Already hit by an injury to Dejan Jakovic that cost him his tournament, Canada’s backline was weakened further on Monday when Head Coach Stephen Hart confirmed that left back Marcel De Jong had been sent back to his club with a shoulder injury.
“We were caught by surprise medically that he is out but we believe we’ll have the game covered. We initially thought he would miss just Saturday but his tournament is over, so we are weakened in that area.”
Hart, however, was more than happy with the play of Mike Klukowski at left back against Guadelope: “He gives us more mobility down the left side, connecting with Josh Simpson, his movement was very good, stretching the opposition’s defence and we’ll hope for more of that against Panama.”
Panama, who stunned everyone by defeating the USA in Tampa on Saturday, appear to be a tougher test than many expected heading in, but Hart remains confident in his team and knows what they must do.
“Its simple – we need to win the game. Their game is based heavily on counter attack and two very good attackers so you have to be disciplined and not leave yourself open to the counter-attack. They’ve scored early in both their games so we have to make sure we start well.
“On Saturday we moved the ball well and got into some good positions but there was some hesitation to shoot more and we need to be a little more ruthless in front of goal, if we do that then I think we’ll be ok.”
One player who remains a doubt for that game is Atiba Hutchinson, who missed Saturday’s match against Guadeloupe, hasn’t trained since, and looks likely to once again not feature.
Said Hart: ”I am waiting on the medical staff, he says he feels more stable but we still don’t know if he will play. He has played a very long season and we don’t want to put the player at risk.”
Without Hutchinson, Canada lacked penetration and creativity in central areas on Saturday and Hart is in no doubt that his loss is key: ”His game allows us to link with the forward line better and he is one of those players who carries the team and offers a lot of leadership.”
Group C action at the Gold Cup concludes in Kansas City on Tuesday night. Canada play Panama at 7pm eastern and the USA meet Guadeloupe soon after. Check the Footy Blog shortly after the Canada game for my recap.