Job done. It’s three more points, and more importantly additional FIFA ranking points, for Canada after a 1-0 win over Cuba in the Concacaf Nations League. Alphonso Davies scored the lone goal Canada, who improve to 2-0-0 in Group A.
Canada played most of the second half down a man after Doneil Henry was sent off for what appeared to be dissent. However, even with 10-men Canada controlled the vast majority of play.
Due to issues with Cuba’s home stadium the match was played in the Cayman Islands. This still brought with it some challenges, however, perhaps giving Canada some much needed adversity heading into a critical home match with the United States next month.
Here are some thoughts on the match and what it means for the national team going forward.
Results are going Canada’s way
This International window could not have gone much better for Canada. The 1-0 away win does hurt Canada a bit in terms of goal difference should that be a tiebreaker between them and the United States. They did score six at home, however.
Elsewhere, both teams Canada are competing with for the sixth and final qualifying spot in the top phase of Concacaf World Cup Qualifying dropped shocking results. Panama lost 2-0 to Bermuda at home, while El Salvador were beaten 1-0 by the Dominican Republic.
This means that Canada should pass Panama for the time being, and certainly helps in a difficult quest to improve their odds of making the 2022 World Cup.
Doneil Henry’s red card costly going forward
The initial call was shockingly poor, but Henry learned a lesson about talking back to Concacaf referees. His sending off not only meant a little extra tension on his teammates, but also could have implications going forward.
He will now be suspended for the aforementioned game against the United States at BMO Field. John Herdman has labelled the 26-year-old as his best defender throughout the camp, so to lose him for that match is a tough blow.
With that being said, Steven Vitoria looked solid in his first national team appearance of 2019 and is now getting consistent minutes in the Portuguese league. Derek Cornelius has been pretty good as well. Both will likely have to come up big next month.
In some ways, good Canada got some adversity
The lone positive from the Doneil Henry red card is it meant Canada had to deal with a bit of adversity, something that certainly couldn’t have been said about the home match.
After Henry went off, Canada didn’t panic and continued to play smart in possession. They were certainly helped by a stunningly timid Cuba side who set up in a midblock and hardly moved out of it — even when they had the man advantage.
While this certainly wasn’t in the upper echelon of difficult Concacaf trips, the weather and the field were no help. Temperatures that felt like 35 degrees Celsius with the humidity left several Canadian players drenched at full time. Meanwhile, again, the field saw Canada struggle to play through the middle of the park.
In the end it was a small taste of what Canada is going to have to overcome going forward. In that sense it might be good that it wasn’t just another walk in the park.