on, as simple as that. We didn’t quite do enough attacking-wise to move forward in the competition but another day we could probably have got the goals and move forward.”

Canada has not scored in six consecutive Gold Cup games, dating back to a Dwayne De Rosario penalty June 14, 2011, against Panama.

In fact, Canada came into the game having not scored in open play at the CONCACAF championship, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean, since July 10, 2009, in a 2-2 tie with Costa Rica.

Canada managed just two De Rosario penalties in 2011, when it went 1-1-1 and headed home after the first round. Two years later there was another early exit as Canada failed to score while compiling an 0-2-1 record that include a 1-0 loss to modest Martinique.

Floro can’t be tagged with those performances. This was his first Gold Cup at the Canadian helm.

Tuesday’s game, which drew an announced crowd of 16,674, was Canada’s first ever Gold Cup contest at home. At times it was a wet one, with the skies opening.

The Canadians played without influential midfielders Atiba Hutchinson and Will Johnson and defender Doneil Henry, who are injured or coming back from injury. No. 1 goalie Milan Borjan elected to stay with his Bulgarian club, which is facing Champions League qualifiers.

Nik Ledgerwood and Samuel Piette were suspended due to yellow card accumulation.

“One of them (missing), it doesn’t matter,” Floro said. “But six important players out.”

Floro said his team needs more time and games together while Canada needs a second-tier pro league and to ensure that its national age-group teams all play the same type of soccer as the senior squad.

Canada is making progress, he said, perhaps slow progress but the team is moving in the right direction.

Floro fielded a relatively young squad against Costa Rica with the starting 11 totalling 309 caps, 82 of which belonged to captain Julian de Guzman.

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