Home CONCACAF Canada’s win over Puerto Rico sorta sets up first World Cup qualifier vs. Dominica

Canada’s win over Puerto Rico sorta sets up first World Cup qualifier vs. Dominica


The stated purpose of Canada’s friendlies against Guatemala (played in a Florida windstorms) and Puerto Rico (played on a bumpy pitch that’s indicative of the fields you’ll find in the Caribbean) was to prepare the Canadian side for its first round of World Cup qualifying, a two-legged series against Dominica.

But, if anything, it shows the paradox that is Canadian soccer.

After Monday night’s win 3-0 in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, the old haunt of the NASL Islanders, Canadian national-team coach Benito Floro made two statements that were sent out to the media.

1. “We are happy but we are professionals and we knew the opponent had a lot of under-23 players with about four experienced players. But it doesn’t matter because our intention was to develop the same tactical subjects like pressing and maintaining a good formation. The victory and performance, we consider those to be good.”

2. “There are two things in which we can focus. First, we are going to play Dominica on a pitch similar to this one tonight in these conditions so it has been a good test. Considering that Puerto Rico is a young team but with three or four good players, we consider this game is a good practice to play against Dominica. We have a lot of respect for Dominica because the most important thing is to win the qualification game.”

So, Canada needed to play a friendly in the Caribbean so it could get used to the conditions and play an opponent close to what it will see in the World Cup qualifier (statement 2). Check.

BUT, Canada played the game with a skeleton squad that won’t likely be all that close to what we’ll see on offer when it faces Dominica in June (statement 1).

The paradox.

This was a Canadian squad without the likes of midfielders Atiba Hutchinson and Toronto FC’s Jonathan Osorio, who was exempted from last weekend’s grand MLS cull. Defender Andre Hainault, originally named to the squad, wasn’t available.

But that’s the life of a Canadian coach, isn’t it? Play a friendly in Europe, and you leave the MLS-based players at home. Play in CONCACAF, and you leave off a few players. Add to that pressure from clubs to leave their players off the national squad. After all, while we may understand how playing Puerto Rico sets up Canada’s first World Cup qualifier, to many club executives, it’s a low-end, time-consuming friendly that isn’t worth risking their players over.

While the WiFi in Bayamon wasn’t consistent enough to get a live stream of the match out to us, we saw that Canada scored three goals against Puerto Rico that were about persistence, not beauty. Tosaint Ricketts smashed home a rebound after his first attempt was blocked; Randy Edwini-Bonsu scored his first goal for Canada’s senior side after a slip from a Puerto Rican defender opened a gap in the penalty area; and Cyle Larin scored his first senior goal by deflecting a low cross.

Highlights below from Canada Soccer’s YouTube channel.

But, to Canadian fans starved for goals that come out of open play, they all looked as good this famous Shaun Saiko sizzler, probably the best goal ever scored by a Canadian in Bayamon.

We can pooh-pooh the quality of the opposition all we want — but, in truth, no one in Canada has the moral right to pooh-pooh anyone this country plays in men’s soccer — but two wins over this past international break, with no goals conceded, is a good thing. It’s just hard to be sold on how much it prepares our A squad for the World Cup qualifiers, when some of them weren’t there.

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  1. Steedman

    March 31, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    What ever happened to Saiko? I liked the guy and last I heard, he was cut from S.A. I take it he’s no longer playing professionally.

    • Steven Sandor

      March 31, 2015 at 8:09 pm

      Thanks for the opening to plug Issue 5 of Plastic Pitch! Saiko talks about his past and future in the issue, out now — including his aborted move to the Montreal Impact, and his decision to turn down an NASL team’s offer this season! He’s going back to amateur status.

  2. Kent

    March 31, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    Wow, great goal by Saiko there. Good result last night too.

    As for the subject of the article, they can probably get some value out of the friendly even if it isn’t 100% the same squad that will be in Dominica. Especially considering how experienced Hutch is, he doesn’t have to learn the same lessons that guys like REB, Tissot, and Larin need to learn.

  3. footy

    March 31, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    MLS should start respecting FIFA international windows if it wants to be taken seriously. That would cure some of the problems for Floro.

    Nice results though, good for the lads the get some confidence.

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