Canada took to BMO Field to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Canadian Soccer Association and they put on a showing that was quite worthy of the occasion. Prior to kickoff the CSA took the time to parade out a number of the biggest names in Canadian soccer history including the likes of Jason DeVos, Alex Bundbury, Paul Stalteri, Nick Dasovic, Bob Iarusci, and many other names. They also brought out several members of the women's National team to a hearty round of applause. It was a feel good pre-game that celebrated the soccer history that so often goes without attention in this country.
After the anniversary stuff was done with, it was time to get down to focusing on the group of players that we have right now. A group that came out for the pregame carrying the number 11 of the injured Josh Simpson for their photo. From then on it was all about the game.
Canada started the game on the back foot as the Americans seemed to be able to pass around them at will as Canada's central midfield of Julian DeGuzman, Nik Ledgerwood, and Will Johnson took time to get going in the middle of the park. Aside from scrambly half chances from some very early corners, the Americans did little to make the early possession pay off with only one real chance in the opening 20 minutes. That came by way of a long range effort from Edgar Castillo who's 35 yard effort seemed to hang in the wind and had Canadian keeper Lars Hirschfeld scrambling back to his goal line to push the ball over his bar.
After that Canada slowly started to take the match over and even found their way in behind the American backline on a number of occasions. With a bit of luck they could have been up 1-0 within the first half hour of play but Olivier Occean was not quite able to stretch out to meet David Edgar's inviting cross, and Tosaint Ricketts couldn't quite get to a cross/shot from Dwayne de Rosario.A few minutes later Canada was finally able to force Tim Howard into a bit of a tricky save. The American keeper was forced to get down quickly to get to Tosaint Ricketts shot. The effort came after a bit of a scramble in the box that eventually saw Nik Ledgerwood head the ball down in the box so that a falling Ricketts was able to get a foot on it and direct it goalwards.
Then the mandatory CONCACAF reffing controversy moment of the game surfaced. Castillo had the ball in his own corner for the United States and after Dwayne De Rosario and Edgar pressed him into a turnover Nik Ledgerwood was able to blast a shot right into the top corner from a tight angle. It seemed that Canada had found the opener late in the first half but the ref waved it off having seen his assistant flagging for a foul. The foul, which was phantom at best, was apparently given for Edgar leaving a leg in on Castillo and obstructing him. Problem is that anyone with a working eye could see that the little bump between the two players in the corner had nothing to do with the outcome of the play and if that was a foul basically every tackle in a soccer game is going to have to be a foul as well.
The call was a real head scratcher but it did not take Canada long to get back on the front foot. They continued to have the better of the play for the remainder of the first half. In the second half, the Americans again came out with some energy and it looked like they might take over the match. Just like the first half though Canada weathered the early storm and slowly regain control of the game thanks to great efforts from De Guzman and Johnson who proved willing to get stuck into the tackles as well as get involved in starting up the attack.
The chances were thin in the second half but Canada did have their share of them. De Rosario got involved a bit more and started to cause some problems for the Americans on both sides of the field. He got on the end of a decent chance as he seemed to be in behind the defenders but his shot was saved by Howard down at the post before he was eventually flagged for offside.
DeRo created the best chance for Canada in the match when he rampaged down the left in injury time and found himself with a bit of space inside the American box. He played a ball in low which was met by Simeon Jackson about 3 yards out, but sadly Jackson somehow managed to knock the ball wide, going for power inside the near post when surely a simple redirect into a wide open net would have been the smarter choice.
That was the last good chance for Canada to try and get the win but it was not the end of the chances. The Americans got one good chance to win the game late in stoppage time and were only denied by a top class reaction save from Hirschfeld. That came off an American freekick after yet another mildly debatable foul call. MIchael Bradley took the free kick and sent it right into the danger zone where a number of Americans rose to meet the ball. It was Clarence Goodson that managed to get a powerful head on the ball and it seemed to be destined for the top of the goal but Hirschfeld met it with a strong hand and pushed it over the bar.
After the ensuing corner kick came to nothing the match was brought to an end with neither team having managed to make the break through. For the Americans another poor showing will not have them feeling all that confident going in to World Cup Qualifying. They continue to struggle to score under Jurgen Klinnsman and on the night you could tell they were playing their third game in just over a week. They will still almost certainly have no problems moving on from their group this year but they did not look like a team that is likely to become a contender on the World Cup stage.
For Canada, the 0-0 draw against one of the best teams in CONCACAF has to be a big boost to their confidence. Knowing that they very well could have beaten the Americans should have them feeling good going into their key qualifiers against Cuba and Honduras in the coming weeks.
It was a night of history with Hall of Fame members being honoured and the mens and women's all time bext xi being named. There were some milestones in the match as well. De Rosario picked up his 67th cap for Canada which puts him level with Lyndon Hooper for fourth on Canada's alltime list. He is still some ways back of Stalteri's 84 caps though. At the other end of things 17 year old Samuel Piette earned his first cap for the senior team making him among the youngest ever for Canada. According to the CSA he was the 3rd youngest in 100 years but Samuel said on twitter he was the 5th. What we do know is that he is the youngest player to cap since Jamie Peters made his debut at 17 years old back in 2004. Ante Jazic also became the third oldest player to play for Canada at 36 years of age and he turned back the clock on the night as he was able to keep Landon Donovan quiet the entire time he was on the field.
In the end it was a night for Canadian fans to be excited about. They celebrated our history before the match and then managed to overturn recent history by getting a result against the Americans. It had been an unbalanced rivalry of late so even a draw is something to take pride in. A large number of Canadians turned in strong performances and despite the lack of any major threat in front of goal there was a lot of good things. The Canadian midfield outworked and out played their American counterparts on the night which is all the more impressive when you consider they did so without two of Canada's most important players in Atiba Hutchinson and Josh Simpson. Hutch listed himself as being 50-50 for the Cuba game having aggravated his knee injury that cost him most of his last season at PSV. It is unlikely that Hart will rush him back at all as another injury would do massive damage to his relationship to PSV and may make it much more challenging to call Hutch up in the future.
Some of the buzz from the match will be on the fact that Junior Hoillet was in attendance at BMO Field. He came to the match on his own and did not communicate with Stephen Hart about what his being there might mean. The good news is that he was there to see a strong performance from the Canadian team which might help to sway him towards finally committing to play for the national team. Hart remained focused on the players that he has available but there is no denying that getting Hoillet in the fold would be a huge boost for the national team. The other good news in that regard is that Hoillet seems to be on the verge of sorting out his club situation. Having seen his contract at Blackburn Rovers expire he seems set to head to Germany and possible Champions League football at Borussia Monchengladbach.
It could all just be one giant tease though. The Canadian team has done this to us all before so many times that it is hard to get too carried away with this result. Unless it carries over to the next two games all they managed to do was play well in a meaningless friendly and unless Hoillet caps for Canada in the fall all he has managed to do is set himself up for even more hate if he rejects us.
After a night of celebrations, all we can do is cross our fingers and hope for two repeat performances. Let that be the Canada we see down in Cuba and against Honduras and let Hoillet choose Canada whenever he gets around to finally deciding. It is nice to have history but it would be even better to start off the second hundred years by making some history in the present.