It has been a long time since a Canadian soccer team has played a must-win game, even longer since a must win game has been played on home soil. The last time was 2012 when Canada played against Panama at BMO Field in World Cup qualifiers.
On that day they pulled of an upset 1-0 victory that saw them come within one game of qualifying for the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. Three years later, they need a similar victory in order to make the knockout stages of the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the first time since 2009.
In 2009 Canada had the exact same group as they do this year, but things went very differently. Going into their final game of the group stage against Costa Rica Canada was coming off two 1-0 victories over Jamaica and El Salvador. They would tie Costa Rica 2-2 and top that 2009 group.
This year they have been underwhelming in a draw with El Salvador before being beaten 1-0 on a late goal by Jamaica. Now they need an unlikely win against Costa Rica to get out of the group and have no chance to finish at the top.
All signs point to this being a loss for Canada, and potentially an ugly one at that. However playing at home all bets are off. At BMO Field Canada has been a different team than anywhere else in the world. In front of a home crowd they play their best soccer and have pulled off some big results.
Today they will need their biggest win of all to get to the weekend's quarterfinals, but it isn't out of the question. Like Canada, Costa Rica have also underwhelmed so far this tournament, drawing against both Jamaica and El Salvador.
They did make the World Cup quarterfinals last summer, but only scored 5 goals all tournament. Offensively they are not always the best team and Canada will have to hope that culminates in a disappointing Costa Rican performance today.
This game is going to be equally important for Costa Rica, who will likely also have a big turnout at BMO Field. If they lose this game it is unlikely the Costa Ricans will make it to the next round, which would be a massive upset for one of the titans of CONCACAF.
A lot of how Canada fairs against them will have to do with what type of lineup and style they play. Without Nik Ledgerwood and Samuel Piette in the lineup due to yellow card accumulation Canada will need to tweak their roster ever so slightly, even if Benito Floro has been preaching staying the course.
So far this tournament Floro has tactically underwhelmed as Canada have put themselves on the backfoot against teams that realistically they should have beaten, at least in the case of El Salvador. The entire tournament they have been painfully out of ideas in the final third.
Today they will need to change that, as offensive players like Cyle Larin and Tesho Akindele who have had difficult tournaments will need to step up. Both have the capability to be the game breaker Canada needs to pull an upset like this off.
At the end of day this is big day for Canadian soccer whether the team wins tonight's game or not. A win would sure leave a better taste in everyone's mouth, though, and be a huge leap forward for the program's reputation and confidence.