TORONTO, Ont. - The Canadian Men’s National Team will close out their first set of qualifiers as they get ready to host El Salvador at BMO Field on Wednesday night. Kick-off is scheduled for 7:30 PM EST and can be watched on OneSoccer and Sportsnet ONE.
Two draws in their opening two matches have Canada in third place in the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers, heading into Match Day 3. Each of the first two draws had a different taste. On Match Day One against Honduras at home, the draw was a disappointing result. Whereas the draw against the Americans in Nashville, on the road, was a big, valuable point. A win on Wednesday night against El Salvador will help Canada end the first round of Qualifiers on a high.
Speaking before the qualifiers began, John Herdman acknowledged the importance of each of Canada’s home games during these qualifiers. In last week’s opener against Honduras, the Canadians’ courage to attack was on full display. It was evident even more so as the game wore on and Canada went in search of the equalizer and a few more minutes may very well have yielded another goal for Canada.
Canada’s attacking talent will always play a big role in the confidence this squad can take into games. In both games Les Rouges fans were able to see the different ways in which this team can attack. Whether by quick movement in and around the box, or playing on the counter attack- that led to Canada’s equaliser in Nashville- this squad has the ability to score goals in different ways.
A big part of the Canadian offence has been Bayern Munich star, Alphonso Davies. Davies recorded the assist on Cycle Larin’s goal, but throughout the night was able to run in open spaces and create havoc for the American defenders. Davies left Sunday night’s draw with an apparent knee injury, and his availability is yet to be confirmed, there is some optimism as the Canadian was able to walk out of the stadium on his own.
DAVIES UPDATE: "Alphonso Davies' injury is in his left knee. Still no exact diagnosis as of now, but the reassuring news is that he was able to leave the stadium without crutches."— Ben Steiner (@BenSteiner00) September 7, 2021
Per @iMiaSanMia #CanMNT pic.twitter.com/bfsYG468Bi
Turning to Canada’s opponent’s, El Salvador comes into this matchup after draws in their opening two matches, holding both the USA and Honduras to 0-0 draws at home. While La Selecta have shown they can defend and frustrate their opposition, the offensive side of their game is still lacking. Through their two matches, El Salvador have managed just two shots on target.
With little turnaround times between matches, squad depth will prove to be a key indicator for how well teams can do. In their first two matches, La Selecta head coach Hugo Perez named an unchanged starting lineup. With the luxury of not having to travel between their opening matches, Perez may not have hesitated to make use of the same lineup. However, now facing their third matchup in the span of a week, same as the Canadians, Perez may have to rely on his bench more than he has thus far.
Coming into Canada, it should be expected that El Salvador will be set up to defend and frustrate the Canadian attack as much as possible. One area of concern for the La Selecta Head Coach will be Eriq Zavaleta. The Toronto FC defender, Zavaleta, and one-half of the El Salvadorian centre-back pairing departed the match before the hour mark against Honduras. Since joining the National Team program earlier this summer, Zavaleta has played a key role in Perez’s side starting in all six matches, and going the distance in five of his six matches. His availability for Wednesday night’s matchup is yet to be determined.
Canada and El Salvador last matched up in an International Friendly in October 2017 with La Selecta winning 1-0 through a 74th minute winner by Dennis Pineda. The squad that current Head Coach John Herdman will pick on Wednesday night, will be vastly different, and vastly improved from the team that faced La Selecta in that friendly three years ago.
While the Canadians won’t want to look ahead to the next month’s World Cup Qualifiers just yet, with away matches in Mexico and Jamaica looming in October, picking up a win on Wednesday night will be crucial. In each of its first two games, Canada has gotten stronger and stronger. John Herdman and co. have an opportunity to send a message to the rest of the region by picking up three points on Wednesday.
Cyle Larin postgame: "We're a top team in CONCACAF. I believe it and this team believes it."— Michael Singh (@MichaelSingh94) September 6, 2021
Opponent: El Salvador
Kick-off: 7:30 PM EST
Stadium: BMO Field, Toronto, ON
Watch: OneSoccer, Sportsnet ONE