ST. JOHN’S, Canada— A first-half brace from debutant Tajon Buchanan helped Canada top El Salvador 2-0 in their opening Olympic Qualifying match on Friday night.
After a somewhat uneventful quarter of an hour to start the match, Canada began to find some cohesion in their attack, with midfielder Michael Baldisimo excelling in a deep-lying role in the middle of the park.
That momentum was rewarded in the form of a clever finish from Buchanan when the New England Revolution man found himself 1v1 on the left flank — largely occupied by Ballou Tabla to begin — making no mistake on his weaker foot.
A break-out star with the Revs in 2020, Buchanan wasted little time in finding an insurance goal for Canada as he found the back of the net from distance following a set piece situation, this time on his preferred right side.
While goalkeeper James Pantemis spent much of the first half-hour of the match largely as a spectator, El Salvador tested the Canadian goal a little more regularly as the first half dragged on.
Defensively, Mauro Biello’s side often shifted from their 4-3-3 starting formation into a 4-4-2, with attacking midfielder Aidan Daniels joining Charles-Andreas Brym in the front line while Buchanan and Tabla dropped to form a midfield block of four.
As a result, most of the opposing chances were from the perimeter which Pantemis was more than comfortable with on the night, making eight stops in total.
Going into the break with a comfortable lead, the focus in the second half for Canada was to show the type of composure and confidence they’ve so often lacked in the past.
In the end, Biello will be more than happy with how his side preserved their advantage, helping Pantemis earn the deserved clean sheet.
Considering the condensed nature of the tournament and the lack of match fitness, the rotation will likely be a crucial part of Canada’s plan for success in the competition.
Getting David Norman Jr., Theo Bair, Ryan Raposo, Lucas Dias, and Mo Farsi some minutes will help Biello both keep his squad fresh while also assessing what his best XI might look like going forward.
At full time, there was little statistically to separate the two teams, save of course for the 2-0 scoreline in favour of the Canadians.
Considering the early lead, Biello will be more than happy to have conceded the majority of possession and scoring chances in the closing hour of the contest.
Canada’s next match comes against Haiti on Monday night where a win would all but guarantee them a semi-final berth. Kickoff is once again at 6 EST on OneSoccer.