The Canadian Mens National Team's 2-1 win over Honduras in Montreal last night was a watershed moment for the Canadians in several ways. First off it broke a winless streak which spanned over eight matches and fourteen months. It also will help Canadians put behind them the memory of Canada's last match against Honduras in Montreal, the ill-fated World Cup Qualifier which saw the team's realistic hopes of qualifying go up in flames after a 2-1 loss. Following a more recent loss in Toronto against Peru last week it was important for the team to leave their home supporters with something to cheer about from their first set of home friendlies in three years.
Canada came out looking much more physical than the side that lost to Peru on the weekend. Last minute call-up from the Vancouver Whitecaps,Terry Dunfield, added some grit in the centre of midfield. As did Montreal-native Patrice Bernier. The two new starters along with Will Johnson who started his second straight match kept the Honduran midfield from generating many opportunities and prevented them from really playing with the ball at their feet.
The real key to preventing the Hondurans from having anything like the free reign they have previously against the Canadians was the centre back pairing of Kevin McKenna and Dejan Jakovic. McKenna played the role of the hardman, winning balls in the air, getting stuck in, but he also was a threat going forward as demonstrated by his game-winning headed goal and several attacking runs. Jakovic on the other hand was the real ball playing centre back, he moved the ball forward, intercepted Honduran passes and played a very smart positional game. The two played together at the 2009 Gold Cup for Canada and have featured together in several friendlies since. They really compliment each others abilities and look to be Canada's top centre back pairing heading into 2011.
Going forward Canada had much more of a cutting edge than they did against Peru, or really for all of the last fourteen months. Although Rob Friend still was not creating loads of chances as the lone front man he got a lot of help from the left flank in the form of Josh Simpson. Simpson was named CSA man of the match and showed some of his best stuff beating men down the wing and putting the ball into dangerous areas. He was rewarded with a somewhat of a scrappy goal, but after a good bit of build-up play from the Canadians. Coming off a fantastic match in Toronto three days earlier Simeon Jackson was kept quiet by the Hondurans, but he still managed to carve out a beautiful chance in the last ten minutes which only to fire it hopelessly over the bar.
With fifteen minutes left Canada started to look stretched so Stephen Hart brought on Atiba Hutchinson in the centre of midfield for Dunfield. Hutchinson calmed the game down and helped create several chances going forward. He was Canada's biggest attacking threat for the fifteen minutes that he was on the pitch.
The game was delayed with only eight minutes remaining for about half an hour due to lightning. The stoppage really killed the flow of the game heading into the last eight minutes, but added to the drama as Canada held on for a tight win over their CONCACAF rivals.
For coach Hart a 2-1 win over a weakened Honduran side will not be enough to prove that Canada is ready for a serious run at the World Cup, but it certainly is a start. After the match McKenna said he found the Honduran game to be more difficult than the Peruvian match, but Canada just adapted quicker and were more up for the challenge. This kind of comment really bodes well for a team that has had difficultly adjusting to different opponents in the past. Just one of many reasons to be a little more optimistic following this set of Canadian friendlies. It may take a while, but slowly this team is improving and preparing for Mission 2014.
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