Home Global Game CONCACAF FC Edmonton’s Gardner reflects on Canadian U-20 team’s battles with Mexico

FC Edmonton’s Gardner reflects on Canadian U-20 team’s battles with Mexico

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Yassin Essa Ben Fisk Jordan Murrell Oscar Cordon Jonathan Lao Callum Irving Stefan Vukovic Nikola Paunic Skylar Thomas Ben McKendry Dino Gardner

It’s easy to spot Dino Gardner on the pitch with FC Edmonton reserves. The fullback was the only player wearing a training jacket, despite the fact the temperature sat at 31 C Tuesday afternoon.

But, maybe the weather seems a bit cool to him, as he’s just returned to the club from a stint in the heat and altitude of Mexico with the Canadian national U-20 team. Gardner looks to be a player who will be with the team when it tries to qualify for next year’s U-20 World Cup.

Canada lost its first friendly in Mexico 3-0, but Keven Aleman, Gardner’s former teammate at TFC Academy, scored on a penalty to give coach Nick Dasovic’s men a 1-1 draw with the Mexicans in the second game.

Dino Gardner
Remember that the Mexicans have their own domestic U-20 league, and the U-20 national team is built from the team that won last year’s U-17 World Cup. In fact, Julio Gomez, the Pachuca star who won the Golden Ball as MVP of the U-17 World Cup, scored in the 3-0 win over Canada. As well, the Mexican U-20 sticks together; after playing Canada, it will play in the Lev Yashin Cup in Russia, against some of Europe’s top club youth programs, and then is off to Northern Ireland’s Milk Club to play a select group of international U-20 sides.

“You can plan to play the Mexicans, you can talk about what you have to do against the Mexicans, but it’s nothing like when you actually have to play them, the way they pass and move,” said Gardner. “It’s totally different when you are playing them for 90 minutes. But we had a game plan, we were able to do what Nick said we should do, and we were able to get a point from the second game.”

And what was that game plan?

“Tactically, we kept our defenders back, but when they got to midfield we tried to take the space away from them. And, the one thing you know about Mexico is that when you don’t allow them to play, they get frustrated.”

But Gardner thinks the Canadians could have asked for no better preparation for next year’s CONCACAF Championship — which also serves as a U-20 World Cup qualifier — than by playing the top dogs in the region… twice.

“They are the top team in CONCACAF, and we were able to get a draw with them. Nick told us that we are only the second Canadian team to go to Mexico and get a draw. We know the level that we have to play at, and we know that now that we have played at that level, Nick is not going to expect any less from us.”

Gardner left TFC Academy in 2011 — and he said it was great to play with some of the guys he’d teamed with as a youth in Ontario: Aleman, Stefan Vukovic, Jonathan Lao, Bryce Alderson and Oscar Cordon.

“We are all good friends,” said Gardner. “We are like family.”

FC Edmonton’s first team is in the midst of three-day break after the team had a spell of three games in six days — which included the brutal trip out to Puerto Rico. The Eddies’ first-teamers will be back in training Thursday.

Newcomer Bryan Arguez, on loan from the Montreal Impact, practiced with the reserves on Monday but was off on Tuesday. He is expected to train with the first team on Thursday.

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