To kick off the Octagonal, Canada treated their home fans to an entertaining 1-1 draw with Honduras. After leapfrogging Los Catrachos in the FIFA World Rankings just under a month ago, Les Rouges were in search of victory against their Octagonal rivals in matchday one of the third and final round of CONCACAF’s FIFA World Cup Qualifying process.
The build up to this game was something special. In addition to having not played on home soil since October 2019, this Canadian men’s soccer team has injected a sense of excitement into this country’s soccer community, a feeling that die hard fans have longed for over the last several years.
In terms of team selection, John Herdman started the night with a 4-4-2. Jonthan David and Alphonso Davies were the marquee names in the eleven following their absences from the Gold Cup, while Atiba Hutchinson also returned to the side for the first time since March.
As the game got underway, it was the visitors who produced the first attempt on goal through Brayan Moya, whose header found its way right into Milan Borjan’s gloves.
Tajon Buchanan then began to terrorize the Honduras defence on the right wing, as his driven cross was cleared away but only out to Cyle Larin, who blasted Canada’s first shot of the game over the bar.
Switching over to the left side now, Alphonso Davies was once again a culprit with regards to bullying of opposition defenders. The Bayern Munich star drove right into the area with ease, but his left footed effort could not find its way around goalkeeper Luis López.
A notable factor of Canada’s play during the first quarter of an hour was the resilience of Richie Laryea. The No. 22 was oozing confidence and proved a reliable source of energy for Les Rouges on the attack.
In the 20th minute, Borjan was sprung into action as he parried away a Diego Rodríguez shot to keep it 0-0. As the half-hour mark approached, an end-to-end affair was seemingly on the cards for the duration of the night. Yet, both sides were failing to capitalize when in possession, most notably in the final third.
The half may have looked like it was going to finish goalless, but five minutes before the whistle, Andy Najar was brought down in the box by Buchanan, and with no hesitation, the referee awarded a penalty. Alexander López then comfortably converted the spot kick to put the visitors in front.
GOAL— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) September 3, 2021
Honduras strike first as Alexander Lopez scores from the penalty spot, before being carried off the field with an apparent hamstring injury ⚽️#CanMNT | https://t.co/hishXepRT3 pic.twitter.com/5fqTYF6Znu
In a late attempt to equalize before the break, David forced an impressive stop from Lopez before Larin’s feeble rebound was easily caught by the 27-year-old shot stopper.
Despite being down at the break, Canada finished the half playing with a greater sense of urgency. With Davies leading the charge, Les Rouges were on the hunt for an early moment of brilliance in the second half to swing momentum back in their favour.
Davies started things off as he cruised right into the Honduras box yet again, but in spite of a clear chance at shooting with his favourite left foot, the former Vancouver Whitecaps sensation opted for a cut-back, which was easily intercepted by the Honduran defenders.
Laryea was also looking dangerous as he made sure Maynor Figueroa and his dogged defensive teammates had their work cut out for them. Captain Hutchinson was next to try and draw Canada level, but his well-struck shot from the top of the area was blocked by Marcelo Pereira.
Attack after attack was the theme of Canada’s second half so far. Surely something was brewing right? Yes indeed.
After some brilliant play from Laryea, substitute Junior Hoilett was hauled down in the penalty area by Figueroa to give Canada a chance to level from the spot. Cue ice cold Cyle Larin.
The Besiktas striker, who scored the winner in Canada’s last win over Honduras almost six years ago, smashed home the equalizer and BMO Field was alive again. That goal means that Larin is now the Canadian men’s national team’s joint-second all-time top scorer with 19 goals (level with John Catliff and Dale Mitchell).
Canada’s No. 17 then almost put his side in front for the first time after connecting with Stephen Eustáquio’s delicious cross, but the header drifted just wide. At the other end, Borjan produced the save of the day moments later as he tipped Moya’s header onto the post.
Along with Borjan’s heroics, Alistair Johnston’s constant tenacity at the back has showcased exactly why Herdman has nothing but faith in him as one of Canada’s first-choice defenders.
With less than two minutes to go, Laryea found himself in a perfect position to convert the winner following Davies’ overhit cross, but much to his dismay, the 26-year-old failed to put his effort on target and Honduras was reprieved.
Ultimately, the spoils were shared and Canada will feel as though they deserved more. For the majority of the game, both sides lacked the quality to put the encounter beyond their opponent’s reach.
Herdman’s men have just three days before they take on the USA in Nashville, and based on what transpired tonight at BMO Field, it would be unsurprising if Canada’s head coach alters his lineup on Sunday.
For Cyle Larin, another major milestone on the goalscoring front, and for Canada, one game down, 13 to go.