On Sunday, Canada defeated the United States 2-0 in World Cup Qualifying for the first time since 1980.
I repeat, Canada defeated the United States 2-0 in World Cup Qualifying for the first time since 1980.
Take some time to soak that in and continue to bask in all that glory as you reflect on the remarkable journey and meteoric rise of the CanMNT.
Canada will play its third and final match of this International break in El Salvador at the Estadio Cuscatlan. They enter the match at the top of the CONCACAF 2022 World Cup qualifying table with a 4 point lead over both the United States and Mexico, while El Salvador sits in sixth place with 9 points. Canada holds the historical match-up advantage over El Salvador with 9 wins, 4 draws and 6 losses.
However, El Salvador should not be taken lightly, as they come into this game off a 2-0 win over recently eliminated Honduras, with nothing to lose and what should be a loud, hostile crowd behind them. They will be fighting for all 3 points as they look to try and close the gap with fourth place Panama to keep their 2022 World Cup Qualifying hopes alive.
Canada, on the other hand, has a potential World Cup clinching scenario if the following four things happen (as per Kristian Jack):
For Canada to clinch a spot in the World Cup on Wednesday night the following needs to happen:— Kristian Jack (@KristianJack) January 31, 2022
win (away to El Salvador)
lose (home to Honduras)
lose (away to Mexico)
to not win (away to Jamaica)
3 things to look out for:
1. The possession battle.
In Canada’s previous 6 wins in the Octagon, they have only managed to win the possession battle once against Costa Rica. Their other 5 wins show that Canada is clearly a team that is more comfortable playing out of possession, preferring to hit their opponents on direct, precise and efficient counters. El Salvador is also a team that has enjoyed more success playing without the ball, evidenced by owning less than 50% possession in both their wins this cycle.
The last time these two teams met, Canada scored two early goals that forced El Salvador into the uncomfortable position of spending more time in possession and trying to break down a resilient, organized Canadian defense. Striking early and being patient to capitalize on opposition mistakes has been the Reds’ recipe for success, which they will surely try and replicate tonight.
2. Exploiting the space between El Salvador’s fullbacks and center backs.
Against the top CONCACAF teams, El Salvador tend to passively sit back into a centrally compact, mid block, especially if they are ahead or the game is tied. This compact shape has led to 5 clean sheets and frustrated many teams in the Octagon so far. However, this strategy comes undone when teams are able to create space between El Salvador’s fullbacks and centerbacks. The El Salvador back line lacks discipline in holding their shape and the pace to recover once the initial block is bypassed on quick switches of play and in transition. Canada’s pace and precise, direct style are theoretically a good fit to exploit the space between El Salvador’s fullbacks and centerbacks to create prime goal scoring opportunities.
3. Bypassing the El Salvador press.
Despite playing a centrally compact, mid block, El Salvador initiates a press once the conditions for certain triggers are met. One of their main triggers has come from opposing wide players receiving the ball facing their own goal - where El Salvador can use the touchline and two to three of their players to trap the opposition and win possession back. Throughout the 2022 World Cup Qualifying games, and especially in the past two matches against the United States and Honduras, Canada has found success playing the ball out wide to fullbacks and drawing in opposing defenders to believe their trigger for a press should be initiated.
From here, Canada has provided support by shifting a centerback behind and positioning a central midfielder horizontal to the fullback to provide multiple options for beating the press. If the fullback has not been pressed, they can easily turn up field and carry the ball forward. But, if they are pressed, they will either play the ball back to the CB, who can then put a ball over the top to the winger, who can then attack their defender in a 1v1 situation, or they play a slightly disguised horizontal pass to the central midfielder, who then immediately plays it forward to one of David or Larin to initiate the attack.
Notable CanMNT absences: Alphonso Davies (Mild Myocarditis), Stephen Eustaquio (undisclosed), and Steven Vitoria (Yellow Card accumulation)
CanMNT players on a yellow card: Sam Adekugbe, Tajon Buchanan, Lucas Cavallini, Stephen Eustaquio, Liam Fraser, Doneil Henry, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Richie Laryea and Sam Piette.
Lineups to be shared once available.
WHAT: Canada vs. El Salvador
WHERE: Estadio Cuscatlan | San Salvador, El Salvador
WHEN: Wednesday, February 2nd 9:00 pm ET | 6:00 pm PT
CAN TV: Broadcast on Sportsnet and OneSoccer.
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