Miracles don't happen very often for the Canadian men's national soccer team. The last time they did was 16 years ago when the drawing of lots saw the team advance to the knockout stages of the 2000 Gold Cup. Canada would go on to win that tournament. They say you have to be good to be lucky, but even when Canada has played well, the bounces have always gone against them in big moments.
Today, Canada will need nothing short of a miracle if they want to keep their chances of qualifying for Russia 2018 alive. After a 2-1 loss to Honduras last Friday, they sit on the brink of elimination with one final game in this round of qualifying against El Salvador at BC Place.
In order to advance, Canada will need both a win over El Salvador, a loss for Honduras, and to overcome a six-goal differential between themselves and the second place Hondurans. That likely would mean getting a tonne of help from Mexico, while scoring at least a pair themselves. They are tall odds, incredibly improbable, but not impossible. As long as there is a sliver of hope, Canada will keep fighting.
Making the odds slightly more favourable is the fact that this match is at home, where Canada has their lone victory of this round. It also helps that their opponent, El Salvador, has already been eliminated and therefore are playing only for pride today. El Salvador has not won so far this round, but have a pair of draws, one of which came against Canada.
Mexico, meanwhile, will be looking for a statement victory at home against Honduras. They are still licking their wounds after a 7-0 thrashing at the hands of Chile in the Copa America Centenario semi-finals. A big home victory, one that would keep them perfect in this round of qualifying, would at least partially ease that pain.
The problem for Canada is that goals are incredibly rare, they have only scored twice in this round. Under manager Benito Floro, they have been far more focused on maintaining shape and structure defensively, not the attack. Canada have only scored more than a single goal twice since last September: a 3-0 victory over Belize and a 2-1 victory over Uzbekistan in which the winning goal was an own goal.
How Floro lines up his team will also be of interest, considering Canada almost always line up in a defensive 4-5-1 formation with a single striker. Needing a big win will he play with a more aggressive formation and a second striker into the mix or more attacking players in the midfield? Will Canada be able to break down El Salvador?
This is most likely his last stand, if chatter around the Canadian soccer community is to be believed, with this team should they not advance. While blaming him for everything that has happened this round of qualifying would be nonsensical, he has certainly shared in his part of the blame to this point.
It all could have been so much easier if Canada had gone for a win down in El Salvador back in November. The same thing if they had held on for at least a point against Honduras last week. Missed opportunities have certainly been the theme of this round for Canada to this point, and it has been painful to watch.
But Canada can't think about the chances they have missed today. Their door to the 2018 World Cup is still open just crack, and they need to give everything they can in one last desperate attempt to pry it open.