It looks as though Canada will have to make do without one of its best and most influential players at next month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Veteran midfielder Atiba Hutchinson is nursing a nagging groin injury and he doesn’t believe he’ll be able to play for Canada at the Gold Cup, which runs from July 7-26.
Sportsnet spoke one-on-one Hutchinson on Tuesday night in Toronto following Canada’s 4-0 win over Dominica in a World Cup qualifier. When asked if he might be able to play at next month’s CONCACAF competition, Hutchinson answered, “It’s unlikely.”
“It still hurts and I’m still trying to recover. So I doubt that I’ll be fit to play at the Gold Cup,” Hutchinson told Sportsnet.
Hutchinson, 32, suffered the injury while playing with his pro club Besiktas, and ended up sitting out the last few matches of the recent Turkish league season.
He was called up by Canada for its World Cup qualifying series against Dominica, but he aggravated the injury while training with the team, which ruled him out for both games.
“I just felt something and I knew I couldn’t go,” he said.
The potential loss of Hutchinson for the Gold Cup is a big blow for Canada. A native of Brampton, Ont., he has five goals in 68 appearances for his country and has been voted Canadian player of the year on three occasions (2010, 2012 and 2014).
He’s also widely recognized as Canada’s most creative midfielder.
Hutchinson recently signed a two-year contract extension with Istanbul-based Besiktas, who will compete in the 2015-16 UEFA Europa League.
“I don’t want to risk coming back too soon because I want to be fully fit for the start of the Turkish league, and we have some Europa group stage matches in September,” Hutchinson explained.
Canada will also likely be without centre back Doneil Henry for the Gold Cup because of injury. Midfielder Will Johnson only recently returned from a lengthy injury layoff, and it’s uncertain how much of a role, if any, he’ll play at the Gold Cup.
Canada opens Gold Cup play on July 8 vs. El Salvador in Los Angeles. The Reds then meet Jamaica on July 11 in Houston, and host Costa Rica on July 14 at Toronto’s BMO Field.
This year’s tournament will provide a barometer of how Canada has progressed under coach Benito Floro since he took over in the aftermath of the 8-1 debacle in Honduras in 2012. The Gold Cup also serves as a qualifier for next year’s Copa America tournament.