TORONTO – BMO Field will be red on Tuesday night, just in a different way.
Toronto FC’s home stadium will welcome the Canadian National Team midweek as they face the US side in a high-stakes Concacaf Nations League contest.
Placed in Group A alongside Cuba, Canada and the US will meet twice in the coming weeks – Tuesday in Toronto and November 15 in Orlando, Florida. With Canada having won both their matches against the Cubans in September by a combined score of 7-0 and the US equalling that feat in their first meeting, who progresses to the Final Championship stage of the competition will most likely come down to these two encounters.
Canada know what is at stake and are ready for the challenge.
“The spirit has been good in camp,” said TFC midfielder Jonathan Osorio from national team training on Friday. “We’ve been progressing along and everyone is excited for another match.”
Osorio laid out three elements on the table for Canada.
“More than anything to make a bigger gap in the group, that’s one,” he began. “Two, it could win us some good ranking points, which is important now with the way Concacaf has set up World Cup qualifying. And three it’s against a good opponent – another chance for us to prove ourselves. So for those three reasons, it’s a good game.”
He is joined in John Herdman’s side by two TFC teammates, Richie Laryea and Liam Fraser.
“Everyone knows it’s a very big game,” echoed Laryea. “Very big points for us and also the respect we deserve within North and Central America. It’s a big one for us, to make a statement to everyone.”
Representing Canada at their home pitch is always a treat for TFC players.
“I’ve done it a few times now, it’s always nice,” smiled Osorio. “This will probably be the biggest game I’ve had at BMO [with Canada], the magnitude. So it’s going to be exciting.”
“I expect a pretty good crowd, a good atmosphere,” he anticipated. “With TFC, with the national team, for me, it’s another day living my dream.”
It will be Laryea’s second time experiencing that pleasure. That, and the tactical similarities have helped him work his way into the squad.
“BMO is home for me and the other Toronto FC guys,” he said. “The national team carries very similar principles in how we want to play, how we play on the ball, the way we move the ball. It’s easy for me to transition.”
This time will add a new wrinkle though, as they will be facing off against another teammate: TFC captain Michael Bradley.
Jozy Altidore was forced to withdrawn after leaving Toronto’s win over Columbus Crew SC on Decision Day.
“I’m very excited,” said Bradley before departing for the US camp. “It’s a really unique opportunity to play for my national team at home. Given that I’m American, living in Toronto, calling Toronto home, to have that opportunity is really special, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Bradley has kept an eye on the rise of the Canadian side in recent outings.
“They have a lot of exciting young players,” he said. “Some talented guys in Europe, who have started to get big experience there. They have guys who are playing key roles on big teams here in MLS. I know for them, and for all of Canada, Canadian supporters, people should be excited because it’s a team that has so much potential and their best days are still coming. Should be fun for everybody to watch over the next years.”
TFC head coach Greg Vanney plans to be there, observing.
“I’ll root for our players and then I’ll watch for an entertaining game, what the two teams are trying to do tactically and things like that,” said the former US international diplomatically. “It’ll be an interesting game, we’ll see how it plays out.”
“Canada have got a good group of players, they’re still working through their model and how they’re going to be successful on the defensive side and the US [under Gregg Berhalter], likewise, are still trying to settle into their rhythm, the speed at which they want to play. They have a sense of it, but there is still a lot they have to get sorted out. It should be an interesting game.”
With the start of the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs on Saturday come the visit of D.C. United, BMO Field will be rocking this week.
“These boys are going to give everything,” CanMNT coach Herdman promised. “Expect a level of physicality and commitment, but the key for us is that they’re able to not only show that physicality, but their talent.”
“We’ve got some top, top players. When they combine together and get on the same page,” relished Herdman. “You can really try to squeeze out the result, but if you squeeze too hard you won’t get the talent. We’ve got to keep it light, so we can bring that creativity.”
“[The fans] have seen Canadian grit before, seen us grind a 0-0 result, or maybe a 1-0 loss,” he added. “What we’ve got to push now is can our talented players really get the country excited about who we are now.”