Home Global Game CONCACAF They are who we (shoulda) thought they were: A draw in El Salvador a decent result for Canada

They are who we (shoulda) thought they were: A draw in El Salvador a decent result for Canada


So, is the sky falling, or is it a dream start?

Judging by Twitter after Canada laboured to a 0-0 draw in El Salvador Tuesday, the jury is split. With the result, Canada now has four points after two games in CONCACAF’s Group A. The Canadians are in second place — three points up on El Salvador and four up on Honduras. Finish in the top two, and Canada is off to the Hex — and the dream to qualify for Russia 2018 is still very much alive.

But, then, why are so many of us so despondent after getting a point in Central America on a field so choppy, it made pastures seem like Bundesliga-level playing surfaces? Is it because we assumed that El Salvador’s “B” team would be little better than a PDL side?

The El Salvadoran side was, well, supposedly devastated by a dispute between its top players and the football federation. Neither side caved, so a new crew of recruits was brought in just in time for the opening Group A matches. But, make no mistake, it’s not like the players the federation brought in were rubes. We saw right-winger Dustin Corea shine as the best player on the pitch for the hour he was on; twice, he forced Canadian keeper Milan Borjan into very good, diving stops. Since signing with FC Edmonton in between the NASL spring and fall seasons, Corea has been a regular starter, a left-footed right winger who loves to shift inside and use his shot.

The El Salvadorans also left off Junior Burgos. That showed that this team does have some depth. Burgos isn’t the same guy you might remember playing for an instant at Toronto FC; he’s developed into one of the NASL’s best midfielders. If there were other players keeping him on the sidelines, it’s a sign that, yes, there is quality in that El Salvadoran side.

El Salvador's Ibsen Castro tries to chase down Canada's Marcel de Jong. PHOTO: CANADA SOCCER
El Salvador’s Ibsen Castro tries to chase down Canada’s Marcel de Jong. PHOTO: CANADA SOCCER

Yes, I’ve used a couple of NASL examples. It’s a good league, though. And it deserves some respect.

For the sky-is-falling crowd, do you remember where our program was back in 2012, how the Canadian team was picking ball after ball out of its own net in that 8-1 loss to Honduras? We’ve gone from that, to being ballsy about beating El Salvador in such short time? The El Salvadoran players deserve a little more respect than that. Going into Central America and getting any kind of result is difficult. A point is a decent return. Sure, we can beat our breasts about Cyle Larin hitting the bar and missing the net on another good chance — but four points after two games is a healthy return, even with two matches against Mexico looming.

Did we think El Salvador would roll over because it lost 3-0 to Mexico in the Azteca on Friday? Well, guess what — know who else could lose 3-0 to Mexico at the Azteca? Everyone else in CONCACAF. Even if the United States went down there and got beat by three goals, we might be surprised, but not shocked. It’s one of the hardest places in the world for a road team to get a result. It’s impossible to handicap any national team by how it performs in Mexico City — other than El Tri.

I get that many of you are scared that by “only” getting a draw in El Salvador, Canada will need to get a result in Honduras later in the round. That’s because we’ve already assumed that Canada will lose both home and away to Mexico and that El Salvador will lose home and away to Honduras; results which would put the Hondurans on six points after everyone in the group has played four games.

So, tell me, what did you see in Honduras’s and El Salvador’s games on Friday and Tuesday that would make you think Honduras is in any way a clear favourite when the two sides play each other? From what I saw in BC Place Friday, and on the beIN Sports feed Tuesday, El Salvador is a quicker team, holds the ball better, and is a bit tougher in the tackle, too. If anything, El Salvador looks the team more likely to take the lion’s share of the points when it faces Honduras twice. And, if that’s the case, then Canada will simply need to handle the business against El Salvador — in Canada — as the group stage winds down.

