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Uzbekistan next up as Canadian men's soccer team fine-tunes

The opposition is Uzbekistan tonight but Canada has its sights already trained on Honduras and El Salvador.

The opposition is Uzbekistan tonight but Canada has its sights already trained on Honduras and El Salvador.

With regular starter Milan Borjan nursing an injured wrist, Simon Thomas of Victoria will likely get the start again tonight for his fourth career cap in goal when No. 93 Canada concludes its two-game men’s soccer exhibition set in Europe following the 1-1 tie Friday against No. 138 Azerbaijan.

Canada is preparing for the crucial final two games at Honduras on Sept. 2 and against El Salvador at B.C. Place on Sept. 6 of its CONCACAF qualifying group for Russia World Cup 2018. Those two matches will decide which one of that trio advances out of the group with Mexico to the final round of CONCACAF qualifying, also known as the Hex.

World No. 66 Uzbekistan is also prepping for its Asian group World Cup qualifiers against Syria and Qatar in September.

One of Canada’s key defenders, Adam Straith of Victoria, started against Azerbaijan but will not play tonight. He is back in Norway because of commitments with his pro team Fredikstad SK. Also flying back to their pro clubs are Marcel de Jong and Julian De Guzman of the Ottawa Fury.

“We are looking forward already to the September games against Honduras and El Salvador, so we took the game on Friday and this upcoming game tonight, as a chance to train some of the things we want to do in those two very crucial games,” said Straith, from Norway.

“Obviously, we want to win the games now, but that is not the most important thing. It was also a chance for us to try a couple of players in new positions, and to give some guys their first games for the national team.”

Every option must be considered.

“We have good depth on the national team and we are going to need it for the games in September. The game [tonight] is another chance for the boys to try and improve our performance from Friday’s game.”

Club and country keeps elite players busy on two tracks.

“It’s been a slow start for my team in Norway this year, but it’s still quite early in the season. We still have around 20 games left,” said Straith.

The six-foot-three Thomas, like Straith out of Bays United and Lower Island Metro, was nine when he first put up his hand when the regular goalkeeper was away. He continues to keep raising it.

“I see myself up there one day [as Canadian starter],” Thomas said, in November, after signing a three-year pro deal with Norwegian club Bodo/Glimt of the top-level Tippeligaen.