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Hutchinson downplays American friendly, plays up World Cup qualifiers

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Atiba Hutchinson
Canadian national team veteran Atiba Hutchinson’s attitude towards next Sunday’s friendly against the United States is understandably muted.

While the occasion is a special one — the Canadian Soccer Association’s centenary match, facing the Americans at BMO Field — it doesn’t count in the standings. The two World Cup qualifiers that come after it, do.

“The game against the States is not the most important,” said the 29-year-old Brampton native and PSV Eindhoven midfielder in a conference call with reporters on Monday from the Canadian team’s training camp in Sunrise, Fla. “We want to be ready for the qualifying games.”

Hutchinson was part of the Canadian squad that, four years ago got just one point out of the first two games in the second round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. There was deflating 1-1 draw with Jamaica in Toronto, and an even more disheartening loss to Honduras in Montreal. So, going into a June 8 road date with Cuba and a game in Toronto June 12 against Honduras, Hutchinson’s attitude is clear. It’s would be nice to get a result against Landon Donovan and the Americans, but it’s far more important to get six points out of the next two games.

“They (the U.S.) plays a lot of very good countries, and get a lot of very good results. But, we want to focus on ourselves, to look towards qualifying.”

Of course, Canada’s chances at qualifying took a hit when left-sided midfielder Josh Simpson was sidelined for what the Swiss League says is at least eight months. Last week, in BSC Young Boys’ final match of the season, Simpson broke his tibia, fibula and ankle — and surgery was required.

Hutchinson has been hampered by knee problems, and missed the first four months of the PSV season after a series of procedures. So he understands Simpson’s frustration.

“It’s a shame what happened to him (Josh) in the last week,” said Hutchinson. “We’re going to miss him a little bit, but we have to focus on the players we have here. Hopefully, Josh has a quick recovery.”

But Hutchinson said his knee is holding up well. In the second half of the season, he started 12 Eredivisie matches and twice came in as a substitute.

“It’s been going good. I’ve been feeling well, getting a lot of games and playing time.”

And, while there has been much discussion amongst soccer fans across the country about the decision to have the centenary game against the Americans and the next three home qualifiers at BMO Field, Hutchinson backed the decision of head coach Stephen Hart. He said the prolonged exposure in one market will help build a fan base.

“It’s important to have a home,” said Hutchinson. “And hopefully we get fans more and more interested in it…and, of course, it’s not as much travel as it would be heading out to the west coast. It’s a lot easier in terms of travel.”

RELATED:
U.S. names roster that will face Canada at BMO Field (CLICK)

Simpson undergoes surgery: BSC Young Boys releases statement (CLICK)

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