It was a night Canada was expected to suffer, and suffer they did for long stretches. Yet, the Canadian lads and their supporters can come away satisfied with the result against the United States. In a game that Canada needed to bear down and recover from their shock defeat to Cuba, the young Canadians did just that. Throughout the match, the Canadians battled their way through soggy conditions against a determined opponent for a 2-2 draw in Tegucigalpa, Honduras on Monday night.
Mauro Biello set up in a conservative 4-4-2 formation, with Ben Alexander again getting the nod in goal. Lowell Wright led the line for the team captained again by Justin Smith. Just as in the previous game against Cuba, many players appeared to be playing out of position, and the team’s overall play reflected that.
Canada found themselves on the back-foot almost immediately, with the Americans dominating possession, territory and shot attempts. Canada did not get a shot on net until the 15th minute. But what a shot it was.
York United’s Lowell Wright received a pass just inside the American 18-yard box and bulled his way past four American defenders before slotting the ball beyond the outstretched arm and leg of US keeper Chris Brady and inside the far post. Against the run of play, Canada found themselves up a goal.
The US pushed hard for the equalizer, but came away empty handed as Canada went into the break with a 1-0 lead. Coming out of halftime, Biello made a curious change in bringing off goal-scorer Wright in place of midfielder Jean-Aniel Assi. Wright had looked dangerous whenever he was on the ball in the US zone, albeit this was not as often as would have been liked. But without Wright’s threat up top and no like-for-like replacement to keep the American defenders honest, the US continued with their possession game and their relentless pressure in the Canadian end.
American pressure paid off in the 53rd minute when poor marking on a short corner allowed midfielder Jack McGlynn an almost unopposed opportunity to strike a rocket from just beyond the Canadian 18-yard box. With the ball deposited beyond the outstretched hands of Alexander at the back of the Canadian net, the game was suddenly tied up. The Americans again continued with their pressure and possession tactics.
Biello brought on Hugo Mbongue and Matt Catavalo in place of Kamron Habibullah and Gabriel Pellegrino to bring off some tired legs and restore some balance to the Canadian formation. It was the two substitutes that hooked up in the 69th minute, with Catavalo placing a deftly lobbed cross into the danger zone in the centre of the US box, where Mbongue was lying in wait. However, as Mbongue was muscled away from the incoming cross, the ball hit off the head of US defender Michael Halliday and past his hapless keeper into the back of his own goal.
Upon being handed the gift of a lead so late in the game, it was hoped the Canadians could hold on to preserve the unlikely result. But it was not to be. A quick US counter-attack finished off by San Jose Earthquakes’ Cade Cowell, who poked the ball past Alexander just three minutes later, levelled the score again. There was some concern for Canada in the 80th minute when captain, and consensus player of the tournament so far for Canada, Justin Smith, was substituted while holding his hamstring.
In spite of continued US control of the play, the game would end in a draw. The US dominated possession with 72%, and shots with 22 (10 on target) to Canada’s 6 (3 on target). Goalkeeper Ben Alexander was strong in net and kept his team in this game throughout the match.
In his post-match comments, a tired Keesan Ferdinand remarked,
“We fought until the end. This game was very tough. I’m proud of the group”
Ferdinand’s comments speak not only of pride in the moment, but also of a team finding their identity and developing their chemistry. Coming through a hard fought challenge such as this draw can go a long way to a team uncovering its shared identity as they progress through the tournament.
Next up for Canada is the round-robin finale with Saint Kitts and Nevis, who were again shellacked 6-0 by Cuba earlier in the day. For Canada, Wednesday’s game amounts to a must-win situation against their bottom dwelling opponent. Nothing short of a convincing victory over Saint Kitts and Nevis will do in order to raise Canada’s confidence heading into the knockout stages of the tournament.
The United States faces Cuba in a match to likely determine the order of the top two spots in the group. Only a Cuban victory coupled with a Canadian win that erases the large US advantage in goal difference would propel Canada to second in the group.
Possible Line-up Against St Kitts and Nevis:
4-3-3 - B. Alexander – K. Ferdinand, M. Campagna, J. Knight-Lebel, N. Abatneh – R. Zouhir, G. Pellegrino, M. Catavalo – K, Habibullah, H. Mbongue, T. Coimbra
Game Date – Wednesday, June 22nd, 2022
Time – 4:00 pm EST
Watch – OneSoccer YouTube Channel (Free)
Place - Estadio Nacional, Tegucigalpa, Honduras