The Canadian Men’s National Team (CMNT) took their first step towards qualifying for the FIFA 2018 World Cup in Russia on Thursday night by beating Dominica in the first leg of their home and home series.
The 2-0 result at Roseau’s Windsor Park was perfect; the execution less so. After taking a 1-0 lead through Orlando City FC’s super-rookie Cyle Larin, Canada seemed to take its foot off the pedal. The bulk of the action was, and would remain, in the Dominica end, but any sense of urgency to get a goal waned.
The left side of the Canadian attack was brilliant in the the first half, beginning with Karl W. Ouimette, through Tesho Akindele and then Larin. Despite this, a certain unease amongst Canadian supporters could be perceived on the YouTube stream’s comments and Twitter chatter.
The start of the second half didn’t do much to alleviate those fears, borne more from years of disappointing results and close calls when the CMNT have travelled away to island nations and Central America than from any true threat to Milan Borjan’s goal.
All that changed in the 63rd minute when Larin undertook an excellent run on the left side, dribbling his way past three defenders before being pulled down in the box and drawing a penalty. Vancouver Whitecaps man Russell Teibert took the penalty with assurance to put Canada up 2-0, and any worries over the final result were put to rest.
This being the Canadian Men’s National Team, the rest of the match wasn’t without drama. In the 79th minute, right back Nikolas Ledgerwood attempted a pass forward that got blocked by a Dominica player high up in the air. The ball fell to Julian de Guzman who attempted a volleyed pass back to Ouimette, but was too weak and was intercepted by a surging Dominica forward, who tried to chip Borjan. Borjan, who had sensed the danger and rushed out of his 18-yard box, instinctively threw his hands up, preventing a potential goal. The action, however, prompted a deserved red card. Kenny Stamatopoulos would come on to replace Borjan to see out the rest of the match and, one would imagine, the 2nd leg in Toronto.
The 2nd leg of this tie takes place Tuesday night at BMO Field in Toronto. Tickets are still available through www.ticketmaster.ca and will be streamed through the Canadian Soccer Association’s YouTube Page.
- This was Benito Floro’s first competitive match in charge of Canada. Floro went with a 4-3-3 with Samuel Piette as the midfield anchor (the Atiba Hutchinson role).
- FC Dallas front man Tesho Akindele earned his first Canadian cap, and is now cap-tied. His presence up front was a welcome addition to the Canadian attack, successfully linking up with Larin time and again.
- Larin was a dynamo up front, instigating all kinds of opportunities and making smart runs to push and pull the Dominica defence apart.
- Ouimette of the New York Red Bulls in particular had a stellar match, probing forward at the slightest invitation and always tracking back to stop Dominica in its tracks.
- Players from Canadian clubs had a significant impact on the the Canadian setup; Ottawa Fury FC’s Julian de Guzman and Montreal Impact’s Maxime Tissot both had goals denied by fingertip saves from Dominica’s Glenson Prince. Teibert may not have been as influential as desired, but he showed calm and precision in taking the penalty on Canada’s 2nd goal.
- Canada showed a propensity for attacking down the flanks, seemingly avoiding central midfield altogether. This may have been decided due to the modified cricket pitch, which looked quite dusty in the middle. That was bad news for Teibert, de Guzman and Piette, who saw little of the ball as a result.
- Manjrekar James, who was born in Dominica but moved to Canada aged nine, got his third cap for Canada, playing the full 90 in central defence. It was, however, his first competitive match, meaning he is now cap-tied to Canada.
- Hat tip to Gavin Day for working his butt off to provide Canadian fans back home a stream of the game. Beer’s on me next time I see you, Mr. Day.
Photo courtesy of Joshua Pearson on Flickr.