The Canadian men flew south to El Salvador on Tuesday to take the next step on their remarkable World Cup qualifying journey.
And while coach John Herdman and the players keep their eye on the prize, they know the support they have behind them as they inch closer and closer to Qatar 2022.
“We had a good chat about that with the players,” Herdman said prior to jumping on the team charter ahead of Wednesday’s game in San Salvador. “We feel that the country is really coming with us. And it’s exciting.”
The Canada coach cited special moments with the home crowd after wins over the U.S., Panama and Mexico in Hamilton, Toronto and Edmonton, respectively.
“Just moments you have to live. You have to soak it all in,” he said. “And then the next day you get back to work.
“I’ve got some really top-level leaders in this team that have lived big experiences, so they know what comes with the territory. They know that we’ve got to tune out that noise at the right time and get back to being humble, feet on the ground. And knowing that if we don’t take three points here, Panama win, Mexico, U.S.A. win, you’re back in the fight again. You’re back into the scrap of making sure you’re in a position to not finish in fourth place.
“So it’s massive game. And these players are well aware.”
Canada (6-0-4, 22 points) tops the eight-team standings in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying, with a four-point bulge over Mexico and the U.S. (both 5-2-3, 18 points). Panama (5-3-2, 17 points) stands fourth, four points above Costa Rica (3-3-4, 13 points).
Come March, the top three countries will represent North and Central America and the Caribbean in Qatar. The fourth-place finisher will face an Oceania team in an intercontinental playoff to see who joins them.
A win Wednesday combined with other results could see the Canadian men seal qualification.
Should Canada beat El Salvador (upping its total to 25 points), and Panama lose to Mexico, the U.S. lose to Honduras and Costa Rica lose or draw against Jamaica, the 40th-ranked Canadians would be through. That would open the door for Canada since Panama plays the U.S. in March — and under that scenario one of them would be unable to overtake Canada — while Costa Rica can’t drop any points if it is to reach the 25-point mark.
A more likely scenario could see Canada guarantee itself at least a fourth-place finish after play Wednesday.
El Salvador (2-5-3, nine points), Jamaica (1-5-4, seven points) and Honduras (0-7-3, three points) cannot catch Canada.
Herdman’s team has a nine-point cushion over fifth-place Costa Rica. A Canadian win Wednesday coupled with a Costa Rica loss or tie in Jamaica would mean the Costa Ricans could not catch Canada, assuring the Canadian men of at least a fourth-place finish.
A Canada tie in El Salvador coupled with a Costa Rica loss would also guarantee the Canadians at least fourth place.
Herdman says his team is aware of the dangers coming off the emotional high of Sunday’s win over the U.S. And he is not taking El Salvador lightly, noting its strength at home where it tied the U.S., Honduras, Jamaica and Panama with the lone loss to visiting Mexico.
He says his team is going into “a real CONCACAF experience” at Estadio Cuscatlan.
“I think every game I’ve seen El Salvador play, they’ve got a packed house. They’re fighting for their lives. They’re the underdogs. We know they never surrender the shirt in that stadium.”
It’s been a gruelling schedule with three games in three countries in a week. But Herdman says the Canadians have made the best of it.
“It’s been demanding. But I think when you’re winning, it changes everything. I can imagine what this would be like if you’d lost those two games. It would be probably the toughest experience of our careers. But when you’re winning, the sun shines. These trips don’t feel burdensome. We’re just excited now to actually get to El Salvador.”
Herdman’s backroom team has also worked hard to ease the travel. The Canadian men have flown by charter, taking chefs with them and having security in place while opting to spend as little time on hostile ground as possible.
“The mindset of the group has been just embrace and enjoy these moments,” he said.
Canada is 9-5-4 all-time against El Salvador and won 3-0 when they met last September in World Cup qualifying play at Toronto’s BMO Field. It is 2-2-2 in games in El Salvador, last winning there in December 1996.
After Wednesday, Canada wraps up qualifying play at Costa Rica on March 23, at home to Jamaica on March 26 and at Panama on March 29.
El Salvador, whose roster includes former Toronto FC defender Eriq Zavaleta, is coming off a 2-0 win in Honduras. It lost 1-0 to the U.S. in Columbus to open the international window.
With centre back Steven Vitoria suspended after picking up a second yellow card, Canada has called up CF Montreal defender Zachary Brault-Guillard.
Midfielder Samuel Piette limped out of last week’s victory in Honduras and is deemed day-to-day.
Canada remains without Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies, who has been sidelined by myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, after testing positive for COVID-19. The 21-year-old from Edmonton has still been putting on a show, however, live-streaming on Twitch as he watches Canada’s games.
On the plus side, Herdman said influential midfielder Stephen Eustaquio, who missed both the Honduras and U.S. games after Portuguese reports he had tested positive for COVID, was awaiting the team in El Salvador.
Defiant Serena Williams takes aim at Wimbledon title – The Globe and Mail
Since she hasn’t done this for a while, Serena Williams was not in top press-conference form this weekend.
At her best, Williams may be the most electric speaker in sport. She bops between playfulness and simmering rage, often in the space of a single question. The way she stares through questioners puts most of them on the stammering defensive before they’ve said anything.
But now back at Wimbledon after what was essentially a sabbatical year, she lacked that mojo. Short answers. Less cheek. Zero flashes of annoyance.
Then a German reporter tossed her a softball: “What would be a good outcome for you?”
Williams is 40. She hasn’t played a meaningful singles match since blowing her hamstring at this tournament last year. She’s only here because Wimbledon gave her a free pass.
