Coming into this game, it was obviously all about the mental side of things. Had Canada changed from the often too fragile team we'd seen in the past?
Going through the qualifying process over the last two years, as successful as it was to get us to this game with 10 points and needing only a tie to advance, there'd been plenty of signs that they hadn't really changed. Stumbling and unconvincing performances against the minnows last year, and against a defection ridden Cuba team on Friday gave no confidence that the attack had clicked and would be able to come together in the tougher games when it counted. The poor display in Panama last month gave no confidence that Canada wouldn't wilt in hostile territory.
But still we hoped. There had been plenty of good moments over the last couple of years. Honduras were poor, hadn't managed to score aside from in their games against Cuba. Canada at least had a solid defence, with clean sheets in 4 out of 5, with another in the friendly against the US thrown in for good measure. Theoretically, on paper, outside of all the pressure that playing in Honduras would apply, it looked very do-able.
The talk beforehand was of the most important game of our lives, of giving everything, of this being like a final, of playing right to the final whistle no matter the score.
It led to that. To 8-1. To the confirmation that no, things hadn't really changed at all, that all the old Canadian weaknesses were still very much there.
First up was the finishing, Tosaint Ricketts failed to control a Nik Ledgerwood cross in the 2nd minute and a great chance to really put the pressure on the Hondurans was lost. After Honduras scored, Canada kept coming, Simeon Jackson hit the post, and Ricketts wasted another great chance, hitting the rebound right at the goalie who was still on the floor after diving for Jackson's shot. Ricketts didn't have a great game and in truth looked like what he is, a forward who hasn't played all season. That's hardly his fault, but it's a sad indictment that he remained Canada's best choice.
Honduras went up the other end, got their 2nd , and from there the lack of mental toughness kicked in, Canada were done and the rout was on. The defence which had looked so good fell apart, with no-one looking good. Mike Klusowski replaced Ante Jazic, a late scratch sue to sickness, and he didn't look good but he was hardly alone in that. marks were repeatedly lost, challenges were repeatedly lost and a Honduras team that had struggled for goals were made to look like world beaters.
Kevin McKenna was also sick, but decided to play on, a noble decision that ended up looking bad. He didn't play well and his half time interview was particularly defeated, saying "right from the get go we weren't in the game...it's all about damage limitation now, it's pretty sad." When asked if the team was in a state of shock, he said " yeah, looks like it, looks like it"
It's not exactly the sot of never say die leadership you'd want from your captain, quite the contrast to some of the performances we've seen from him, especially against Panama where he was dominant, as aggressive with his fellow defenders as he was with the Panamanians and with his celebrations at the south end at the end of the game.
The other big Canadian issue just waiting to take effect was on the sidelines in Stephen Hart, a decent man in over his head. The decision to go with Klukowski ahead of Marcel de Jong seemed puzzling, a playing it safe choice if ever there was one. Nik Ledgerwood was another surprise inclusion in the starting lineup, a curious reaction to the decision forced by Olivier Occean's suspension.
The mental preparation clearly wasn't there, as the players fell apart in the face of adversity in the first half. Half time pep talks and tactical shuffling are probably overrated in the general scheme of things, but whatever Hart said and did clearly didn't work, as Canada started the second half as badly as Sportsnet did (whether it was their fault or the feed from Honduras, who knows?). It was already 2 minutes in when we joined the action and almost immediately, Honduras scored their 5th. The second half was just going to be more of the same.
Iain Hume did score a nice goal direct from a free kick to make it 6-1, but any hopes of a respectable finish were crushed as Honduras scored two more to make it 8-1. It just avoided being Canada's worst ever scoreline, that remains an 8-0 defeat to Mexico, but it is unequivocally their worst ever defeat given the opposition and the circumstances.
All that was left was the post game interviews, Stephen Hart sounding as puzzled and defeated as the rest of us, begging for forgiveness for the players if not himself. Gerry Dobson launched the post game coverage by asking about Hart's future, and the question came up as well in his post game conference, made all the more painful by the Spanish language translations required of the question.
Should he be let go? Probably, it's harsh, but he really shouldn't have been hired in the first place, and it's unlikely that there'll be any kind of ambitious replacement if he does go.
There's a lot of 'what now' questions out there as to how to change things so that this sort of performance can become a thing of the past, not the collapse that we all know is waiting to happen when things get tough. Some are obvious and easily debated, Hart's future, and that of some of the older players for example. Others, the more important ones are more complicated and have no easy or quick answer at all, long term solutions required to raise the quality of players and coaches available.
For now, though, we can only dwell briefly on the disappointment, and if TFC fans, look forward to a pretty bleak 2013 season without what would have been a welcome distraction of 10 huge games for Canada.
I tweeted this last night and I'm feeling melancholy enough to repeat it here in the morning. To paraphrase Leonard Cohen: (Following TFC and Canada) is not some kind of victory march, no it's a cold and it's a very broken hallelujah.