Canadian national team head coach Stephen Hart thinks his side has been missing something for a long time.
No, it’s not Junior Hoilett or Jonathan de Guzman or another high-profile player who has yet to proclaim his loyalty to the Canadian program. Nor is it Joseph Di Chiara or Samuel Piette or some other new up-and-coming talent.
Hart is hoping to see a fiercely partisan home support the next time Canada play a home game.
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“Fans in general could be a big, big lift to a team,” Hart said in a conference call with Canadian media on Thursday. “Fans can actually make the opponents believe that they’re being outplayed just by their noise – the way they support the play, especially the attacking play.”
Hart made the proclamation in advance of tickets for Canada’s four home games at BMO Field in Toronto going on sale on Friday.
The CMNT’s home games in 2011 were played predominantly in front of Canadian supporters, but they were against minnows Puerto Rico, St. Lucia and St. Kitts. However, BMO Field, at 21,140 capacity, was only about half full for each of those games. Historically, home games haven't felt that way, as smaller Canadian support has been drowned out by larger and more vocal visiting supporters.
Canada’s upcoming home games this year include contests against the United States and Honduras – countries whose fans travel in much greater numbers and could drown out any Canadian support. Canada will be the underdog in most of those games and Hart knows that 12th man does make a difference.
“It gives the opponent the feeling that they’re being outplayed and they react differently to that sort of pressure,” he said. “On the other end, it lifts players that they know that all the fans are asking is that you wear the shirt with the pride it deserves and we’re here to support you and push you through.”
Canada’s home schedule opens on June 3 in a friendly against the US at BMO Field. They then head to Havana for the first game of the third round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2014 World Cup against Cuba on June 8 before coming back to Toronto for another crucial qualifier against Honduras on June 12.
The squad will assemble in Florida for a camp to acclimatize to the heat and humidity they’ll experience in Cuba before heading back to Toronto for the US friendly.