GROS ISLET, Saint Lucia - Canada will be without captain Kevin McKenna when it faces St. Lucia in a World Cup qualifying match Friday. And on Thursday, the Canadian men were also missing goalposts.
Training at the Beausejour Cricket Oval, the Canadians had to put together two mini-goals to get something to shoot at during their scrimmage.
The goalposts used in St. Lucia's last home game a month ago against St. Kitts and Nevis weren't up to FIFA standards so while new goals were being welded — hopefully in time for Friday's game — the Canadians were forced to improvise.
"I might have liked to have done a bit of shooting," Canadian head coach Stephen Hart said with a shrug.
With McKenna out with a foot injury, there will be a new man wearing the captain's armband but Hart wouldn't divulge who it is, other to say than it will be a surprise game time.
Creating scoring chances hasn't been Canada's main concern in their previous two wins over St. Lucia and Puerto Rico but finishing them has been an issue. In the 4-1 in over St. Lucia last month, Canada had 30 shots at goal but faced some criticism about not finishing more of them.
"We're creating the chances and hopefully they will start to come. They players know when they've made mistakes and I don't need to reinforce that," said Hart. "I mean if it was a team issues and things we're not doing well off the ball, that's more my responsibility.”
If anything, playing against lower-ranked opponents (St. Lucia is ranked 185th while Canada sits at No. 87) gives Canada ample opportunity to work on finishing the chances they're given, as they'll likely have fewer should they advance to the next round as expected.
"That's why (Hart) and (assistant coach Tony Fonseca) have been high on our concentration. They want to make sure that these chances, we'll have them. It's just a matter of us putting them in," said midfielder Julian de Guzman. "If we could do that in this game, knowing that we'll get our chances, I think you'll see a lot more confident Canadian national team."
Playing in the evening will at least give the Canadians a break from the heat. That wasn't the case Thursday when the team took a number of water breaks during the training session right before noon with the temperature in excess of 40 degrees with the humidity factored in.
The weather shouldn't be as bad as Canada's last game. Last month's 3-0 win over Puerto Rico in San Juan was played in muggy, stale air. While it should still be hot at kickoff, the stadium in St. Lucia, which is usually used for cricket, is close enough to the ocean that the occasional steady wind does help.
"There's a nice breeze blowing. The grass itself is a bit long but it's smooth and it's nice," said Hart. "It's got a cricket pitch in the middle that's basically concrete but other than that it's fine."
The stadium, built in 2002 and with a capacity of 13,000 spectators, is located in a rural area at the base of the Beausejour Hills, from which the stadium gets its name.
The stadium has hosted World Cup cricket games, and the large scoreboard still displays the rosters of the West Indies and Pakistan cricket teams. Since it wasn't designed with soccer in mind, the pitch is awkwardly angled inside the circular cricket oval meaning fans will be a good distance from the field.
Following Friday's game, the Canadians return to Toronto for Tuesday's return match against Puerto Rico at BMO Field. The Canadians currently top the group with six points. St. Kitts follows with four, Puerto Rico with one and St. Lucia is yet to get off the mark.
Only the top team in the group advances to the penultimate stage of CONCACAF qualifying.