By Brian Lowe, Date: 14/9/17 (Photo Credit Carolyn Ritchie)
The USA Hawks will go in as favorites for Saturday’s Americas Championship winner-takes-all showdown with archrivals Canada in Toronto.
The Americans only need a tie to clinch this year’s series after comprehensively beating Jamaica in Game 1, before the Reggae Warriors bounced back to defeat the Canadians in Game 2.
For the hometown Wolverines to have any chance of factoring into calculations for a series title they not only have to top their rivals from south of the border, something they haven’t been able to do since 2015, but they also need to win big.
Despite the tall order, however, Canadian head coach Ben Fleming isn’t perturbed by the prospect.
“With the [Toronto] Wolfpack playing as the curtain-raiser for this international means there will be plenty of rowdy fans,” he said.
“The players always tend to lift when they’re playing in front of 7,000+ fans, so the raucous atmosphere might provide the extra motivation we need to get our first win.”
Canada is on a six-game losing streak following the defeat by Jamaica, which was backed up by a loss to a Fijian residents side last weekend, but coach Fleming isn’t overly concerned about his players’ state of mind.
“I think our biggest focus is just playing to our strengths and executing properly and consistently.
“We haven’t really executed well in our last two games and it’s cost us dearly. Having composure under pressure is key, especially with playing the USA in a World Cup year.
“The Americans and their heritage players always come up here a little stronger and more eager to impress given that there is World Cup positions probably still available.”
On the flipside, the Hawks know they need to guard against complacency and coach Sean Rutgerson says they’re not reading too much into Canada’s two latest losses.
“We are concentrating on what we want to do in the game,” he said. “If we do that we will be hard to beat.
“We are confident we will get the win, although it’s going to be a tough task playing against Canada with a big home crowd behind them.”
While there are no injury concerns for the USA, there are some changes to the roster since their win against Jamaica with the inclusion of some experienced players.
“I am expecting a massive effort from the Canadians on home turf, and it should be a great test for us leading into the World Cup in October,” added coach Rutgerson.
Americas Championship schedule:
USA 48 Jamaica 6 – Jacksonville, FL (July 22, 2017)
Jamaica 28 Canada 14 – Kingston, Jamaica (August 26, 2017)
Canada v USA – Toronto, ON (September 16, 2017)