By Ivan Orozco
SEATTLE -- Not only did interim head coach Colin Miller’s team have to endure a last-gasp loss to Martinique, now Canada may face the loss of some key players.
Team captain and midfielder Will Johnson, midfielder Russell Teibert and forward Simeon Jackson most likely will not be available to face Mexico in a CONCACAF Gold Cup Group A encounter on Thursday.
Johnson went home with an illness Wednesday. Teibert is also sick at the team’s hotel and Jackson left to sign a contract with his new club Eintracht Braunschweig, which was recently promoted to the German Bundesliga.
“The plot just got bigger for us,” Miller said on Wednesday. “As a door closes, another slams right in our face. I’m blown away with the bad luck that we’ve had the last week. I must have done something wrong in my lifetime to have this bad luck. But our players are behind us.”
A set of young players with minimal international experience now comprise a significant portion of the roster.
Julian de Guzman is one of the few veterans left on the Gold Cup roster. There is a high possibility that he will wear the captain’s arm band against Mexico.
“To wear the captain’s armband is a huge honor, but at the end of the day we have more than just one captain on the team,” de Guzman said. “A lot of guys have shown great leadership and I think that’s been a huge impact for the team. Whether one or the other has the armband we’ve been able to keep together and lead as a team.”
Canada needs at least a point against Mexico to increase its chances of reaching the quarterfinals in Atlanta.
“Playing against Mexico is like playing one of the biggest teams in the world,” de Guzman said. “This is a great motivation to us.”
At the same time, Miller wants his players to see this as another match.
“If we build Mexico to be a super program then we might as well just give the three points,” Miller said. “Why can’t Canada win? Sure we can. Our players have to stay confident. Nothing is impossible.”
Panama could become group favorite
There has been a lot of talk about Panama’s win over Mexico at the Rose Bowl, even days after the game. Panama’s performance and the addition of veteran striker Blas Perez to the roster could make the team the favorite to win Group A.
“To have Blas available is important to us,” Panama coach Julio Dely Valdes said. “He is a staple of this national team, but so is each player on this team. As for our confidence, that win [against Mexico] has to give us the confidence that we can do some good things. We can’t think about being champions yet we have to take it step-by-step.”
The next step for Panama is taking on Martinique, which is coming off a 1-0 win against Canada with a late goal.
“Martinique has very good players,” Dely Valdes said. “We have been able to see that it’s an aggressive team that constantly fights for every ball. They have speed to counter attack. It’s a team that can score. They could have scored plenty of goals against Canada had they finished their chances.”
Les Matinino likes to be under the radar
Martinique entered the tournament as an underdog, but don’t tell that to head coach Patrick Cavelan. During a press conference at CenturyLink Field on Wednesday, he said that his team came to win games.
“We have to think big and use our imagination,” Cavelan said. “You have to think big. Yes, our win might have come as a surprise but our players know what they can do and know where they are from and where we are trying to go. It’s not a surprise. If we beat Canada, it won’t be luck. It will be our hard work.”
Goalkeeper Kevin Olimpa agreed.
He said that he sees a quality team within his national squad and a quality team for Panama.
“I don’t know much about Panama I know more about Mexico and the U.S. but I’ve begun to understand how Panama plays,” Olimpa said. “I think they have a real good level of play and they can become a dangerous team if they continue to win.”