Canada's men's soccer team opens Pan Ams with...
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Jul 11, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Canada's men's soccer team opens Pan Ams with tough test

The team’s first group stage match against Brazil on Sunday in Hamilton could prove to be their toughest test of the tournament

OurWindsor.Ca

While the senior squad competes at the Gold Cup, the Canadian men’s under-23 team will use the Pan Am Games to show what the next generation of Canadian players can do.

And they’ll be expected to show it early: the team’s first group stage match against Brazil on Sunday in Hamilton could prove to be their toughest test of the tournament.

It’s a game Canadian head coach Antonio Floro called “really important” for his squad nearly a month ago when the 18-player roster was announced.

“I’m happy with our squad because I know the majority of the players. We know how they can work with us and develop. I hope that we can reach the semi-finals,” he told Canada Soccer in June.

Unlike on the women’s side, Canada had no choice but to field a young squad at the Games. Like in the Olympics, the competition is only open to under-23 teams.

This summer’s tournament is a warm-up for the team’s Olympic qualifiers, which should begin in the fall.

Only seven players — Caleb Clarke, Keven Aleman, Manuel Aparicio, Jackson Farme, Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé, Manjrekar James and Chris Mannella — have debuted with the senior team.

Sherbrooke, Que., native Gagnon-Laparé, 20, a central midfielder, has appeared the most, with five international caps to his name, including one start.

Canada will be without striker Cyle Larin, the first Canadian to be selected No. 1 overall in the MLS draft earlier this year, midfielders Russell Tiebert and Samuel Piette and goalkeeper Quillan Roberts, all of whom would have qualified in the age category but were called on by the senior squad for the CONCACAF tournament.

It’s a loss for Canada’s Pan Am side as they face favourite Brazil as well as Peru and Panama in the group stages. But the Canadians are lucky to have escaped a Group B fate, which includes fellow favourites Paraguay and Uraguay, with holders Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago.

The top two teams from each group will advance to the semi-finals.

They Canadians will rely on midfielder Aleman, who plays professionally in Costa Rica, to inject some spark into Canada’s attack.

Aleman has quality strikers ahead of him to link up with, including Clarke, a Vancouver Whitecaps 2 forward in the United Soccer League, and Molham Babouli, who plays for Toronto FC in the same league, the third tier professional league in North America.

The Canadians, who are playing in their first Pan Am Games since finishing fourth in Winnipeg in 1999, will be looking for a result Sunday. Should they fall behind to the Brazilians, Canada will want to keep the deficit to a minimum so that a negative goal difference won’t come back to haunt them come elimination time.

Canada will next play Panama on Thursday before finishing off group play against Peru on Monday July 20. All three games will be held in Hamilton.

Toronto Star

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