Canada 0 – United States 0
All decked out in blue and white, Canada put forth a confidence-building display at BMO Field Sunday night to kick-start their next round of World Cup Qualifying and mark a century of the National Team. In the end, a much deeper and higher quality American side were unable to penetrate past Canada’s defence and a last second save from Lars Hirschfeld secured the clean sheet in a 0-0 draw.
There can be discussion on what kind of competition the US offered on this night, a team who just came off a 4-1 loss to Brazil and their third game in eight days, however, there still must be credit given to the Canadian team. Stephen Hart clearly came in with a plan that played to their strengths, and after some shaky moments in the early going where the US dominated possession, Canada was able to go toe to toe for the most part.
There are few glaring concerns after this game, but if one had to be underlined, it was a lack of finishing that continues to cost the team a win. Good teams only need one chance, and Canada needs to become one of those teams if they are to progress beyond this round. There is no question the likes of Panama and Honduras will make things ugly at BMO Field, and Cuba certainly both home and away, so chances on goal must be taken full advantage of.
Aside from that, the most important aspect to take from this game is there is truly no negative baggage to take into qualifying on Friday. A loss would have no doubt shaken the team’s confidence and not only earning a draw, but one against one of the certain favourites to make it to Brazil 2014, should go a long way to getting the team mentally prepared for Cuba and Honduras.
The key to the ratings, as seems to be the logic on a scale of 1-10, is not to view it as a “grade”, as in a 6 would be a 60 or a C. The formula is that each player begins the game with a 5 and is the equilibrium from which their performance either improves or degrades moving in increments of .5.
Here is the breakdown of the starting XI:
MOTM Lars Hirschfeld – 6.5
While it was a relatively quiet night for Hirschfeld, with only two real shots on goal for the entire match, his save in the dying minutes was a stunner. Like his stop at home against Puerto Rico in the previous round, secured the result and proved why he is Canada's number one. To have little action and be able to switch on like that is what will be required throughout this round if the group of defenders from this night are able to continue their form.
Ante Jazic – 5
The veteran looked very capable holding down the left side and linking up with De Rosario and Ricketts for most of the match. Was not able to deliver anything truly threatening on the cross, but defending was paramount first and foremost and Jazic showed he's still got the legs to contribute on the back line.
Andre Hainault – 5.5
Slotted into the centre-back position, the Hainault/McKenna pairing looked quite solid with Hainault offering a bit more mobility and quickness than McKenna. Good positioning, no-nonsense clearing, as well as passing through the middle was important to Canada maintaining possession and simply not just lumping it down the field. Hainault was on point in all those areas Sunday night and will need to continue come this weekend.
Kevin McKenna – 6
Quietly went about his business of being the lynchpin at the back. Showed what everyone knows are his main strengths, which firstly is a good aerial presence. However, it was his positioning and experience on display that was most encouraging, especially when he was battling with the strength and athleticism of Altidore, that should give confidence that he should be able to do well against the likes of Carlos Costly or David Suazo of Honduras or Blas Perez or Luis Tejada of Panama.
David Edgar – 5.5
Like his first appearance away to Puerto Rico, Edgar shows up in the right-back position and was the final piece of a physically strong and dominant looking back four. His games logged at Burnely are showing with his play for Canada as he was comfortable at all times connecting up the right side of the pitch and sending balls into the area.
Nik Ledgerwood – 5
Edgar's foul in the first half erased what would have been a fine goal from Ledgerwood, who did well against a higher quality midfield of the United States. Will likely be the first casualty when Hutchinson is available, but was able to demonstrate he is a solid depth player for Canada.
Will Johnson – 5.5
Delivered on everything that is required of him, which was a tireless, tenacious approach with fearless tackling against a formidable group of US attackers. His display bodes well for the match against Cuba and especially Honduras as he will be required to fight tooth and nail in tough conditions and against tricky, technical attackers who will need to be hounded at all times.
Julian De Guzman – 5.5
The TFC midfielder once again looked much more comfortable when surrounded by quality players as he was able to go about his business of not having the spotlight on him. Breaking up plays, maintaining possession and distribution, a few box to box runs all were on hand as De Guzman continued his improved run of form that has been on display for his club over the last month.
Dwayne De Rosario – 5.5
While he was unable to slot home a goal or set one up, this was a very encouraging display from De Rosario who was giving the US fits all night long. Whether it be carrying the ball down either wing, through the middle or slotting perfect through balls for his teammates, the offence was going through De Rosario who just needs to close the final touch to cash in.
Tosaint Ricketts – 5
Ricketts picked up where he left off in the St.Kitts game as he posed a consistent threat down the wing with his impressive pace. However, he did not look quite as sharp as he could be and perhaps the lack of consistent playing time is what let down his touch and technique on the ball. Regardless, will still be an important piece of the attack to continually test opposition defenders.
Olivier Occean – 5.5
Not the kind of set up he is used to with his club, Occean did well adjusting to a different approach that required him to fight for more balls in the air than on the ground. When he did get his chances, did well to physically assert himself against a huge US back line and this will be important when matching up against Cuba and Honduras defenders.