Canadian men’s national team head coach John Herdman is preparing for the match against Mexico on Thursday night by instilling confidence in his players, admitting that their 2-1 Gold Cup defeat served as a turning point for the team.
During the game in the summer, Canada almost managed a 1-1 draw before Hector Herrera scored a late winner in the 99th minute. Despite the result, Herdman believes that match proved Canada is now up to par with North America’s best.
“We left a mark on them in that last game,” Herdman said in a pre-match press conference Wednesday. “And good teams, good players, championship teams, they step up. So we’re not a surprise anymore. So what we’re expecting is a big response from the Mexican team. We’ve got to be able to handle that.”
Herdman added that he saw a ‘little bit of fear in the Mexican team’ in that epic match and predicted, ‘they’ll raise their intensity, we’ve got to bring ours if we want to get this result’.
This time, however, Canada will enter the match without several key players, including goalkeeper Milan Borjan, captain Atiba Hutchinson, former Orlando City SC forward Cyle Larin and Vancouver Whitecaps striker Lucas Cavallini. Minnesota United goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair has been called up as Borjan’s replacement.
But Herdman is not concerned about the roster.
“Especially in these kinds of qualifiers, and the ways to set up for this cycle, with three games in such a space of seven or eight days, you need that,” he said of the national team’s depth across the roster.
“That’s what’s going to take you to the World Cup … we showed that in the Gold Cup, showed that in the last window as well. I think we had about 18 different players that started throughout the three games. So, yeah, we’re very confident with ourselves we’re confident with the players that come in, and we know that they’re going to get the job done. So, honestly, I think, as far as that goes, I think maybe we are one of the deepest in this region for sure.”
Canada is currently in second place, tied with the United States and Panama at five points each. Mexico leads the table with seven points after two victories and one draw during the September round of qualifiers.