- July, 18 2009 -
PHILADELPHIA - Another trip to the CONCACAF Gold Cup knockout stage, another frustrating and disappointing ending for Canada.
The Canadians were ousted in the quarterfinals by Honduras on Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field. The game's lone goal was a disputed 36th-minute penalty kick by Walter Martinez after Salvadorian referee Joel Aguilar ruled Canada captain Paul Staltieri pulled down Walter Martinez from behind during an attempted bicycle kick in the box.
Two years ago, a stoppage-time equalizer by Atiba Hutchinson was waived off in a 2-1 loss to the United States in the semifinals.
"It's very tough," Canada goalkeeper Greg Sutton said. "You look back two years ago and the same thing happened to us in the semifinals. It seems to be one-sided when it comes to the calls…It's frustrating because you know you work hard and then it's something that's out of your hands that costs you the game."
While the PK was the hot topic after the game, the Canadians didn't lose sight of another successful Gold Cup appearance. Canada was the surprise winner of Group A, beating El Salvador and Jamaica, while playing Costa Rica to a 2-2 draw.
"I'm very proud of the players, very proud of the whole team," Canada interim coach Stephen Hart said. "I think we showed a lot of character in a few games. We showed character in the Costa Rica game and, in the second half today, we showed that on another day we could have come away with a result."
Hart got a glimpse into the future of Canadian soccer during the tournament and the younger players, like 22-year-old midfielder Will Johnson, 24-year-old defender Dejan Jakovic, 22-year-old midfielder Marcel de Jong and 22-year-old midfielder Simeon Jackson didn't disappoint.
"The guys are really disappointed, but we know we beat some good opponents this tournament, everyone was ranked above us," Sutton said. "It gives us another stepping stone hopefully for preparation coming up in the next few years."
Indeed, disappointing ouster aside, there's a positive feeling around the Canadian squad, which is coming off yet another World Cup qualifying failure.
"Overall the guys did a good job throughout the whole tournament," midfielder Julian De Guzman said. "I guess the most important thing we achieved in this tournament is that we feel like a team again. That's something to be happy about."
Hart is a big reason for the camaraderie. He was also the interim coach in 2007 when the Canadians made their run to the Gold Cup semifinals.
"He knows this kind of group of players and he's able to dictate a type of style I think suits us," Sutton said. "He's a very knowledgeable person when it comes to the tactics of the game and knowing what he has to work with."
In other words, Sutton believes Hart is the perfect person to move Canadian soccer forward.
"I endorsed Stephen for the last four years," Sutton said. "I think he's the type of coach that suits Canada. He's a very intelligent and likable guy."
Hart, who coached many of the current Canadian players on the under-17 squad in 2001, also is the current technical director of the Canadian Soccer Association.
So does Hart want to take the job full-time, eliminating the interim tag and be the person to prepare Canada for a run at qualifying for the 2014 World Cup?
"I don't know," he said. "I'll suffer a little bit because of this result and then maybe think about that in a couple days time."