Canada's 3-0 loss to Mexico in this past Friday's World Cup qualifying match was more disappointing than it was surprising. Momentum did seem to be with Floro's men, with a string of acceptable, if never dominating, results, and a team being improved by players like Junior Hoilett and Scott Arfield joining the fold. I'll even admit to holding out hope; I laid down a small bet on 1-1 as the final score.
And yet, this result was always the most obvious one. Though Canada has played Mexico close over the past decade (the 3 goals they allowed in this match was the most against Mexico since 1997), El Tri are the class of CONCACAF and it showed on the pitch. In addition, Canada suffered from so many of its starters having just begun their seasons or pre-season preparation (Larin, de Guzman, Johnson, Straith, Jakovic, and de Jong among them), while the Mexicans all play in leagues that are in full swing.
The manner of the defeat was a bit more surprising, with an encouraging opening 20 minutes seeming to give the Canadians a confidence and a willingness to go forward that was ultimately the team's greatest undoing.
The entire team was part of the letdown, some more than others. Here are the ratings.
Milan Borjan - 7
He made a number of top class saves in the first half to keep it close. A second and third look at the Lozano goal shows that he had left far too much of the short side open, and he may want to have had that third goal back.
Marcel de Jong - 5.5
Was too often beaten for pace by Lozano and other Mexican wingers, but was not at fault for any of the biggest defensive letdowns.
Adam Straith - 5.5
Made some nice interceptions and even started a rush, but his lack of pace was punished on the second Mexican goal.
Dejan Jakovic - 4
Was frequently out of position, and sloppy on the ball. He was caught napping on the Chicharito goal, and seemed largely at fault for the third. If healthy, David Edgar needs to take his spot.
Doneil Henry - 5
Proved beyond a shadow of a doubt he is not a fullback, as all but one or two of his touches going forward were poor. Defended well in the second half.
Atiba Hutchinson - 7
It is hard not to grade on a curve with Atiba, as this match was not at the caliber of his typical performances. A miscue between him and Johnson led to the second goal, and he did not complete as high a percentage of his passes as he usually does. On the other hand, he was one of few players that could take on an opponent or two and keep possession. He might have benefited from one of the other midfielders also playing in a deeper lying role.
Will Johnson - 6
I'll give him credit for being involved in the rare occasions where the team got forward. A 1-2 combination with Arfield was one of the team's better chances. On the other hand he was often careless in possession and was beaten all day defensively.
Julian de Guzman - 5
He was deservedly celebrated pre-match for his Canada career and caps record, but this match showed he is no longer at the level required to be effective against an opponent like Mexico.
Junior Hoilett - 5.5
Watching the game I was hugely disappointed with the hash he made of two excellent chances to score, not even forcing a save. He deserves credit, though, for generating those chances.
Tosaint Ricketts - 4.5
I'm a big Ricketts defender, but this was not a good performance. The team directed most of their offense down the left side away from Ricketts, so I won't be critical there. But he was largely a ghost, including leaving a man unmarked on Mexico's first goal. Was justly subbed off at half.
Cyle Larin - 5
Like Hoilett, he squandered the best chance he was given. Against teams like Mexico, one needs to be more clinical. On the other hand, his hold up play was better than we have seen in the past. Lacks creativity when he does not receive the ball in a shooting position.
Scott Arfield - 6
He looked promising in the early-going of the second half, combining well with Johnson and others. His back injury, which kept him from flying to Mexico City, may have been an issue as he drifted out of the game in the last quarter hour.
Sam Piette - 5
He might have been a better choice than de Guzman as a starter, as he provides some defensive steel. He's not an effective player when the team is chasing the game. Benito may have been cutting his losses at that point.
Tesho Akindele - n/a
Too brief an appearance to leave much of an impression.
Benito - 4
For a manager who has had the team playing so defensively, even against weaker opponents, he either did not impress this enough upon his team, or they got carried away by the moment. Either way, he bears responsibility.
BC Place crowd
On TV, the split between Canadian and Mexican fans seemed to be at worse 70-30, and despite the result, they stayed in the game throughout. Full credit to the Voyageurs as always.
It seems silly to expect anything different for tomorrow's match at Azteca, but I'm hopeful (there's that word again) that Floro can iron out a few of the defensive issues, and that the team's posture on the whole will be a bit more conservative. Mexico 2 - Canada 0