Progress isn't supposed to be this ugly. Nobody who watched the Canada draw 0-0 with Panama would argue that it even resembled quality soccer, and neither side will come out of the match with even a bit of satisfaction with their performance. Any sort of coherent play ended up descending into a mass of fouls and incredibly poor touches.
In team's recent matches under Benito Floro where there has been visible improvement: the team is not only getting better results recently but have been visibly playing better. Tuesday's game would be the exception to the rule. Canada looked awful on the ball for the majority of the match. Even with a minuscule amount of possession, they did far more in the fall against Colombia than they did on this occasion.
It's somewhat refreshing, however, to think that a draw in Central America against a quality side is considered a disappointment for this current Canadian squad. Ultimately, this is the kind of result that will win Canada rounds in World Cup qualifying, pretty or not. For that, this result should be considered one that still indicates progress, even if it was forgettable.
There are a number of things that take even more shine out of an already unglamorous result. Panama was down to 10 men for the final 17 minutes of the match and Canada was unable to capitalize. Their only shot came from a Dwayne De Rosario freekick from well outside the box that hardly troubled the keeper whatsoever.
Then there were the fouls, 20 for Panama and 33 between both teams. That is a foul roughly every three minutes of action. No wonder this game never really got going. The referee was incredibly stingy with his cards on this occasion, it was a friendly and all. But in the future Canada likely would have had at least one player sent off, if not more.
There is something to be said, however, about the fact that Canada truly did force a lot of these fouls as the result of attacking intent. Issey Nakajima-Farran, for one, really caused Panama a lot of difficulty in the early going and it translated into several free kicks in dangerous areas. Sadly, Patrice Bernier was having real issues delivering quality balls from set pieces.
That delivery improved almost immediately when Russell Teibert was inserted into the match. If there is any positive on a player level to be taken out of this game it is Teibert, who provided pure energy and a lot of new ideas when he was subbed on. He and Jonathan Osorio combined fairly well to bring Canada the sort of possession and interplay that they had lacked throughout the first half.
A lot of this was down to a surprisingly poor performance from some of Canada's most consistent performers. Atiba Hutchinson hardly had his best game and looked injured and slow when the team needed his influence most late in the match. Julian De Guzman looks like being without a club is finally catching up with him as he may have lost his almost automatic starting spot if he cannot find regular games soon.
Another thing that really hurt Canada going forward actually came from the backline. Without Marcel De Jong, Canada's outside defenders were painfully poor at moving the ball forward with any attacking intent. Doneil Henry and Adam Straith should have switched positions almost immediately, as the latter showed clear attacking intent and beat defenders several times with moves that would have been well suited for the wings.
Otherwise, the team showed good structure throughout, something which has been a benchmark of Floro's era. Canada has always been difficult to break down when it is at its best over the years but to call what the team has been playing, Colombia game aside, bunkering, would be misplaced. They are always pressuring which generally keeps the opposition outside of the areas where they can do damage.
The passing also continues to be better and with more purpose. Longballs and cheap giveaways are becoming less and less a part of the Canadian game when they used to be at the forefront. This is the byproduct of a more technical midfield that Floro relies on, one that is comfortable on the ball and with the ball on the ground.
This game felt like a step backward into the familiar negative recent past for Canadian Soccer, it certainly won't help the FIFA ranking much. Instead, it was an ugly game with some displeasing attributes that masked a truly decent result and a couple of reoccurring positives.