Canada prepares for unpredictable Jamaica

GLENDALE, Ariz. — After making headlines for all the wrong reasons, Canadian soccer star Cyle Larin is hoping his return to the Canadian national soccer team will lead to some positive news.

Larin trained for the first time with Canada on Monday after being added to the Canadian roster in advance of Thursday’s Gold Cup quarter-final against Jamaica at the University of Phoenix Stadium.

Canada could make up to six roster changes after finishing second in Group A behind Costa Rica but only brought in Larin to the 23-man squad, sending Raheem Edwards back to Toronto FC.

“Obviously, I want to play,” Larin told The Canadian Press at the team’s hotel on Tuesday afternoon. “My goal is to play and it’s to score goals and help the team win. I just have to come in here and work hard to get that position and to go on the field and score. I think the guys have done very well together. I just think I can bring a different piece and help the team by scoring goals.”

Larin played for Canada in a friendly against Curacao last month but got into trouble upon his return to Orlando, where he plays for the city’s Major League Soccer club. Larin was arrested after driving the wrong way on an Orlando street and was given a misdemeanour DUI alcohol or drugs charge after he failed a sobriety test.

Larin was left off the Canadian roster for the group stage and also missed some time with Orlando City SC to undergo MLS’ Substance Abuse and Behavioural Health Program.

The legal matters are still to be sorted out. But for now the focus is the Gold Cup, ands Larin adds to a team that advanced that from a group including Costa Rica, Honduras and Gold Cup newcomers French Guiana.

“Everything that needed to be said has been said,” said head coach Octavio Zambrano. “I’ve had my conversations with him when this thing happened. I think all of that doesn’t factor in anymore, for us. Life goes on and we need to show him that he is very much a part of this team and hopefully he can help us.”

Canada takes on Jamaica, which finished in second place in Group B.

The Jamaicans played powerhouse Mexico to a scoreless draw in group play. But Jamaica is also a team that needed penalties to beat French Guiana and then lost to Curacao in the Caribbean Cup a few months ago.

“Their unpredictability is difficult for any team because you are inevitably faced with a situation that anything can happen at any moment,” said Zambrano. “A lot what happens for them is individuals that can do stuff to change a game so we need to counter that with sticking to our own strengths and not veering to far from what we have done well.

“We have some cohesiveness that we are going to need to put into use in this match.”

With temperatures in the stratosphere in Arizona, Canada has been training in the evenings but the heat won’t be a factor on Thursday. The opulent stadium, home of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals, features a retractable roof that will likely be closed with the game taking place in climate-controlled comfort.

This is the first-time Canada’s reached this stage of the biennial tournament since 2009. It hasn’t reached the semi-finals since the 2007 tournament when it was eliminated by the United States.

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