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Hart: “Time for experimenting is finished”

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As special as the centennial celebrations are for the Canadian Soccer Association, Sunday’s friendly match against the U.S, is nothing but a tune-up for national men’s team coach Stephen Hart.

Even with US national team coach Jürgen Klinsmann sitting at his left in a joint press conference on Friday afternoon, Hart made it no secret and was blunt in saying that his primary focus remained Canada’s next World Cup qualifying match in Cuba on June 8.

“I would like to thank our U.S. colleagues for accepting to play the game. It’s important to us in terms of a preparation because that’s what it is,” said Hart. “The most important thing is the opening game against Cuba.”

With that goal in mind Hart does have injury concerns entering the qualifiers. The obvious loss will be Josh Simpson who suffered a broken tibia, fibula and ankle last week playing for his Swiss club BSC Young Boys and will be out of action for months. But he remained tight-lipped on two other players who are battling injuries — one who didn’t train and one who trained lightly earlier in the day.

Even with the health concerns, Hart is not looking at tinkering with his roster too much. He admitted that it was too late to make drastic changes.

“I think the time for experimenting is finished,” said Hart. “We had a series of games in the first round of qualifying and due to injury or unforeseen circumstances I had a lot of different players go through that system. But now we sort of know what we need to do and any sort of changes is not necessary now.”

As for who will start between the uprights at BMO Field, Hart was not hiding the fact that Lars Hirschfeld will be in goal but admitted that he might choose to make a change depending how the game progresses.

When asked if he it was a better outcome to play well but lose or win the game and play poorly, Hart said he would always prefer to win but it depends on the situation.

“Football is bit of a lie,” said Hart. “Right now I would like to see a very solid performance from the team and the solid performance leads to a victory then of course I’ll be very, very happy.”

“But I think either way you come out of the game mentally better. Because you can always say well we didn’t play at our best but we got a result which people say is a sign of a good team. Or you could say we played very well and on another day the result would have been different.

“It’s a win-win situation in an exhibition.”

Killer Instinct
Looking back on last year’s Gold Cup matches, the first round of World Cup qualifying and the team’s recent friendly against Armenia in February, Hart has worked on changing his team’s pace with the ball and spoke of the need of his players being more clinical in the penalty area.

“If you look at how we’ve played we have a good possession game at times but sometimes we tend to be a bit one-paced, a little bit slow in possession,” said Hart. “And we’ve worked really hard at changing the speed of the game, changing the way we attack we got to do that more efficiently. We’re a team, when all the analysis comes back, we create chances but we’re not clinical enough.”

“A good example was the U.S.-Brazil game, I think the U.S. created more chances than Brazil actually, and Brazil just finished theirs. If you’re going to play at the highest level you’re not going to get many chances and we have to be more killer instinct in the penalty area for sure.”

As Hart mentioned, playing with killer instinct and having to ability to bury its chances is something that Klinsmann can sympathize with having seen his team create more chances but still lose 4-1 to Brazil on Wednesday.

“There’s a big need for that and a big lesson for our team,” said Klinsmann. “If you produce an X amount of chances, very good chances, the next step is you got to put them in. So it’s down to quality and that is something they have to learn, if the moment comes then I have to put it in. So they have to deal with that expectation.

“You have to put the chances in so I think they grow in those moments and they understand that you need to be even more determined when the moment comes. So it makes a difference in a game like that if you play with a world class team like Brazil.”

When assessing the U.S. team, Hart sees an opposition that is not only fast but physical as well. That mix could cause headaches and potential mismatches on the pitch on Sunday.

“I think it’s a very good generation of players, especially in the attack, and physically, athletically they are very athletic in a lot of positions on the field,” said Hart. “That makes a big difference because you have to match them first physically and then you try to put your technical side of the game on top of them.

“But they’re certainly blending the two with the present selection and they have a lot of players that are presently playing at a very good level. And that makes a big, big difference.”

So does that mean the red and white could be potentially be spending a lot of time chasing the ball against the U.S.?

“If we’re chasing the ball it means we’re not defending very well,” said Hart. “But I told the players that I don’t want to focus on us designing a complete plan to stop the U.S. from playing and then when you go down to Cuba you have to sort of play your game.

“We have to come out there with an attitude that we play our game with the qualities we’re good at and be consistent with it.”


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