“Ready for round 2”
Canada finally broke their Gold Cup curse of the last 2 tournaments and managed to not only score a goal, but score 4 in one match, with teen sensation and brand new Canadian Alphonso Davies getting 2 vital goals. Another reasonably new Canadian, Scott Arfield, scored Canada’s second of the match and things seemed to be going just as planned, before it all went wrong. They still managed to make this game seem difficult whilst 3 nil up, conceding 2 in two minutes to the minnows French Guiana where it started to look like they might capitulate and come away from this match with nothing. Fortunately, Davies broke away from the defense in the 85th minute to seal the win.
Costa Rica had the harder task of breaking down Canada’s bogey team Honduras in their first game, coming away with a 1 nil win with San Jose Striker Marco Ureña scoring the solitary goal 5 mins before half time.
This Tuesday’s game will obviously be a lot harder for the Canadians in Texas. The storms in Houston should be over by kick off so the players and fans won’t have to go through another downpour like Friday evening and will be around late 25° – 30°C so hot but not too hot. Costa Rica though, are a different kettle of fish to French Guiana.
The 2014 World Cup surprise package could cause Canada problems down the wings if Davies and Hoilett don’t get back and help their defense. Piette and Bernier will need to cover a lot of ground especially with Brian Ruiz looking to find space between the lines to collect the ball and cause trouble. The Petrasso experiment at right back still needs some work if Zambrano decides to go that route again, Unattached FC’s Fraser Aird could fill in there if need be but has looked shaky defensively in the past. De Jong looked like he injured his foot in a challenge in the previous game and hopefully he is ok to play again or we could see Brighton/Vancouver Whitecaps left back Sam Adekugbe make his first appearance for Les Rouges in over a year. Raheem Edwards is another option for the left but like Aird, is better going forward than defensively.
A switch to the much fancied formation of 3-5-2 could work for these 3 options and would match how I expect Costa Rica to line up and could make Canada a much more solid team at the back. However, I’m not sure if they have tried this formation before and would mean sacrificing a forward player and re-jigging a lot of what worked in the previous game. Maybe it was the rain, maybe it was complacency but Canada seemed to lose shape when Bernier went off on Friday and maybe it’s no surprise that it was soon after his departure Guiana scored their 2 goals. We can’t expect the 37yr old to play every minute of every game though so Tiebert and Piette need to make sure they keep things secure in these positions.
The other injury doubt is goalkeeper Milan Borjan, who appeared with a nice shiner the following day in a Canada Soccer promotional video of the squad travelling to Houston but believe he should be ok to play. Either Crépeau or Leutwiler could come in and do a job in his absence.
Costa Rica are doing well in world cup qualification and are currently 2nd in the table behind Mexico and above the States in the automatic qualification spot. Their squad for the tournament is made up of mainly Costa Rican Liga FPD players with 5 from MLS and a few from around Europe – the one exception being Ariel Rodriguez who randomly plays in Thailand for Bangkok Glass. So they definitely have the advantage in squad depth and talent over Canada and will be expecting to win this reasonably comfortably. However, these aren’t world beaters and if Canada play smart and well enough defensively, keeping it tight, Canada have enough pace and ‘flair’ going forward to cause a few problems of their own and hopefully nick a goal. I realize may be more ‘glass half full’ than a lot of Canadian fans having only been in the country for a few years and I expect many more knowledgeable people to predict a definite Canadian loss.
It will be very interesting to see how they get on after the highs and lows and highs Friday. A heavy loss here and all that momentum could be lost. But if they can put on a good performance, even if they lose, they can go into the next game against Honduras with the confidence to get something from that match and progress for the first time since 2009.