Benito Floro's career as a soccer coach has taken him all over the world and left him with plenty of experiences. Tonight, however, something he had never seen before happened in Canada's 3-0 victory over Belize in round 3 of CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers.
"It's the first time for me as a professional that my team didn't receive any shots on target," said Floro after the match. "It means our team has played a pretty good game."
According to FIFA statistics, Belize registered just one shot attempt at all during the match. However, even that lone attempt can be called into question, appearing to be a misguided cross in the first half.
Tosaint Ricketts had a brace for Canada, bringing his all time goal count up to 12. Atiba Hutchinson scored in the 90th minute to give Canada an all important third goal to push the tie strongly in their favour. Kenny Stamatopolous had a very easy clean sheet in goal.
"That's what we need to do at home," said Canadian defender Nik Ledgerwood, "have a clean sheet and score goals."
Whether it was a byproduct of defensive dominance, or poor attacking play from an underwhelming Belize side, Canada were able to make yet another clean sheet look effortless. Stamatopolous barely had to move a muscle in net.
From a defensive standpoint, Canada has only allowed one goal in their past eight matches. While for the most part the opponents haven't been overly difficult, this is also not a statistic to be taken lightly when it comes to evaluating the defensive abilities of the Canadian team.
Last night saw the strongest eleven players that Floro has fielded since taking over as Canadian manager, and the team looked the part. Belize rarely touched the ball as Canada played a strong possession game and for once looked the aggressor throughout.
Where Canada was not so happy with their performance, however, was in the final third, despite the three goal output. Scoring has been an issue as of late as the team did not record a single goal at the recent CONCACAF Gold Cup.
"Three goals is a good result," said Floro after the match, "but not enough to relax for the next game."
While Will Johnson, Atiba Hutchinson and Samuel Piette were largely able to control the centre of the park, Canada looked painfully out of ideas when trying to penetrate into the final third. Most attacks concluded with less than dangerous crosses into the Belize box.
"It felt almost like a training game we had so many chances," said Issey Nakajima-Farran, later adding, "with the guys that we got now we should be scoring a lot more goals."
Canada's midfield was dealt a blow in the early going as Julian De Guzman went down with a calf injury after just 14 minutes. He was carrying an injury into the game, and it is not clear whether he will travel for the away leg.
Piette was more than capable when inserted into the game however, and was strong defensively allowing Hutchinson to push further up the pitch. The further up the field the Besiktas man pushed the better the results were for the Canadian attack.
During the match that attack was most effective when they were able to find space on the wings before working the ball into the middle of the park. The overlaps played by Nick Ledgerwood/Tosaint Ricketts and Marcel De Jong/Issey Nakajima-Farran were strong throughout.
Canada's finishing was also called into question during the match, as they were only able to put three of the ten shots they directed on goal past the Belize keeper. Issey Nakajima-Farran and Cyle Larin, among others, both had great opportunities to increase the Canadian lead.
This means while they are sitting fairly comfortably going into leg two of qualification, they are not willing to look beyond to a difficult fourth round of qualification that will see them play in a group with Mexico, Honduras, and the winner of El Salvador and Curacao.
Anything but a loss by more than two goals would mean Canada moves on to the next round, making the odds fairly low of their elimination. That away leg is set to be played on September 8 at 9:00 eastern.
Canada will be looking to use that match to build on what they have accomplished in qualifying and set themselves up for the far more difficult rounds that will follow in the coming months.