“Oh yes,” Williams said, like she’d been waiting for this one. She closed her eyes and lowered her voice to a purr. “You know the answer to that. Come on now.”
Laughter in the room. An amused eyeroll from the star.
Then someone else followed with the same question asked a slightly different way and Williams iced him with the same answer: “You guys know the answer to that.”
The tone made it very clear no one should try for a third.
Other questioners tried to draw her on Roe v. Wade and the Russia ban. Williams passed both times. It was a lesson to her colleagues throughout sport – there’s no law that says you must have a public opinion on everything.
Finally, here was the imperious Williams that we have missed. Now let’s see if that dominance can be transferred a few hundred feet onto the court.
Many sports stars dominate their little patch of the field, but few have controlled their whole environments the way Williams has. In the latter half of her career, it often seemed that she could beat opponents by Vulcan mind-melding them from distance. The match would be going their way. Williams would fix them with her thousand-yard stare. And then – whoop! – it’d be going Williams’s way.
Then the injuries started up. And the disappointments in major tournament finals. And the rock in her shoe that is Margaret Court’s 24 grand slam titles (Williams is stuck on 23).
Williams is the most dominating women’s player ever. You don’t need to understand tennis to understand that. All you need are eyes. But until the numbers fall her way, some dingdong is always going to say, “Yeah, sure, but …”
She has steadily denied it, but that appeared to get in Williams’s head. Her mien was still total control, but opponents no longer feared her. Broadcasters stopped mooning about her the whole way through matches. When they did tell Williams stories, they started having a “back in my day” feel. It must feel bizarre to have your professional obit written in real time while you’re still working. Here, she felt compelled to start off her presser with, “I didn’t retire.”
A year away won’t have helped any of that. Nor will the new job title. Everyone else she plays in her two weeks here – come on now – will be a tennis professional. Grinding it out on the tour 10 months a year, racking up the AmEx points.
Williams had been a tennis part-timer for a while, but now she’s more of an occasional worker. A dabbler, even. Her steady gig is as a venture capitalist.
“I’m currently out of the office for the next few weeks,” Williams said.
Her company raised more than US$100-million in seed money in the spring. It’s a good fit. I mean, are you going to say no to Serena Williams? And if you do, how do you plan on getting out of the room? She is a lot faster than you.
So now Williams is not only fighting younger, presumably fitter players, her age and a lack of practice. She’s taking on the whole idea of doing sports for a living. Though she will make money here, Williams has become an amateur. Because one way of defining that word is “someone who does something for fun.”
Williams is currently ranked 411th in the world. She’s not about to start climbing that ladder again. She’s doing this because she can and why not?
If she makes it through a couple of rounds, nobody’s going to feel weird about that. She’s Serena Williams. She can still win matches with The Look.
But if she puts a real dent in this tournament, the modern game is going to look slightly ridiculous. Everyone in it never shuts up about their up-when-it’s-still-dark workout routine and their strength coach and the sports psychologist who sleeps in a cot beside their bed. If the louche star of yesteryear who practises when he feels like it and enjoys a boozy night out were to time warp into the present day, he’d be shunned.
(Not that such players don’t still exist. Just that they’ve figured out they shouldn’t talk about it.)
So what would it say if Williams – her life full of other responsibilities, coming off a bad injury and only having swung a racket in anger as a doubles player about a week ago – were to excel here? It would put the lie to sport’s productivity cult.
When someone tried to put her on the spot about being spared a first-round match against world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, Williams’s expression flattened: “Every match is hard … and anyone could have been drawn to me.”
There have always been a bunch of reasons to be fascinated by Williams. She divides opinion, but two things cannot be argued – her quality and her charisma. She’s an all-timer in both instances. Her place at the top of the pyramid is already assured.
But floating into London in June on a working holiday, seemingly expecting to win Wimbledon? How great would that be? You guys know the answer to that.
Stanley Cup headed for repair shop after drop by Avalanche’s Aube-Kubel – Sportsnet.ca
It didn’t take long for the Stanley Cup to suffer some damage following the 2021-22 season.
Mere minutes after the Colorado Avalanche beat the Tampa Bay Lightning to claim the title on Sunday night, Avs forward Nicolas Aube-Kubel fell while skating with the Cup toward the traditional on-ice team photo.
Aube-Kubel dropped the Cup — and the result was predictable.
“I don’t even know if they even had it five minutes and there’s a dent at the bottom already,” Phil Pritchard, the Hockey Hall of Fame’s keeper of the Cup, said in an NHL Twitter post.
“Right in the middle of the team photo. It’s the third time the Avalanche have won it. I guess we have a little chat with them soon and go through the process of how we’re going to repair it and that. But the Stanley Cup tour will go on.”
Like all sports trophies, the Cup has taken its share of body blows over the years. But this one was unique.
“I guess it’s a new record today, five minutes into the presentation it has happened. It’s the first time it’s ever happened on the ice,” Pritchard said.
Alex Newhook Becomes Third Newfoundlander To Win The Cup – VOCM
Newfoundland and Labrador’s Alex Newhook is a Stanley Cup Champion.
The Colorado Avalanche finally dethroned the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning Sunday night, holding on for a 2 -1 victory and taking the series 4-2.
Newhook becomes the third Newfoundland player to win the Cup, following Daniel Cleary of Harbour Grace and Bonavista’s Michael Ryder.
Newhook had four points in 12 games this post-season and, at the age of 21, becomes the youngest player from this province to ever win the Cup.
Anticipation now builds toward this summer when it’s expected Newhook and the Cup will make the trip home.
— Shawn Newhook (@shawn_newhook) June 27, 2022
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) June 27, 2022
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