Editor's Note: Please welcome Raghav Sandhu to the Waking the Red staff. Sandhu has been a Toronto FC season seat holder since the first season, and has travelled on the road to watch the team. He will bring plenty of opinions to the WTR team.
It was inevitable. When the groups for the fourth round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying were announced, a sense of resentment came back for anyone connected to Canadian soccer. The Canadian men's national team would be facing Honduras again, a familiar foe that had broken Canadian hearts a mere few years ago.
October 16, 2012 was a day filled with anticipation for Canadian soccer fans, a day where the national team held its fate in its own hands. A tie or a win would ensure that Canada made it to the final round of World Cup qualifying, the hex, where the teams that finish in the top three make it to the World Cup finals.
The rest, of course, is history. What should have been a day of celebration for Canada's soccer program, turned out to be a day where they would encounter their worst loss since an 8-0 massacre in Mexico in 1993. Canada had lost to Honduras, 8-1. The result led to Stephen Hart stepping down as head coach and fans criticized the players for not showing enough heart when they needed it most. The mood surrounding the Canadian national team was down and the fans had seen enough.
Since then, Canada has fallen from 61st to 102nd in the FIFA rankings.
Naturally, there was apprehension when Canadian soccer fans learned that the men's national team would be playing Honduras again on Friday November 13, 2015. It was to be the first match of the fourth round of World Cup qualifying. As kick-off approached, Canadian soccer fans from Vancouver and all across the true north converged on BC Place and the atmosphere was buzzing inside the stadium. One could look at the supporter's sections and see flags representing every province and territory in Canada. People had come from all over this great nation, yet were united in supporting one common interest, the Canadian men's national team.
As the teams kicked off, a raucous crowd of 20, 000 got behind the men in red. In the 38th minute, the moment everyone was waiting for arrived. Canada went on the counter attack and Junior Hoilett crossed the ball across the Honduran box. Will Johnson rose up and greeted the ball with his head, which deflected off of Cyle Larin and sneaked ever so slowly across the goal line.
Absolute bedlam! The fans went wild as the team celebrated the goal. It was a special moment, even though there was more than half the game left to play. Anyone with a vested interest in the national team must have been happy in that moment. 1-0 Canada!
As the game wore on, Will Johnson had another opportunity from a freekick, which resulted in the ball hitting the post. So close! The last quarter of the match was tense. Canada would have to be defensively sound to hang onto an amazing victory. 10 minutes left, 5 minutes left, then stoppage time. Honduras received a freekick in the attacking half. The ball was played in to the area and arrived to Johnny Palacios right in front of goal. Offside, phew! Final seconds and Canada was doing a good job of holding the ball up in the opposition half.
The final whistle ultimately went and the players celebrated a big and important win. Borjan, the Canadian goalkeeper, went down on his knee and pointed to the sky. The rest of the team was jumping and celebrating in front of the Voyageurs, the Canadian soccer supporters.
Every fan was thrilled. Canada had held on to beat their rivals, 1-0! What occurred on the day had lifted a big weight off of the Canadian men's national team's shoulders. The ghost of the 8-1 thrashing encountered a few years before became easier to deal with, though not forgotten.
There is still a long way to go for Canada in World Cup qualifying. The task will get harder with every match. The men's team will still have to play Mexico, widely considered one of the best teams in the region. Playing El Salvador will also not be easy, by any stretch of the imagination.
Some of Benito Floro's call-ups and tactics have also been questioned. However, the events that occurred on Friday night in Vancouver will give Canadian soccer fans belief. Belief that the national team can push on and make it to the hex, belief that there can be progression with our national program, and belief that a new generation of Canadian, homegrown talent can take centre stage. They are not there yet. There will be more growing pains. However, Canadians can be proud of a great result, in front of an amazing crowd, in one of Canada's most beautiful cities.