John Herdman made a good first impression this afternoon in his coaching debut for the Canadian men’s national team. His well-organized side were deserved 1-0 winners over New Zealand in an international friendly match played in Spain.
Despite a lack of minutes for Toronto FC, Tosaint Ricketts scored the second half winner for Canada after latching on to a Dejan Jakovic long ball. It was his 16th goal for the national team, which ties him with Alex Bunbury for fourth all time. He is now just 6 behind leader Dwayne De Rosario who scored 22 for Canada.
The match also gave national team supporters a look at some new players, and who might just benefit the most from this new hire in terms of national team minutes. Three players made their senior debuts: David Wotherspoon, Marcus Godinho and Liam Millar.
It wasn’t a perfect performance, but overall it was a positive start. Here are five thoughts on what we learned about John Herdman’s side during this win:
Liam Millar excellent in his senior national team debut
At just 18 years of age Millar was Canada’s man of the match during his senior national team debut. The Liverpool youth team youngster caused all sorts of problems for the New Zealand backline down the left wing and was the national team’s most dangerous attacker on the day. He played the full 90 minutes and even got a short look at striker.
What stood out most about Millar initially was his confidence. Despite being a debutant he did not look at all worried about taking on defenders who were much bigger and more experienced than him. His technical ability is also excellent, especially his dribbling and speed.
Millar came very close on two occasions to opening his account for Canada. He got a piece of a great cross from Tesho Akindele but it deflected wide of an open net. If this game was any indication, it won’t be long before that first goal comes.
There are no questions whatsoever about Millar’s loyalty and pride in wearing the Canadian shirt. With that being said, Herdman should look to get him cap tied during the CONCACAF nations league as quickly as possible.
Osorio/Piette look to be the future core of Canada’s midfield
Samuel Piette continues to be one of the most quality and consistent players on the national team. Just as he did all summer at the Gold Cup he confidently controlled the back half of Canada’s midfield and started the majority of the attacks with good distribution.
Toronto FC’s Jonathan Osorio, meanwhile, looks like he will be a central piece under Herdman as well. The 25-year-old Osorio was the heart of Canada’s midfield and his composure on the ball was excellent throughout the match.
This young pair will look to be the core of John Herdman’s midfield going forward, Piette handling the defensive side while Osorio provides an attacking threat. With Junior Hoilett, Scott Arfield, Atiba Hutchinson and Mark-Anthony Kaye also in the mix Canada’s midfield has found a solid base.
Strong game management from Canada
Canada looked nervy and uncomfortable through the first 10 minutes of a match in which they rarely touched the ball and New Zealand hit the post twice. After they settled down, however, they had the bulk of possession and chances, especially in the second half.
Once Canada had taken the lead they never looked like they would relinquish it, a positive step forward for the team. Instead of sitting back and soaking up pressure, a proactive Canadian side continued to be smart in possession and press New Zealand back into their half. Maybe Herdman’s positive psychology stuff is working after all.
Godinho looks to be an option at right back
Undoubtedly still the weakest position in terms of depth on the national team, Canada got a look at another solid player at right back. After Michael Petrasso had to be removed due to injury (it didn’t look overly serious), Marcus Godinho, a 20-year-old who has recently broken through into the Hearts first team in Scotland, was given the second half of match.
Godinho had a great match. For someone of his age his physicality was excellent, owing likely to playing in the rough lower Scottish divisions. He was able to push multiple attackers off the ball. His ability on the ball was also very good and, as long as Godinho keeps getting minutes at Hearts, Petrasso will have some right back competition.
Canada still looks shaky at the back
If there was one negative takeaway from this match for Canada it was, despite the clean sheet, the backline. Canada haven’t been giving up very many goals of late, but they have also been offering their opposition far too many looks in front of goal.
As aforementioned, New Zealand hit two posts in the opening few minutes and were really unlucky not to take an early lead. Canada was also easily unlocked by ex-TFCer Jeremy Brockie late in the first half but he was judged to be offside. Canada often needed Sam Piette to drop all the way back to play almost as a third centre back and ward off New Zealand attacks.
One positive, however, was the return of David Edgar. At 30 and coming off of a big injury who knows how much time he has left with Canada, and he will have to find a club after being released by the Vancouver Whitecaps. But a solid showing in the second half proves that a player who has been a great servant to the national team still has plenty to give.
- Former Canadian men’s national team coach Benito Floro and his son Antonio were in attendance. He was seen congratulated Herdman and some of the players after the match.
- Canada might have to wait a while for their next game. Canada Soccer have no friendly plans announced ahead of their CONCACAF nations league opener in September. It seems unlikely, however, that they would miss so many windows and perhaps another announced friendly is ahead.
- A bit surprising not to see Derek Cornelius come off the bench for Canada. He was the one youngster who intrigued me the most in this camp just because of Canada’s positional needs at CB. If he keeps getting playing time in Serbia, however, he will be playing soon.
- David Wotherspoon had a few poor touches, but overall looks to be a nice add to the Canadian team. Can never have enough depth, especially with this group, and all indications are that he is a great person to have around camp.