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Marsch sees plenty of positives in Copa campaign but says more work needs to be done

Argentina's Lionel Messi, left, vies for the ball with Canada's Derek Cornelius during a Copa America semifinal soccer match in East Rutherford, N.J., Tuesday, July 9, 2024. After losing to top-ranked Argentina for a second time at Copa America, the 48th-ranked Canadian men turn their attentions to Saturday's third-place game against either No. 12 Colombia or No. 14 Uruguay. For coach Jesse Marsch, it's another step on the road to the 2026 World Cup with plenty of progress already.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Julia Nikhinson
Original Publication Date July 10, 2024 - 1:21 PM

Seven games into his tenure as Canada coach, Jesse Marsch sees plenty of positives.

"Incredible strides," he summed up. "But there's still a lot to do … We're establishing things at some high levels but in order to be a real team that can hold up to the biggest moments and biggest matches, there's more work to be done. But certainly we're on a good path."

That path takes the team to Charlotte, N.C., on Saturday for the Copa America third-place game against No. 14 Uruguay, which lost 1-0 to No. 12 Colombia in Wednesday's semifinal.

Colombia will face No. 1 Argentina in Sunday's championship game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.

The 48th-ranked Canadians are looking for a podium finish in their first Copa America appearance after losing 2-0 to Argentina in semifinal play Tuesday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Named Canada coach on May 13, Marsch landed in the deep end with friendlies against No. 2 France and the seventh-ranked Netherlands before facing Argentina (twice), No. 40 Peru, No. 31 Chile and No. 54 Venezuela.

The Canadian men have gone 1-3-3 against that opposition, with one of those draws turning into a penalty shootout win (over Venezuela in the Copa quarterfinal).

In contrast, John Herdman's first seven games as Canada coach after taking over in January 2018 were against No. 120 New Zealand, the 199th-ranked U.S. Virgin Islands, No. 177 Dominica, No. 133 St. Kitts and Nevis, unranked French Guiana and Martinique, and No. 18 Mexico (all rankings at the time of the matches).

Canada's current lack of clinical finishing is an issue, with just two goals in five Copa games. And March acknowledged Canada could have made life easier on itself — and allowed him to go to his bench earlier and more often — if it had scored more.

"We have to do better there," he said, citing 14 "big chances missed" at the tournament.

"We have big talent and some great goal-scorers And I know we will continue to develop that … But the fact that we are getting big chances, the fact that we are still in the game, playing the way that we want to play, committing to all the things, that we want, in the end that's what will lead us to be more effective, more efficient, clearer, to have more game control — all of those things.

"So big credit after five weeks, against these opponents, for these guys to perform like this. And even though we didn't execute everything perfectly, clearly, clearly we're on a good path. Clearly."

Copa America has been gruelling in the summer heat with travel taking the Canadians from Atlanta to Kansas City, Orlando, Arlington, Texas, and East Rutherford before Saturday's finale in Charlotte.

After sticking with a core group of players for the tournament, Marsch said he planned to dig into his roster for Saturday's game, noting "we clearly ran out of legs (against Argentina)."

Marsh said Luc de Fougerolles, an 18-year-old defender with England's Fulham, could make his debut Saturday.

"He's been one of the best performers in camp," said the 50-year-old American.

The Canada coach also had positive news about captain Alphonso Davies, who hobbled off the pitch in the 71st minute Tuesday after a hard Argentine challenge.

An X-ray proved negative.

"Whether he'll be available for Saturday night it's too early to say," Marsch added.

The Canadian performance at the tournament has drawn attention.

Midfielder Ismael Kone, perhaps Canada's best player Tuesday, has left England's Watford for the French top tier with Marseille. Centre backs Moise Bombito (Colorado Rapids) and Derek Cornelius (Malmo, Sweden) have reportedly been targeted by other clubs.

Striker Jonathan David (Lille, France) continues to be linked with a number of English clubs while Davies' future with Bayern Munich remains up in the air, with reported interest from Real Madrid.

Canada will also rise in the FIFA rankings.

Widening the talent pool remains an objective, with Marsch saying he planned to take in Forge FC's CPL game against visiting Pacific FC on Sunday. Young talent has to be challenged at an earlier age and developed faster, he said.

"We've got to find a way to demand more out of the young players. And when I say young, I mean like 14, 15, 16, not 24 25, 26 … We actually have the athletes in this country. We do. But we need to now develop them in a way where they understand high-level football."

Canada has lost both previous matches with Uruguay, most recently falling 2-0 in September 2022 in Bratislava in a warm-up for the World Cup in Qatar. Uruguay won 3-1 when they met in February 1986 at the six-team Miami Cup, a tune-up for the World Cup in Mexico.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 10, 2024.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2024
The Canadian Press

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