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Missing the Mark: Canada Draw El Salvador in Gold Cup Opener

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By drawing their easiest group opponent, Canada didn't make things any easier on themselves in terms of their goal of making it to the knockout stages of the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Cyle Larin was all alone with only the keeper to beat. With the poise of a veteran who had done this many times, the 20-year-old rounded the El Salvadorian keeper. That's when it went all wrong: with a gapping net in front of him he lost his cool and skied Canada's best opportunity of the game.

It was one play, one chance, in a 0-0 game that had no shortage of chances for both teams. But for Canada, Larin's miss was a microcosm of what this result means to their tournament: it was a costly missed opportunity.

There is little doubt that El Salvador, ranked 89th in the world, is going to be the easiest opponent Canada plays at this tournament no matter how long or short it may be. The inability to get three points indicates a team that is still struggling to find an identity.

The doors were open for Canada after what took place earlier on in the day, with Jamaica and Costa Rica drawing 2-2 a win would have put Canada at the top of the group. Now they will need another victory against Jamaica or Costa Rica to get out of the group at all.

Like Larin's chance, what was so frustrating about this Canadian loss was the fact it really was there for the taking. Despite defensive lapses Canada controlled possession, and were able to get a number of good looks in front of the El Salvadorian goal.

The problem was that they lost a midfield battle to one of the few countries in this tournament that they should have been able to boss around in the centre of the park. Kyle Bekker will be the whipping boy for this fact, but Samuel Piette didn't offer much creativity going forward either.

Manager Benito Floro did not react to this issue nearly quick enough, and for once got it tactically completely wrong against El Salvador. Canada simply did not have a creative midfielder in the lineup and therefore the team was unable to create substantial buildup play.

Jonathan Osorio and Russel Teibert, both players who could have added this to the game, were introduced very late in the match when there was little influence they could have had on the outcome.

At the back Canada looked questionable as well. Adam Straith did a decent job of shielding the back four, but when he wasn't there the team struggled greatly. The fullbacks, Marcel De Jong and Nick Ledgerwood were beaten far too often.

Thankfully Kenny Kenny Stamatopulos left little doubt in anyone's mind that he should be the starter for this team going forward. He was superb to insure Canada got points out of this matchup and still have a realistic chance of getting to the next round.

The way things played out at the back is worrisome going forward, however, as both Costa Rica and Jamaica showed off their dangerous offensive game in the group's other game. They did also show, however, that both aren't as strong as many would have considered going into the tournament.

Canada really should be at the top of the group right now, and the fact that they aren't doesn't bode well for the rest of the tournament. But the team is also far from out of it, having beat Jamaica 3-1 in September of 2014.

Should they do that again everything will be back on track as far as getting to the knockout stages, and Canada will go into their first even Gold Cup game at home with momentum. Even if they can't there will still be everything to play for on the final matchday.

So while Canada missed an excellent opportunity to take a strong first step in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, they still have plenty of time to correct that stumble. This game should serve as a lesson, and on Saturday Canada will get to show whether they learned anything from it or not.