It’s like we haven’t learned anything from the drama we’ve watched unfold over the last few months. We have seen the likes of Netherlands, Serbia and Greece crash out of Euro 2016 qualifying. Meanwhile, the likes of Northern Ireland, Wales, Iceland and Hungary (although this is a Canadian soccer site, you had to know I was gonna sneak that Hungary mention in somewhere) are going to be playing meaningful games next summer.

The takeaway: Never take a result for granted. And, honestly, it’s bizarre to see just how many long-time Canadian soccer supporters all of a sudden felt like we could kick around a Central American opponent on a terrible Central American pitch.

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  1. Kent

    November 19, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    Like I said in my other comment, I really don’t know what to think about this most recent result, or Canada’s chances to go through, but I don’t think the doom and gloom proclaimers are short on memory. They could be remembering that last time around, Canada beat Cuba away, but Cuba was the whipping boys of the group, so the win just amounted to keeping up with everyone else. If El Salvador are the whipping boys this time around, then we dropped 2 crucial points on Tuesday. And I believe they wouldn’t be contrasting the El Salvador tie to say how we’ve improved over 8-1, they are thinking how unlikely it is that we can get any kind of result in Honduras (was shocked to hear that Mexico’s win in Honduras on Tuesday was their first win in Honduras in 22 years, and first in San Pedro Sula in 50 years).

    I think our most likely successful campaign would look like us getting a point against Mexico at home, and Mexico otherwise running the table. El Salvador taking a draw in one of the 2 games against Honduras, and us beating El Salvador at home. That would give us 8 points, and Honduras would have 7. El Salvador would have 2.

  2. footy

    November 19, 2015 at 6:24 am

    Completely agree with you Steve. Some people seem to have very short memories. Winning at home, drawing away usually get’s you through. Canada’s becoming a team that’s hard to beat. I say that’s a huge achievement in itself. We might even get into te hex this time.

  3. Aaron Nielsen

    November 18, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    The sky is falling because if the group plays out as it should Canada will have to beat Honduras in Honduras which the chance that happening is very slim. Even if Canada was to beat Honduras they might still not go through because Honduras last game is at home to Mexico when Mexico have already clinched the group. If they beat El Salvador they could have qualified with a draw in Honduras.

    Its not about individual results its about goals and as it stands now Canada chance to get out of the group is very slim.

    • Kent

      November 19, 2015 at 5:25 pm

      Enlighten me. I really don’t have an answer for if the El Salvador draw was good, bad, or OK. How are the other games supposed to go. My best guess as to what you mean would be Honduras sweep El Salvador, which puts Honduras on 6 points after 4 games, and presumably Canada stuck on 4 points after being swept by Mexico. But do you figure Canada should beat El Salvador at home and Mexico beat Honduras in Mexico? That would mean 7 points for Canada and 6 for Honduras, which means a tie in Honduras would get Canada through. I’m not saying that’s an easy result (or that beating El Salvador in Canada is an easy result), I’m just trying to figure out how you arrive at needing a win in Honduras. Perhaps you are banking on a draw in the Canada vs. El Salvador game?

  4. cwell

    November 18, 2015 at 7:01 am

    It was a good result, but not an excellent result. Understandably, many were hoping we might be able to steal 3 pts. Little chance of that, as we saw. El Salvador played very well, and we did well to match them and earn 1 pt. Thank you, Mr. Bjoran! Without that save in the first half, I fear we would have left with no points.

    JDG played a hell of a game, for the love of the game, according to a recent quote. Good for him, and good for us.

    Ricketts can’t seem to control the ball or win it in tight situations. That’s unfortunate. We were lacking going forward on the right side.

    Larin’s getting there. Much better hold-up play than against Honduras. He’ll start scoring in these international games soon, IMHO.

  5. Steedman

    November 18, 2015 at 12:13 am

    Canada didn’t lose in latin America, that’s big one. We’re in 2nd place. The players didn’t get pelted with bags of urine (from what I know)
    It’s a hostile environment with terrible playing conditions and we leave with a point.
    Bravo Canada mens national team. You kept a tight game and generated scoring chances.

    Pumped to see what this team can do against Mexico in March!

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