If Canada wants to make a credible run for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, it has to find a way to ensure young Canadian players see more action at the club level, says veteran men's national team midfielder Julian de Guzman.
Speaking on the eve of a friendly against Moldova being played in Austria, de Guzman said it isn't easy for Canadians to get the playing time they need to develop so they can bring those skills to the national team, even though there are five professional teams in the country in two leagues.
Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver all have Major League Soccer teams while Edmonton and Ottawa are in the North American Soccer League, but de Guzman says young Canadians are still struggling to get the experience they need.
"That's something that Canadian football has to deal with," he said, suggesting younger players were getting more time and competing at a higher level a few years ago.
"If that could be fixed in the next couple of years, it would better the chances of qualifying for Russia."
It's not easy but still the most important thing a young player can do, he said.
"Get themselves at a stable cub level in North America or overseas."
After shaking one monkey off their back last week, the Canadian men's soccer team is looking to rid itself of another as they try for their first win since late 2012 Tuesday in Austria. Canada hasn't won a game since a 3-0 victory over Cuba in October 2012.
They also hadn't scored a goal in 14 months until last Friday's 1-1 draw against much higher-ranked Bulgaria.
De Guzman says a win Tuesday over Moldova would be an important step for the team to take as it rebuilds before their next World Cup run. Canada, currently ranked at 110 by FIFA, needs to move up and every friendly is crucial right now.
Moldova is ranked a little higher than Canada and is on a two-game winning streak after most recently beating higher-ranked Saudi Arabia 4-0, following a 3-0 win over 199th-ranked Andora in March.
De Guzman, a veteran Canadian midfielder, who currently plays for Skoda Xanthi in Superleague Greece, has been mentoring many of the young players brought in by new coach Benito Floro and he's looking for the team to kick up their play a notch as they seek that all-important win.
As for the possibility he might still be playing for Canada in 2018, he sounded torn. At 33 now, he said he would like to be there "if my legs could hold up.
"But in all honesty I would rather actually see younger guys take my spot. This is the idea of having a better national team. . . This is my goal for the national team."