Soccer  > General Soccer  > Canada seeks crowds as push to Gold Cup, 2014 starts
October 8, 2010, 03:34 PM
Winning away is usually more difficult than at home. For Canada, winning at home in front of an away crowd can be just as challenging.

"That can't happen in games at home, and in games in (World Cup) qualifying we have to have a sea of red and white out there and not the opposition's crowd," said defender and captain Paul Stalteri after Canada beat Honduras 2-1 recently in Montreal.

Following friendlies last month in Toronto and Montreal, coach Stephen Hart and his players bemoaned the lack of home support and called on fans to support Canada for the team to have a chance to qualify for Brazil in 2014.

"If the media and the people want to start criticizing the national team and say we can't win games at home, well, we have to have a home atmosphere, we have to have that 12th man in the stadium and if we don't have that then we're not really playing at home are we?"

A 2-0 loss to Peru in Toronto on September 4 drew 10,619 to 21,800-seat BMO Field - a stadium routinely sold out for Toronto FC matches. And 7,525, attended the Honduras game three days later in 13,000-seat Stade Saputo. Both were the first home matches for Canada since a World Cup qualifying loss to Mexico in 2008.

The Canadian Soccer Association said the game in Toronto was the fifth straight home match with an attendance of 10,000 or more - a record - and the attendance in Montreal was the largest for a national team game in the city.

However, the Toronto crowd was largely Peruvian, while significant numbers of Honduran fans helped comprise the Montreal attendance.

"The game???was a bit of a disappointment when the Peruvian fans probably outnumbered the Canadian fans," Stalteri said. "But sometimes we have to accept that in friendlies. But it's probably unacceptable to have that in games especially when it's a qualifier."

The loss to Peru dampened the hopes of Canada's faithful as the team begins its push toward next year's CONCACAF Gold Cup. But the victory over Honduras - which ended an eight-match winless streak - restored some morale.

Until the two-goal performance against Honduras, Canada had scored just once in its last seven matches. It's last multiple-goal game was in the group stage of the 2009 Gold Cup.

"First and foremost was to regain some our confidence, because we played well at the Gold Cup, but have been in a dark period in terms of losses and it was really nice to win especially on home soil," midfielder Patrice Bernier said.

"We don't play here that often, friendlies especially, so to finish off the 10-day camp with a good victory and especially the way we won, we showed that we had energy. We created some chances forward and for the public they want to see us come out and play to win and that's what we did tonight."

Striker Simeon Jackson, defender Adam Straith and midfielders Will Johnson and Josh Simpson - all 23 or younger - impressed many, with the first three specifically drawing praise from Peru coach Sergio Marakian.

Stalteri, who set the Canadian record with his 83rd cap against Los Catrachos, may not be part of the backline mix when qualifying starts in late 2011. With Stalteri, Richard Hastings, Kevin McKenna all over 30, the defense could take on a MLS flavor with D.C. United's Dejan Jakovic and the Toronto FC pairing of Nana Attakora and Adrian Cann anchoring the back.

Hart is continuing his depth search heading into next year's Gold Cup, bringing in more than a half dozen different players from the September friendlies for Friday's match against Ukraine at Kiev.

The preparations likely will begin in earnest come February, when Canada travels to play Greece.


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