Soccer

Canada kicks off CONCACAF Gold Cup against Martinique

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The Canadian Press
7/7/2013 2:50:04 AM
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PASADENA, Calif. -- Colin Miller's tenure as head coach of the Canadian men's soccer team is coming to an end, and he wants at least one victory before he makes way for his successor.

His best shot may come Sunday when Canada opens the CONCACAF Gold Cup against Martinique.

"I don't want to say I was desperate but I'm as close to desperate as you can imagine. We've played some very good games during my time as the interim head coach," said Miller, who will stay on until Benito Floro takes over in August.

"Personally, I'd love to get that first win under my belt because it's very important to me. I care very much about what we're doing as an association and I'm excited about it."

Miller has been in charge of three of Canada's four international friendlies in 2013. Combined with his previous stint as interim boss in 2003-04, Miller is still winless. It's now seven international games without a win and Miller doesn't want it to reach eight.

Canadian Soccer Association president Victor Montagliani let Miller know on Wednesday about Floro's hiring. But, despite the impending regime change for the team, Miller was informed that for the next month he's still the man in charge.

"Montagliani gave me a call just before training and said it was absolutely status quo," said Miller before the team's final training session at the Rose Bowl on Saturday. "It's my show throughout the whole process. Mr. Floro will be in attendance and watching the whole team and I will just continue to do the best job that I can possibly do along with my entire staff. Nothing has changed."

Canada first faces Martinique, taking on a team that's not a FIFA member since it's still a French territory, before more difficult tasks in Mexico and Panama.

But while Martinique may present the best chance of a win, the fact that they remain something of a mystery is their biggest advantage.

"Obviously the Panamanians and the Mexicans are great teams, but they're known quantities. With Martinique we don't really know what to expect," said captain Will Johnson. "I'm not sure what any game is easier than the other, to be quite honest with you."

Most of the Martinique players play domestically and are noticeable by their size. After their own training session ended, the group was remarkable by their abundance of players who stand over six feet.

Johnson, who is also the captain of the Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer, does have one familiar face on the opposing side. Veteran player Frederic Piquionne also calls Portland home.

In the press conference prior to the Martinique training session, a wide grin spread across Piquionne's face when he was asked about the prospect of playing his club-mate. Johnson says pride will be on the line between the two club teammates.

"I said I was just going to tackle him and make sure we got the win because it would be tough to go back without three points," Johnson said with a grin. "It will help me credibility-wise with the guys if I go back with the three points."

Martinique is making a return to the Gold Cup for the first time since 2002 when they reached the quarter-finals only to be knocked out by the Canadians on penalty kicks.

Only goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld and Julian de Guzman remain from that team as Canada goes through a changing of the guard after last year's elimination from World Cup qualifying.

With the likes of Dwayne De Rosario left off the roster and midfielder Atiba Hutchinson still sorting out his club future, the next generation of talent has an opportunity to prove itself and Canada will likely be fielding a mix of a veteran core with some youth sprinkled in.

"We've got a young group that's probably a little bit naive of what to expect but that's a good thing," Johnson said.

"It's something I'm excited about to see how those guys react, how they're going to perform in front of big crowds and intense pressures. Either way we're going to learn a lot about ourselves in a short amount of time so I think there's a lot of positives to be gained from that regardless of the results."

Notes: D.C. United midfielder Kyle Porter was added to Canada's 23-man list, replacing injured Nana Attakora. However, he will not report to training camp unless the coaching staff calls on him. Porter has been capped twice for Canada.

Colin Miller (Photo: Bob Levey/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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