2 – 0
||SHOTS ON GOAL||3
You just had to get the feeling that it was going to be one of those classic CONCACAF nights when the lights went out in the opening 10 minutes of play. If you have been following Canada for a long time it was the kind of event that reminded you of so many unsuccessful away trips to parts of the Caribbean and Central America. The parties in the streets at all hours of the night were one thing and they were something Canada could control with a pair of headphones and a good night's sleep, but the lights going out was beyond their control.
If the 15 minute delay early in the first half was not enough to throw Les Rouges off their game, having to take off all-time leading scorer Dwayne De Rosario with a leg injury right after the delay certainly did not help. It was a series of events that left Canada looking staggered and despite creating a few early chances of their own they were clearly second best in every area of the field. Canada showed an embarrassing lack of fight and never got up and forced Panama to work in their own end. The midfield and back line that had impressed so many times in the qualifying cycle just did not show up on the night and many individuals will take a good amount of deserved criticism for their efforts.
It looked like this was the first time around the block for Canada rather than them being a team that has been around CONCACAF long enough to have seen it all. They never got into their own game, they allowed Panama to dictate the tempo and flow of the match, and they showed next to no fight. None of the distractions should have been a factor or an excuse, this team was supposed to be prepared and focused. Instead Canada put in a performance nothing like the one on Friday night and suffered a 2-0 defeat as a result.It would be a waste of ink to try and call out all the Canadian players who should feel ashamed for their performances in this match. instead, I will focus on the players who are supposed to be the leaders of this team and did next to nothing to lead on the night. That blame has to start with the veteran players in the middle of the park. Atiba Hutchinson, Patrice Bernier, and Julian De Guzman were supposed to be the core and the engine of this team but instead they looked lifeless and did not close down the ball nearly as often as was needed. If Hutch and JDG were deserving MOTM candidates at BMO Field this time they are deserving of a lot of the blame. All three were slow to press their man, step in and make a tackle and turned the ball over too often on simple passes. Add in the fact that Bernier managed to waste almost every single Canadian corner kick in the match and that trio really had a poor showing despite having a massive amount of skill and experience.
Things were not much better behind them though as both Kevin McKenna and Andre Hainault were far from at their best and will both shoulder some of the blame for Panama's goals. On the first goal, neither man was able to get up and head the ball clear and instead they lost out to Rolando Blackburn who nodded home in the 38th minute to open the scoring. Blackburn was one of the shortest players in the box but somehow he out jumped three Canadian defenders and ended up with a relatively easy header. The second goal began with a bad lunge from David Edgar on the wing allowing his man to cut inside but once Alberto Quintero did get inside it was Hainault who was caught in no man's land failing to challenge the man cutting in or take away his passing option. In the end, it was a simple ball into the six yard box for Blas Perez to finish before Hainault could close him down or McKenna could get back.
Canada was poor from front to back but when the key players who are supposed to make up the spine of your team do not show up you can hardly expect to get anything out of the match. There were chances for Canada to possibly snatch a goal or two in this game but the team was once again lacking in sharpness in front of goal. Hart has insisted many times that Canada is on the verge of finding their scoring form and filling the net but with only two goals in four matches this round, time is running out to find the back of the net. Tosaint Ricketts and Simeon Jackson both got extended minutes in this game and neither of them impressed enough to stake any sort of claim to a starting spot. The same could be said of Olivier Occean on Friday night as his impact on the match was limited. It seems that Canada will continue to long for a stand out striker with consistent goal scoring form for the foreseeable future.
On the night when Canada needed their best performance of this World Cup Qualifying cycle they came up with one of their worst. It was a performance that will have reminded many of us of how the team went out with barely a whimper at this stage four years ago and that can be worrying if you take the match out of the larger context.
We are not Mexico (duh) and no one ever thought that Canada would just waltz in to the final round of CONCACAF qualifying. In fact, most of us probably had our doubts that they would be able to advance at all. No matter how bad they played tonight they still have a chance to move on to the next round and that is just about all we could have asked for going into the final two matches in October. Canada still controls their own fate, there will be no counting on anyone else for an upset, and that is about as good as it gets.
Those among us more concerned with the negative will see this as yet another missed chance for Canada. If they had gotten the draw tonight suddenly they could have practically clinched a spot in the Hex at home against Cuba. It would have been ideal. The pessimist will look back to the 0-0 draw against Honduras as the real missed chance though as Canada dropped two points on that night. Try and not be that person though, try and focus on the fact that four points will do it and that Canada controls their own fate. It has been a while since we have been this close to a spot in the hex and we should enjoy that.
Canada will certainly have some issues to address in the month leading up to the next match against Cuba. Will Stephen Hart actually make some changes to the roster he calls up? Is their someone out there that can help address the scoring woes or serve as a natural right back? Do the aging legs have it in them to put in a massive performance at the end of many of their seasons? All those questions will be of our minds for the next month as we prepare for two more crucial matches for soccer in Canada.
In the spirit of John I leave you with a bit of the song that inspired my title
What you gonna do, when I turn the lights out?
What you gonna do, just to get your fight out?
Is that the best that you can do?
-Decade, "Lights Out"