|Canada aims to earn respect as an international soccer player|
|Gold Cup opportunity to advance to knockout round|
|Published Saturday, June 22, 2019 8:52 pm|
Canada’s Gold Cup journey ends in respect.
They sit second in Group A with three points, followed by Martinique with three and Cuba none going into the June 23 match against Cuba at Bank of America Stadium at 6 p.m. The top two teams in the group advance to the knockout round.
Canada’s only loss under coach John Herdman came Wednesday night in a 3-1 setback to group leader Mexico that ended a record six-game winning streak dating back to 2018.
“We end this path with respect, especially in Concacaf,” said Canadian defender Doneil Henry, who plays for the MLS Vancouver Whitecaps.
Henry, 26, who earned his first national team camp call-up at before his 20th birthday, became the first Toronto FC academy product to sign an MLS contract in 2010. He spent 2015-17 in Europe, making stops in England with West Ham, Blackburn Rovers, and Denmark AC Horsens.
“I know what it’s like to play in Europe, and they look at a Canadian player as less than a footballer,” Henry said. “My job is to help our country and leave this jersey in a better place when I’m done with the national team. I know that I was a part of changing the culture here.”
Herdman has been instrumental in Canada’s improvements.
“One of the first conversations I had with John was, ‘what was the culture like before?’” Henry said. “I couldn’t tell him, because we didn’t have a real mentality, or anything that you would want to know about Canadian football. Right now, we know what we have here in this country, and this is a great time, and a great place to start showcasing our talent, and what we can bring to international football.”
Said Herdman: “If we are ever going to catch up and overtake Mexico and USA, it’s gotta mean more to us than them when we get into those big moments.”
Canada’s next step is overcoming a moment of that magnitude.
“Some big moments are going to come, some tough moments where you we haven’t been able to cross that cavern,” Herd said. “When [the players] are that clear, and we’ve got the talent, there’s no excuses anymore. That’s what I envisioned, that someone could speak that passionately and clearly about why they wear that jersey. I’m not sure I’ve heard that before.”
Key to Canada’s development comes from their youth. Three of their 23 players were born in 2000, including Alphonso Davies, 18, who made a splash in the 2017 Gold Cup days after becoming a Canadian citizen. He became an MLS All-Star for the Whitecaps at 17, and left for Bundesliga’s Bayern Munich on Jan. 1 on a contract that will keep him with the club through 2023. His $13 million transfer fee is the highest in league history. Davies joined the Whitecaps F.C. Residency in 2015 and signed his first professional contract at age 16 with WFC2 in 2016. He made his MLS debut four months later.
“Based on the coach we have now, he brought us together really well,” Davies said. “The guys are really looking for him to be here for a while. He bring[s] a new identity, new ideas, and the boys are really loving it.”
Said Henry: “Whenever you go into a tournament, you plan to go all the way, and to go all the way, you need a full team. As a young player, you come in open-minded, and hoping to leave an impression on the coach for many years to come. We have a lot of young guys in the team right now who have made a case for themselves. Now John has a hard time picking who he wants to start. These are the good problems we have in Canada right now. We couldn’t say that for a few generations back. Tournaments like this, guys get to express themselves, full of confidence. We hope to have them in the national team for a long time.”
Canada, Mexico and the United States are the only teams to lift the Gold Cup, with Canada’s only trophy coming in 2000. The captain of that team, Jason deVos is now their director of development.
“We can feel Jason through his presence, and what he brought,” Henry said. “I’m a center half, so probably Jason is my biggest critic, but our relationship has grown so much, just because of his knowledge toward the game, and I’m eager and hungry to learn as much as I can from a guy like Jason.”
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