Canada 0 – Honduras 0
While Canada were able to meet and even exceed expectations that would have been set weeks and months ago, it was clear after ninety minutes, and a 0-0 draw with Honduras, that a win slipped through their fingers. Those important extra two points would have gone a long way to progressing to the Hex for the first time in well over a decade.
It's hard not to compare that this exact same fixture four years ago (save for the location) all but ended Canada's chances of moving on to the Hex for South Africa 2010. Instead, they now sit on four points, firmly established in second place in their group.
Performance-wise there are many positives to hold up that have been missing from this team for quite some time. Defensively the centre-back pairing of McKenna and Hainault has emerged as the anchor from which the last three results have been based upon. Add to that arguably two surprising inclusions of Ante Jazic and David Edgar (playing out of position), and these four have been critical in the last three clean sheet, especially Tuesday night against Honduras.
The midfield continues to impress, especially Julian De Guzman who was improving steadily with Toronto FC heading into these fixtures and was showing glimpses of his form from four years ago. Atiba Hutchinson's return confirmed how important he is to this team both defensively and joining the attack, as his display further solidified him as Canada's best player at this moment.
Of course, the one area that remains of concern is the attack, and namely finishing. The likes of Dwayne De Rosario, Olivier Occean and Simeon Jackson have found themselves in opportune positions but cannot seem to either keep the ball down or direct it right into goal.
The debate is on what this result means overall for Canada's chances to get past this round, and of course it all depends on how you choose to look at it. No question Canada should be sitting on six points, and two dropped ones with the toughest team in the group coming in September has done them no favours. However, if there was an set of matches, and opponent to approach with the highest importance, it will be the ones against Panama. Canada now has everything riding on these two games with no Plan B to fall back on. Whether that added pressure will result in more urgent and clinical finishing won't be answered for another two months.
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:
Milan Borjan – 6
Thrust into the starting eleven via's Lars Hirschfeld's red card against Cuba, Borjan did well to put his strengths to the forefront and elminate chances for any potential weaknesses to show. Good dealing with crosses into the area and particularly impressive distributing upfield, his one area to improve on, experience (or lack thereof) was not taken advantage of as Honduras were unable to create any real chances on goal.
Ante Jazic – 6
Continues to be a pleasant surprise at left back and his fitness and form have kept him ahead of his younger teammates at this position. In-sync with his teammates around him, Jazic was strong defending, and while he wasn't particularly dangerous delivering crosses on the overlap, was steady at both ends throughout the game.
Andre Hainault – 6
Another sound, consistent outing for Hainault who did not stand out on the physical or aerial departments in Canada's 18 yrd box as much as McKenna, but was still very busy doing much of the same upfield having no problems going toe to toe on anything in the air or on the ground. Three games where he has looked the part in a solid central defensive pairing.
Kevin McKenna – 6.5
The anchor at the back did everything expected of him - which was be the physical presence in the middle of defence and win everything in the air. Got back up after a hard challenge towards the end and finished the match, almost scoring in the process. Honduras almost found ways through in the second half, but sound positioning stopped them from getting the extra step that would have had the likes of Costly alone 1v1 with Borjan.
David Edgar – 6
Continues to impress playing out of position, but has the form and technique to still be effective out wide. Had some missed opportunities in the first half deep in the Honduran end, but showed other areas of his game with some near misses off set pieces in the second half.
Will Johnson – 6
If there is anything that sums up what Johnson brings to the table, it was seen in the dying seconds when the Cuban keeper was about to get a chance to send another ball down field and Johnson’s endless tenacity forced the errant pass that would go out for a Canada corner. This is why he is so critical to Canada’s midfield in this round, and beyond should they make it, is he is willing and able to deliver non-stop pressure and physically assert himself to either stop chances or create turnovers.
Julian De Guzman – 6.5
Alongside Hutchinson, De Guzman looked as confident and effective as we've seen him since 07/08. Despite a few poor passes, overall was excellent in holding the ball, maintaining possession and distributing in forward. Is in fine form at the right time to contribute to a solid CONCACAF midfield.
MOTM Atiba Hutchinson – 7
Amazing to see how far Hutchinson has come over the last five years to emerge as Canada's best player and all his skills were on display, especially in the first half. Situated right in the middle was able to work box to box and slice through the midfield and demonstrate class vision with some excellent passes to Occean and Edgar.
Nik Ledgerwood – 5.5
Has emerged as a far more effective choice in the midfield than seen at right back as a bit more room for him to manoevre allows him to demonstrate other areas of his skillset. An interesting choice over Ricketts or Jackson, which likely was for his similar approach to Johnson of endless pressure and ability to cause turnovers.
Dwayne De Rosario – 5.5
While he was still as dangerous as ever pushing forward in the final third, was disappointing when he was presented with genuine opportunities on goal. Set pieces and a few chances outside the area came up short, and while he was solid working both ways, on this night it was in the attack that his prowess was needed and did not materialize.
Olivier Occean – 5.5
Not a bad outing for Occean but not as strong as against Cuba or the US where he was able to assert himself more in the air as well as holding up the ball. Couldn't create in the tight spaces in and around the area, and even though he was able to draw some fouls, wasn't able to be a factor putting anything on goal.