On September 11, 2012 the Canadian Men's National team lost a 2-0 match in Panama that eliminated them from World Cup qualification every bit as much as the infamous 8-1 loss to Honduras. On Tuesday, they return to the country for the first time in what is arguably their most important game since that qualifying cycle ended. In part it is the opposition that makes this so crucial, but more importantly it is the location of the game.
"Panama is a difficult place to come," Canadian defender David Edgar told Waking The Red. "So it's always good to get these games ahead of the Gold Cup and ahead of qualifying."
There have been a lot of factors that have held back Canada over the years. But one of the biggest ones is an inability to win on the road. Including the last World Cup qualifying cycle, Canada are a respectable 3-1-1 at home. On the road? 0-11-5. If they can beat Panama it will be their first win on foreign soil since August 2012 when they beat both Cuba and Trinidad & Tobago away from home.
Not all away matches are made equal, however, CONCACAF is well known for being one of the most difficult places to play away fixtures. Describing the atmosphere as hostile would be an understatement. Last time Canada was in Panama, the location of their hotel was tweeted by the home team's FA. This meant a number of Panama supporters chanting till all hours of the night outside, and shining laser pointers through the team's hotel windows.
Asked if CONCACAF should do something to limit this sort of situation, and others, from happening in the future, Edgar chuckled.
"You could say yes, but it's never going to happen," he said. "It's part and parcel of what you get in those types of countries. It obviously not likely to ever happen in Canada to an away team, but that's the way they do things down there. We just have to get on with things and not let it get to us too much."
Just getting on with things is something Edgar has adopted throughout his career. Last year, Edgar played a role in getting Burnley promoted from the Championship into the Premier League. How did his club repay him? By releasing him as his contract expired. But Edgar moved on, finding a starting spot with Birmingham City. Sadly, his new club is more involved in the relegation battle than anywhere near promotion, but Edgar has continued to perform well.
His performances with the national team have also continued to be strong, if not better than ever. He was fantastic in Canada's win over Jamaica in September, scoring a brilliant goal and leading a solid Canadian backline. October's match against Colombia could have been his best in a Canadian shirt. Canada defended exceptionally in that outing as well.
The backline will have a different look against Panama as Andre Hainault and Marcel De Jong are not with the team. Edgar, however, isn't worried that this roster change will affect the team's defensive performance.
"Things change in football whether that's through injuries or selection. I'm sure we'll be fine, they're all good defenders."
On the other hand, now that Canadian manager Benito Floro has had a chance to survey his options, the roster has been pretty consistent for the team. Edgar mentions how important this continuity is when it comes to building structure and chemistry so that the team is in optimal form for the truly important matches: the Gold Cup this summer.
Canada has already made it clear that their goal is to appear in the competition's Semi-Finals. This would give them a berth in the 2016 Copa America Centenario. This would easily be the biggest competition the Canadian team has played since the 2001 Confederations Cup. For an organization that has struggled for recognition at the best of times, this would be an incredibly positive step.
Edgar is confident that the recent results, and the way the team has performed during them, prove that this goal is very attainable.
"We're harder to beat," He says. "We are scoring more goals, and that's always a problem for us. As long as we stay solid from front to back as a group we think we can go far in the tournament."