Hart, Canadian national team know what to expect from Panama By Steven Sandor Posted on August 23, 2012 1 0 473 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Stephen Hart PHOTO: CANADA SOCCER Stephen Hart doesn’t expect the Panamanian national team to reinvent the wheel before their two World Cup qualifying encounters in September. The Canadian national team coach said in a conference call Thursday that the Panamanian squad has been consistent in its game plan, so his team should have a good idea of what it will face Sept. 7 at Toronto’s BMO Field and again Sept. 11 in Panama City. “Panama has been a consistent squad in terms of players selected and how they play,” said Hart. And what is that style? Expect a physical, fit team that will hit you on the counter, trying to exploit the ability of FC Dallas striker Blas Perez, who is on his way back from injury. Hart also knows that tenacity is part of the Panamanian DNA. It’s a quality about the Panamanians that Hart said he admires. “They play the game for a complete 90 minutes,” said Hart. “They never think that they are out the game.” While Hart was leading the national team to a 2-0 win last week in a friendly over Trinidad and Tobago, assistant (and national U-23 coach) Tony Fonseca was across the Atlantic, scouting Panama as it lost 2-0 to Portugal. With plenty of video available, and Fonseca acting as an advance scout, Hart said “we know what to expect from them.” As for Canada’s squad, Hart said that injuries may not be a factor. “I may have everyone I want,” he said. But, despite having the veterans he wants, rust may be an issue. The Panama qualifiers happen just after many of the European leagues have kicked off. So, the lack actual game time for many of the players — such as Frankfurt striker Olivier Occean or PSV midfielder Atiba Hutchinson — is a concern. “Some of the players have one game under their belt at the moment. Some of them have none; a lot of them have none.” As for that Trinidad match, Hart used a lineup filled with new faces, giving players like defender Doneil Henry and forward Lucas Cavallini their first call-ups. This game wasn’t so much a preparation for Panama as it was a chance for Hart to look at some players who are on the fringes of the national team. While some of the players had a chance to impress, don’t look for any of the new faces to replace any members of the veteran core who made it through most of World Cup qualifying (save for Josh Simpson, who just got the cast off his broken leg, but is still a ways from returning. Because of the short window, Canada had time for just a single one-hour training session before the T&T match. “The players could give you a glimpse of their abilities, in sort of a 40-minute time frame,” said Hart. One of the national-team regulars who was on the Canada squad for the T&T match was Tosaint Ricketts, who currently isn’t playing club football as he tries to extricate himself out of a contract with Romanian side FC Politehnica Timisoara over the non-payment of wages. Ricketts scored for Canada last week, and Hart confirmed that the striker has found a club with which to train while he waits for the contract situation to be sorted out.