Kyle Bekker in Olympic qualifying last March. He was one of the few bright spots today. - Don McPeak-US PRESSWIRE
A tough lesson learned for a young Canadian team in Tucson.
It was a B team, with a lot of youngsters (6 debutants by the time all the 2nd half subs were done) who were unfamiliar with each other, most of whom are very early in their pre seasons, playing against a team that's better than them, and that's exactly what it looked like.
Denmark were two up within 15 minutes or so (no commentary or clock on the stream, but many thanks to Sportsnet for putting it up.) and cruised home from there, adding a 3rd before half time and a 4th in the second half. If they'd wanted to go for it, it could easily have been another 8-1 massacre.
It was never about the result though, more about providing experience to some players, getting an idea of who can do what, or who can't do what, who can be relied on in more important later games. A tough first step down the path to this summer's Gold Cup and eventually Russia 2018. Kudos to the CSA for finding a challenging opponent, and another on Tuesday night when they play the US, a game that could well end up with a worse score depending on how much the US want it.
So what did we learn, who stood out? It's easier to go through the negatives. Ashtone Morgan and Russel Tiebert were not a good defensive combo on the left flank, time and again Denmark found plenty of space to pass and run their way around them and get crosses in. The defence as a whole looked pretty shocking, Nana Attakora wasn't good in the middle, and Doneil Henry really didn't look good in a tough assignment playing at right back. He was outjumped for Denmark's first goal, and very confusedly marking no-one on the 3rd from a goalmouth scramble after a corner. Many times he drifted into the middle, far enough for me to wonder if Canada was actually playing a back 5 with Nik Ledgerwood at right back and Henry one of 3 centre backs.
The positives that stood out, well Ashtone Morgan and Russel Tiebert were a good attacking combo on the left flank, which is where most of Canada's chances come from. Both are clearly better going forward so both could work well if partnered with someone more defensively responsible. Together, well hopefully we don't have to see that again too soon. Captain for the day Terry Dunfield did what you'd expect from Dunfield, plenty of industrious running and tackling, and Dwayne de Rosario also did what you'd expect, after being starved of service, started dropping deeper and deeper to help out and try get involved in the game.
The biggest positive was probably the play of Kyle Bekker. Not a magnificent performance by any means, but when Canada were in possession of the ball, he showed off the calm, composed and incisive passing ability that impressed many at the combine.
If Peterson Joseph is the Haitian Xavi, Bekker is the college-aged, blonde-haired Canadian Xavi. In control. #MLSCombine— MLS Insider (@MLS_Insider) January 15, 2013
That's clearly a bit tongue in cheek, and it'd also be best not to read too much into his performance today given that Denmark clearly took their foot off the gas early, but if you're looking for positives, for a player who didn't look out of place, he's certainly your best bet.
He was one of 6 who made their debuts, also Simon Thomas, Evan James, Kyle Porter, Philippe Davies and Mason Trafford. I'd expect a similar starting lineup against the US on Tuesday, with a good chance we'll see different subs, debuts for Emmanuel Gomez, Matt Stinson, Roberto Stillo, and if fit, Frank Jonke and Andres Fresenga.
Given that James and Thomas are both currently 'unattached' it's a sobering reminder of Canada's lack of depth and the lack of infrastructure to support young players, but there's value to be found in this game, even if it wasn't the prettiest to watch, or the most encouraging result. Tosaint Ricketts' post game tweet summed it up nicely.
On we go to Houston to play USA, where you can't help but think there's another tough lesson waiting. If you didn't catch the game, here's the "highlights".