Edgar: ‘Canada’s not panicking’ at Gold Cup

David Edgar, No. 15, has two goals in 30 appearances for Canada. (Nathan Denette/CP)

David Edgar acknowledges it wasn’t exactly the ideal start for Canada at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

However, unlike many fans and members of the media, the 28-year-old defender from Kitchener, Ontario, isn’t wringing his hands in despair over the Reds’ goal-less draw against El Salvador in Los Angeles.

Edgar and Canada will try to build upon that result on Saturday when they take on Jamaica in Houston. The Reds close out group-stage play next Tuesday against Costa Rica at Toronto’s BMO Field.

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Canada enjoyed more possession and out-passed El Salvador by a wide margin, but the Reds laboured through the game, and were unable to break down or threaten the Central America side in any meaningful way.

Edgar, though, is looking at the big picture—while the result may have been disappointing, Canada does find itself in a four-way tie for first place in its group after Jamaica played Costa Rica, one of the top-ranked nations in CONCACAF, to a 2-2 draw earlier in the evening.

“Honestly, I didn’t think it was that bad. They’re a good team, and considering the state of the pitch—it was sticky and not really conducive to playing the ball on the ground—and the guys we were missing, I thought we played well. Every team’s on a point in our group so there’s no reason to panic,” Edgar told Sportsnet.

Edgar is also eager to point out that Canada continued its recent run of strong defensive play against El Salvador. The Reds’ defence hasn’t been breached since a pair of friendlies against Iceland in January. Wednesday’s clean sheet against El Salvador means Canada extended its shutout streak to 475 minutes.

“I didn’t realize until afterwards that it’s now five games in a row that we haven’t conceded a goal. I can’t remember the last time we kept five clean sheets in a row,” Edgar said.

“I didn’t think we gave away anything against them, and did a good job of neutralizing their counter-attack. They had more shots on goal, but I thought they were half chances and that they never really bothered us.”

Nevertheless, Canada has come in for some criticism for its performance against El Salvador, especially for its rather lacklustre play in central midfield where Samuel Piette and Kyle Bekker held down the fort. Sportsnet columnist Jamie Doyle diagnosed the problem succinctly when he wrote “Canada lumped the ball forward, bypassing the midfield entirely and relying on physicality and hold-up play. The tactical shift didn’t sit well in the run of play, either: the attack seemed disjointed and unsettled.”

Edgar believes criticisms of Canada’s attacking play are harsh.

“We had scoring chances. If (Cyle) Larin scored, we’d have taken the lead going into halftime. We didn’t build much through the middle, but Tesh (Tesho Akindele) and Tosaint (Ricketts) carried the play down the wings, and they caused problems for El Salvador,” Edgar offered.

If Canada did look lacklustre in midfield—and Edgar won’t concede the point—maybe it was because of some key absences. The Reds were missing both Atiba Hutchinson and Will Johnson (both aren’t with Canada at the Gold Cup) and Julian de Guzman (he was ruled out of the El Salvador game with a lower body injury).

Johnson only recently returned to action for the Portland Timbers after a lengthy injury layoff, while Hutchinson is recovering from a nagging groin problem.

“The loss of those two guys is big. Atiba is our most creative layer, and knowing Will’s situation, you can’t really expect him to play for us while he’s regaining his match fitness. Both guys have lots of experience and provide leadership, so we’re missing them,” Edgar stated.

A Canadian Soccer Association official confirmed to Sportsnet that de Guzman trained with the team on Friday morning in Houston, but that there’s no word yet whether he’ll be fit to play against Jamaica.

If de Guzman is again ruled out, Edgar will likely wear the captain’s armband like he did against El Salvador.

“I’ve been captain before, but it was always when Will or Julian or whoever was subbed out—I’d take over the armband. El Salvador was the first time I started as the captain, and it was very special,” Edgar said.

“I can’t tell you how amazing I felt as I led the team out of the tunnel onto the pitch. I was so proud because captaining my country is something I’ve always dreamed out, so for that to come true, that was a great feeling.”

Birmingham City’s Edgar spent the second half of the 2014-15 English Championship season on loan at Huddersfield Town. Edgar confirmed that once the Gold Cup is over he will re-join his parent club where he has another year left on his contract.

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