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Canada vs. Jamaica Preview: With great power comes great responsibility

The CanMNT will be looking to quickly rebound after their first Octogonal defeat to Costa Rica. 2022 World Cup qualification is once again within their grasp if they are able to secure at least one point against Jamaica.

Sean Pollock l Waking The Red

On Sunday, Canada has another opportunity to secure qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It has been 36 years since the men’s national team last appeared at soccer’s most prestigious international tournament, and the job is finally almost done. Despite the 1-0 loss to Costa Rica at the Estadio Nacional on Thursday, achieving a historic result at BMO Field in front of the home crowd would be extra special.

The rest of the CONCACAF table is still looking up at Canada in the standings. Jamaica has long been eliminated from qualifying for the 2022 World Cup and has nothing left to play for aside from pride. The responsibility now lies with John Herdman and the players to achieve the goal that they set four years ago. Staying calm, composed and laser focused throughout the match will be vital to avoid the mistakes of the Costa Rica match.

Canada holds the historical matchup advantage over Jamaica with nine wins, seven losses and seven draws. The last time Canada faced Jamaica was at Independence Park and the game ended in a 0-0 draw. Canada were without a plethora of players (Borjan, Buchanan, Cavallini, Hoilett, Hutchinson, Larin, Laryea and Vitoria), the pitch was dry and bumpy and the weather was supposedly quite humid. Canada lacked their usual energy throughout the game, and the pitch caused players to be apprehensive of taking too many touches and of making risky passes. The only real scoring chance that Canada had in the game was through Millar, who failed to convert on a sitter.

Two tactical observations from the CanMNT’s first Octagonal defeat to Costa Rica to adjust going forward:

  • Atiba Hutchinson was fine as a CB, but that experiment should not happen again

Herdman went with a somewhat unusual starting XI against Costa Rica. Cornelius was the only available CB capable of playing on the right side, so he instead opted to go with Hutchinson, normally a CM, at RCB instead. Whether injuries (Vitoria and Hoilett) and suspensions (Adekugbe and Henry) forced his hand or not, Hutchinson is not a natural CB. Therefore, by playing Hutchinson in that position, Herdman gambled on the fact that Costa Rica are a relatively defensive team that struggles to put pressure on their opponents, which allowed Canada to have more attacking talent on the field.

Overall, Hutchinson was fine as a makeshift CB, but he did make some uncharacteristic mistakes on back passes and misjudging a long ball that added unnecessary pressure on Borjan (neither are positions he would normally be in on the pitch as a CM). However, there were also some shaky moments defending in transition and on set pieces in the first half until Costa Rica scored the game’s lone goal. The lack of structure at the back meant that Canada struggled to settle into the match early on. After that goal, Costa Rica set up in their expected low block despite having the man advantage from Kaye’s red card in the first half. In the second half, Herdman’s starting lineup gamble saw more success, but ultimately failed to produce the requisite goal to tie the game.

Henry will be back from serving his one game suspension, while Vitoria could also potentially be fit enough to start. Both are natural right footed CBs and should allow Hutchinson to slot back into his normal spot next to Eustaquio in the midfield.

  • The team really suffered without Sam Adekugbe

For me, the biggest absence from the starting X1 against Costa Rica was the suspended Adekugbe. Canada lacked their usual attacking threat from wide areas with Laryea and Buchanan often isolated and attempting to do everything on their own. Since the November 2021 Octagonal games in Edmonton, Adekugbe has found another level and been one of Canada’s standout performers. Herdman’s build up and vertical attack relies on progression through wide areas. Having Adekugbe in the lineup helps to balance out Laryea on the opposite flank and gives Canada two potent wingbacks who can both attack and defend well.

With Adekugbe done serving his one game suspension from yellow card accumulation, he should immediately slot back into his usual LB/LWB position. He is very adept at combining with the left sided CBs, CMs, wingers and strikers. Additionally, his electric overlapping and underlapping runs open up space for teammates on the left side of the attack. His composure on the ball helps Canada beat the opposition press, and his reliability in defending allows his attacking teammates to play with more freedom in the final third.

CanMNT players on a yellow card: Tajon Buchanan, Lucas Cavallini, Stephen Eustaquio, Liam Fraser and Richie Laryea.

CanMNT players suspended: Mark-Anthony Kaye.

WHAT: Canada vs. Jamaica

WHERE: BMO Field | Toronto, Ontario, Canada

WHEN: Sunday, March 27th 4:00 pm ET | 1:00 pm PT

CAN TV: Broadcast on Sportsnet and OneSoccer. Please do not discuss or share links to illegal streams here.