It's not always easy to follow up a maddening 90 minutes of pacing around my living room with some cogent analysis and rational thought, so I've had to wait 2 days before posting some musings on Canada's 0-0 draw Tuesday against Honduras.
Hart lacking guts?
The main lineup questions prior to Tuesday's match concerned Atiba Hutchinson. Milan Borjan for the suspended Lars Hirschfeld was fait accompli, and there was no sense messing with a back line that seemed to have a good thing going. As for Atiba if he was fit, he would surely start, goes the logic and, sure enough, he was there in the starting XI. The prevailing wisdom had him replacing Nik Ledgerwood, a man who had been dogged both against the USA and in Cuba, but who is a clear step down in quality from the other midfield options.
Instead Stephen Hart moved Ledgerwood to wide right, a position that had been Tosaint Rickett's against Cuba and the Americans. This move signaled a defensive posture, and perhaps a lack of confidence in the team's ability to defend against a Honduras side that is on a clear downward arc. Canada struggled to generate chances, particularly down the right, and might not find themselves having wasted a golden opportunity to pick up 3 points had Hart made a more attack-minded choice.
Another criticism of Hart in this match was his substitution patterns. While Hutchinson was the class of the midfield early, he began tiring at 60 minutes and was gassed by 70. He should have been removed sooner. Likewise with Olivier Occean, whose hold-up play was brilliant again, but was replaced a quarter-hour too late. Word is Simeon Jackson is not match fit, but there is a deep bench with other options.
Johnson not on form
I have become accustomed to seeing Will Johnson be one of the team's best performers on a consistent basis. To my surprise, he was clearly off in Tuesday's match. His work rate was there, his running tireless, but his passing was suspect. On several occasions he turned the ball over without being pressured, and more than one of these was
A typical De Ro outing
Dwayne De Rosario was the focal point of the attack for much of the night. When Canada got the ball and began moving forward, the default option seemed to be to play the ball out wide left to De Rosario and let him run at defenders. While his undeniably among the best on the team in this role, too often a flowing attack stalled and defenders were given time to set up. Canada needs to be willing to play down the middle from time to time.
There were many positives in Tuesday's match, but the fact of the matter is that the match was there for the taking. Canada will rightly feel like they left 2 points on the table. The jaded fan can already see these points coming back to bite them in October.
A home crowd
The time Honduras visited Canada for a competitive match they filled two thirds of Montreal's Saputo Stadium. Tuesday's crowd at BMO Field featured a Honduran contingent that was smaller in number and weaker in voice. Several factors were working in our favour this time: a mid-week match making travel difficult, and a Honduras side on the wane less inspiring to their supporters. Nevertheless, Toronto fans should be commended for filling the stadium (or at least the 16,000 seats that were opened for the match) and supporting the team loud and proud.
Some items from the MLS chalkboard feature:
- Will Johnson and Julian de Guzman had the ball the most in midfield, completing 40 passes each.
- Dwayne De Rosario lead the way in the category "Tackled and possession lost" with 21, more than twice as many as any other player on the team bar Occean (13).
- As was the case against Cuba, the attack favoured the left side, with Jazic (43, most on the team) and De Rosario (22) playing more passes than Edgar (25) and Ledgerwood (11).
And now we wait.
The next matches are not until September, and in a conference call today Hart seemed resigned to the fact that the CSA would not be able to organize a friendly for the remaining FIFA date on August 15th. All one can hope for in the intervening months is that the team remains healthy, especially Atiba and the defensive four, and that a striker or two hits a rich vein of form.
Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
Panama 2 2 0 0 3 0 +3 6
Canada 2 1 1 0 1 0 +1 4
Honduras 2 0 1 1 0 2 −2 1
Cuba 2 0 0 2 0 2 −2 0
CANADA STATS after 2 group stage matches
|Dwayne De Rosario||2||180||1|
|Julian de Guzman||2||158|