CMNT World Cup Qualifiers: Window #3

At the beginning of the window, Canada was at the top of the table after not conceding a loss in the final round. They are going into this window missing three important members of their squad. Alphonso Davies was diagnosed with myocarditis earlier in the month after a bout with COVID-19, David Wotherspoon with a long-term knee injury and Stephen Eustáquio contracting COVID-19 but he has been named to the squad. Another negative blow to the upcoming fixtures is that John Herdman decided to cancel the January training camp due to concerns regarding the Omicron variant. Canada looked to take full points against Honduras and El Salvador, who both sit at the bottom of the table, and then take advantage of their match against the Americans on home soil.

Honduras (0) vs. Canada (2)

A brilliant run by Tajon Buchanan down the touchline and eye popping footwork against Honduran defender and a cross into the box that led to an own goal gave Canada the lead in the 10th minute. It seemed fortunate for Canada to take the early lead because the events in the match seemed to go against Canada. 

The pitch was a mess in the first half, the Canadians seemed to struggle with their footing and slipped at the most inopportune times both on offense and defense. Honduras played a heavy physical match with many hard tackles that you can argue should have led to red cards. The referee thought otherwise, rewarding free-kicks rather than giving out cards. 

Midway through the second half, Milan Borjan made a brilliant save off a free-kick that was headed into goal. He made an outstretched one handed save to keep the Canadians ahead. Two minutes later, Jonathan David sealed the match for Canada. He took the long pass from Liam Fraser off his chest and found his way behind the defenders dinking the ball past the keeper and into the net. 

Canada got a much needed three points after the Americans got a one nil victory over El Salvador and Mexico clawed back in their match against Jamaica scoring two goals in two minutes. They remain at the top of the table one point ahead of their next opponents, the United States.

Canada (2) vs. USA (0)

Canada struck early in the match for the second time in a row. A goal kick blunder led to a brilliant demonstration of great touches by the Canadians. Kamal Miller won the initial header off the goal kick and pushes it forward to Jonathan Osorio who brilliantly redirects it to Cyle Larin. A one-two touch between Larin and Jonathan David opens the space up for Larin behind the defenders. A precision goal passed the outstretched hands of Matt Turner and gave Canada the lead in the eighth minute. This goal propelled Larin into the top spot in Canadian men’s soccer goal record. 

Once Canada had the lead, it was a solid defensive strategy and execution that prevented the US from getting a quality chance on goal. The only moment that the Americans had a quality chance on goal was a corner kick in the 43rd minute that was headed towards goal by Weston McKennie. Milan Borjan had to almost reach behind him to steer the ball away from goal and luckily out of any danger. 

In the second half, Canada had a chance in the 70th minute to extend their lead over the Americans when Cyle Larin misplaced the rebound shot into Turner. The match was ultimately sealed by the Canadians in the 95th minute, Sam Adekugbe found space in the middle of the field and ran by the defenders. He pushed the shot over Turner putting the match on ice. Canada remains on the top of the table and has a four-point lead over both the US and Mexico.

El Salvador (0) vs. Canada (2)

The match looked to be in question several hours before the match when the El Salvador players refused to play due to unpaid bonuses. But soon after the reports were made public, the players recanted their stance and decided to play the match as planned.

A slow first half by both teams. Canada seemed to have lost their legs early in the match with a compact five day schedule with travel and it seemed as though the humidity in San Salvador on Wednesday night had an impact as well. No goals registered in the half but Canada had a handful of opportunities at goal that the backup keeper, Kevin Carabantes, re-directed away from his net. Meanwhile, at the other end of the pitch, Milan Borjan had a quiet half with no shots on target. 

The scoring kicked off in the second half, when Cyle Larin made his run down the right side of the pitch evading the defender and sending the ball into the box. Atiba Hutchinson scored a head scratching goal when his shot was saved by the keeper but the rebound bounced off the back of his leg and landed in the El Salvadorian goal. It took several replays to understand how the ball ended up in the net. El Salvador put some pressure on the Canadians, registering two shots on goal and forcing Borjan to make a stellar save on their second shot in extra time. 

In extra time, Jonathan David scored an almost identical goal to his game-winning against Honduras, dinking to ball over the El Salvadorian keeper to complete the impressive World Cup qualifying window for Canada. 

The Canadians are on the verge of booking their ticket into the World Cup in Qatar. Canada needed other results to fall their way to qualify on this night but unfortunately nothing went their way and  they will need to wait until the final window in March to qualify. In their next window, they will have fixtures at Costa Rica and Panama and they will be at home against Jamaica.

Window Recap

Despite some early concerns, this window was very successful for Canada. They captured all nine-points in all three matches and maintained their undefeated streak. They also broke some long standing losing streaks during this window. Their losing streak to the United States lasted 34 years and their streak away against Honduras stood for 37 years. These results allowed Canada to extend their distance at the top of the table to four points over both the United States and Mexico who are both tied in second. Not only did the team succeed on the field but several Canadians had impressive individual feats. Cyle Larin set the Canadian men’s soccer scoring record with 23 goals surpassing Dwayne De Rosario against the Americans and Milan Borjan kept a clean sheet in all three matches. Canada has the final window to book their spot into the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

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