There were no miracles last night at Estadio Azteca. That's what it would have taken for the Canadian men's national team to get a result at CONCACAF's most difficult venue. Instead, they lost their second straight game of Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying to Mexico, this time 2-0.
Andres Guardado scored a first half penalty kick in the 17th minute to give Mexico a 1-0 lead. Jesus Manuel Corona's effort before halftime would be the real backbreaker however, and all but handed the result to Mexico. Goalkeeper Jesus Corona had the clean sheet for Mexico, albeit with little resistance.
Ultimately, it was mistakes that cost Canada what could have been a historic result. The Doneil Henry to right back experiment continued its shaky test period after he brought down Marco Fabian in the box. It could have been considered a soft penalty, but it going to be awarded 9 out of 10 times in CONCACAF.
Canada did well to settle things down after the opening Mexican goal, but would give up a backbreaking second just before halftime. Who knows how the match could have changed if Canadian defenders had not allowed Corona to dance around their box before beating Kenny Stamatopoulos in the Canadian net.
It was such a difficult goal to concede because otherwise Canada were fairly solid defensively. They were significantly more composed than Friday at BC Place, and allowed Mexico less chances. The centreback partnership of Dejan Jakovic and Manjrekar James were the standouts, as both broke up multiple attacks.
There were only four Mexican shots on target in this match, as opposed to the nine that Milan Borjan faced at BC Place. Borjan wouldn't even play the full match this time, however, as he would leave the game before the end of the first half with a hand injury. Stamatopoulos looked fine in relief, but really wasn't tested all that often as Mexico was content to sit on their lead.
With the Canadian defending returning to its mostly resilient self, the concern going forward once again returns to the team's offense. Canada never really had a good look at goal tonight as they sacrificed their own offense to try and hold off the waves of Mexican attack.
In some ways, however, they would take this too far. This was especially true of set pieces, where Canada was dreadful throughout the match. Instead of delivering direct corners into the box, where their size could have challenged the Mexican defenders, they were far too cute. Route one soccer has long been bemoaned in Canadian soccer circles, but away in CONCACAF it is often the right choice.
Cyle Larin did what he could up top, and fought as hard as he ever has in a Canadian shirt, but just didn't have the support to make anything happen. Nonetheless, his hold up play has noticeably improved which is something that could make a difference for Canada in their crucial next set of qualifiers.
Importantly, this match will also mean that most of Canada's important players now have the full experience from playing on the road in CONCACAF. That will be absolutely crucial for the next set of qualifiers, where Canada will need an away result.
Thanks to results elsewhere, Canada still have a fairly good chance of moving on September. A 2-0 win for Honduras tonight means they are ahead of Canada on goal difference. This means Canada will almost certainly need to get a result against them in San Pedro Sula in order to advance. It's stomach churning for Canadian supporters, but not as difficult a proposition as it was four years ago.