By Ivan Orozco
DENVER – Jonathan Osorio stared at the Sports Authority Field grass as he walked towards the tunnel after Canada’s 0-0 draw with Panama on Sunday. The Canadian midfielder then peered up into the stands and clapped with his hands over his head, thanking the fans scattered throughout Sports Authority Field for their support.
The Canadians were eliminated from the CONCACAF Gold Cup after playing to a scoreless draw against Panama, the Group A winner.
Even though he and his team failed to qualify for the quarterfinals, Osorio will benefit from this Gold Cup experience. There undeniable bright spots for Canada despite it not scoring a goal in three group matches.
Osorio was one of a handful of young players with minimal national team experience on interim head coach Colin Miller’s roster. The 21-year-old from Toronto played in his first two official matches and said it was some kind of reward for his recent hard work. The kind of effort landed him a professional contract with Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC earlier this year. Osorio spent much of 2012 playing with Toronto’s reserves.
“This year is been going real well for me. I’ve been improving really fast and the coaches on the national team took notice,” Osorio said. “They called me up for a friendly in March against Costa Rica and I am here now in the Gold Cup. We haven’t gotten the results we wanted but it’s been a good experience for me. I am sure I will learn from this for the future.”
The future holds a rebuilding process for Canada. It started with the hiring of a new coach, Benito Floro, who will take the reins on August 1. After being with the team for the Gold Cup, Miller sees potential.
“There’s a real strong core of players here to build a strong program here,” Miller said in his final news conference as Canada coach. “I think in Canada we have to be more realistic in what we are capable of. We have to push our players into leagues throughout the world. The more we do that the better we will be. We have to be brave and give our Canadian younger players a chance.”
Miller is referring to players such as Osorio, who has roots in Latin America. The 21-year-old’s family is originally from Colombia and migrated to Toronto before he was born.
“I think there are more players with Latino backgrounds on the national team and the Canadian national team is noticing and they like their style of play,” said Osorio, a former player in the youth teams of Uruguay’s Nacional. “Every time Colombia plays they (his family) cheer for them, I cheer for them, too. It’s my blood.
“But I’m Canadian now so they are fans of Canada now.”