John Herdman’s side was victorious in his first ever truly Concacaf away date, picking up a 1-0 victory over St. Kitts and Nevis. Atiba Hutchinson scored the lone goal for Canada, who for the moment sit second in Concacaf Nations League qualifying.
The win also essentially guarantees Canada a spot in this summer’s Gold Cup, which will serve as an important test for a national team that appears to be on the rise.
It was also a bit closer than a lot of fans would have liked against the 133rd-ranked nation in the world. With all those things in mind, here are some thoughts on the win and what this match means going forward for the team.
Russell Teibert was the man of the match
For the past couple of years, it appeared as though Russell Teibert’s career had slowed down significantly. Once one of the most promising young players in Canada, Teibert started just 16 games for the Vancouver Whitecaps during the 2016 and 2017 MLS seasons combined.
However, 17 starts and a solid season in Vancouver this year has put Teibert right back into the national team conversation. Still just 25, a move further up the field after mostly playing as a defensive midfielder under Carl Robinson appears to be making the most of his talents.
It was again in that advanced role that Teibert was excellent for Canada against St. Kitts. He played a brilliant ball on the goal, and he was otherwise the creative force behind most of Canada’s attacks.
Importance of experience
Teibert was likely Canada’s man of the match, but Atiba Hutchinson was a close second. Wearing the armband again with Scott Arfield missing the past two matches, Hutchinson scored his seventh goal for Canada, and his first since 2015.
While youth is the main talking point of this Canadian squad of late, Hutchinson’s calm both with and without possession in this match demonstrated the importance experience brings for this team. When things got dicey for Canada, it always seemed like Hutchinson was there to provide a calming pass or tackle.
Hopefully, this crop of youngsters are soaking up whatever they can from playing with players like Hutchinson and David Edgar, who have all kinds of experience on the road in Concacaf. Both provided a presentation on just that for the players as part of this camp.
Team still a work in progress
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that this is still just John Herdman’s fourth chance in charge of Canada, and that many of these players are still playing their first few games for the national team.
Canada fans would have been reminded of that at times during the match. The team occasionally looked disjointed and lacked communication, especially in the final third, and it cost them a few more goals on the day.
The good news is that a lot of these players have several years to figure out each other’s playing styles, and that it ultimately didn’t cost Canada anything on the day.
Davies needs to be more of an attacker
For a player with so much hype surrounding him, Alphonso Davies has been fairly quiet during his last few outings with the national team. A big part of that is where he is playing on the pitch.
It is sensible, in some ways, to play an attacking player like Davies at a fullback position in this round of competition. It also gives him a chance to develop some chemistry with Ballou Tabla that will be crucial in both the near and distant future.
However, it is clear that Canada need his talents in attack. When he sacrificed his defensive duties a little bit late in the second half to take more players on down the wing it resulted in Canada’s best attacking stretch of the match.
Don’t read too much into the result, either way
It is worth a reminder throughout this qualifying round: the same way that big wins aren’t necessarily worth getting too excited about, narrow wins aren’t worth getting too worked up over.
Sure, it would have been nice to see Canada give a more definitive performance on the day. But that never comes easy against easily the best side they have faced so far in this round and in a difficult venue on a very poor surface.
For the most part, Canada played smart possession-based soccer that saw them both get the result they needed and rarely get threatened defensively. The true tests will still have to wait until the summer.