FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA — Don’t be deceived by the mild mannered, genteel personality of Canadian Olympic team coach Tony Fonseca.
He’s fair but demanding. Leave it all on the pitch and you’ll have no problem with Fonseca. But there’s no room for passengers on this bus.
As you would hope he’s embarking on a “take no prisoners” approach to the upcoming CONCACAF Olympic qualification tournament. But he also is a realist. It will be very tough. There are only two spots available and like the women’s tournament in Vancouver in January, it all boils down to the winner-take-all semifinal crossover match.
Canada is in the same group as the juggernaut United States, Cuba and El Salvador. At best Canada will finish second in the group and will then face the winner of the other group in that crunch match. And of course that will probably mean a date with Mexico. So that’s how tough it is.
This team is sprinkled with many players, some of you would know. There’s Matt Stinson and Doneil Henry of Toronto FC, as well as former Reds teammate Nana Attakora. Expect them to do much of the heavy lifting defensively.
Attakora by the way is without a contract. His MLS rights are owned by San Jose and he’s hopeful they’ll trade those rights in the next few weeks so he can continue his professional career. It appears the Earthquakes have little interest in him.
The Vancouver Whitecaps are represented by Bryce Alderson and Russell Teibert. Evan James and Carl Haworth are with the Montreal Impact. That’s just a few of the names.
Here’s a couple more that might warrant your attention during the tournament.
Lucas Cavallini, 19, is a robust striker from Mississauga, Ont., and has the build of a linebacker. I watched him in action Sunday in an exhibition match and I’m not the only one who feels he’ll be a handful for most defenders. He’s with Club Nacional in Uruguay. He’s not long on experience and will likely find himself behind Marcus Haber in the pecking order, but he’ll get some minutes.
Kyle Bekker is a 21-year-old midfielder from Oakville, Ont., and can play in either a holding or attacking role. The third-year communications student at Boston College has had a strong camp and will fight for a spot in the starting eleven.
This is a young team. Only five players were born in 1989. The rest are younger. Two are only 17. It’s an uphill battle, but one that Fonseca takes on with relish.
All of Canada’s games are on Sportsnet beginning with Canada vs. El Salvador on Thursday from Nashville at 6:30 pm ET on Sportsnet Ontario and Sportsnet One.