Home Canadian Soccer Hutchinson likely to miss upcoming World Cup qualifiers: Hart

Hutchinson likely to miss upcoming World Cup qualifiers: Hart

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Atiba Hutchinson PHOTO: CANADIAN SOCCER ASSOCIATION

Canada likely won’t have reigning national player of the year Atiba Hutchinson available for the beginning of the World Cup qualifying schedule.

Canadian national team coach Stephen Hart said in a conference call Thursday that Hutchinson is still recovering from meniscus surgery in June. The injury forced Hutchinson to miss two of Canada’s three games at the Gold Cup.

Hart said PSV Eindhoven isn’t rushing Hutchinson back.

“Atiba Hutchinson is more than likely not available, he’s starting back training very slow,” said Hart. As qualifying progresses through October and November, Hutchinson’s availability will be on a “game by game” basis.

But, Patrice Bernier, who spent the summer recovering from a fractured fibula, is back training. He may be an option in midfield.

And, striker Rob Friend is carrying a “slight injury.”

Canada opens its second-round World Cup qualifying group stage schedule on Sept. 2, when it hosts St. Lucia at Toronto’s BMO Field. Canada will need to top a group that also includes Puerto Rico and St. Kitts and Nevis in order to qualify for the third round.

Canada travels to Puerto Rico Sept. 6.

With the status of those players up in the air, Hart fielded the inevitable questions about Canadian players who have yet to declare for this country; namely Blackburn Rovers midfielder Junior Hoilett, Mallorca’s Jonathan de Guzman and Kryliya Sovetov’s teenager from Thornhill, Ont., Joseph Di Chiara.

As for Di Chiara, Hart and the national team are aware that he’s got some time in Kriliya Sovetov’s starting lineup, and will “monitor him more closely” in the future.

And the door is open for Di Chiara to move into the Canadian midfield “if there’s a situation where we can bring him in, and he wants to come in,” said Hart.

As for de Guzman, who had earlier declared his intention to play for the Netherlands but is still eligible to play for Canada — Hart said there are “a lot of complications” because he chose to give up his Canadian passport.

There is also nothing new from the Hoilett camp.

“There’s no difference in the situation with Hoilett,” said Hart. “He wants to establish himself contractually, then he will make a decision about international football.”

Hart, who took Ali Gerba from the NASL ranks for the Gold Cup, said he’s still willing to look at players from North America’s second division, as long as they are playing regularly.

As well, it’s a difficult time for Hart to be picking a team. While MLS and northern European countries are playing their league schedules, most of the major European circuits are still in preseason.

“It does make it difficult,” said Hart. “They (Canadian players in European preseason) are in preseason, so they are traveling all over the place.”

After Hart finished the conference call, the Canadian Soccer Association released ticketing info for the three Canada home games, which will all take place in Toronto (After Puerto Rico, Canada takes on St. Lucia Oct. 7 and has Nov. 11 date with St. Kitts and Nevis). As the CSA hinted earlier this week, fans can buy tickets to all three games as part of a package; supporters who buy tickets to all three games get a 15 per cent discount plus a 30 per cent rebate voucher on Umbro Team Canada merchandise at the stadium.

Tickets go on sale Aug. 8 through Ticketmaster. Individual game seats will range from $20-$75 each.

Hart said that there is no guarantee that Toronto will be the venue for Canadian national-team games if his squad progresses to the next round. He said a the major reason for going with one venue for all the games was the lack of time Canada had to prepare for the qualifiers. The first game is less than a month away.

“The planning was left so late,” said Hart. “We had a difficult time getting the entire squad on one plane to travel.”

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