The entire stadium were on their feet, thousands of voices joining in a chorus of excitement and of anticipation. The free kick was in a good place, down close to the corner of the box. Fans exchanged glances, knowing that this could be a key moment in the match. Suddenly there was mass confusion, a lone red player broke away from all the others with an arm outstretched. He slowly dropped his arm and began to roll his shoulders up and down, stalking forward, with each repetition of the action making the reality increasingly clear. With each repetition the confusion of a moment before transformed into pure pure ecstasy.
It has been more then a decade since a more important goal was scored for men’s soccer in Canada. Dwayne De Rosario’s winner was important not simply because it exponentially increased Canada’s chances of advancing to the next round. Exponentially increase would also be the term to describe the effect of this goal on popularity for Canadian soccer. For years there has been a destructive concept surrounding the domestic game in Canada. That the Canadian Men’s National Team were not good enough, and that they were not worth supporting.
That outlook is now starting to evaporate. Canada are still not a team with plenty of quality, yet things are improving rapidly. This is why these current set of games are so important. Exposure to the program is improving at an impressive rate. Just this past cycle a Canada Men’s National Team match was available on City TV, and was therefore available to the majority of Canadians. It seems that the days in which Canadian supporters had to rely on highly unorthodox means to follow National Team games is coming to an end.
However, all this new exposure is pointless if Canada cannot get results on the field. If Canada want to be a competitive team in CONCACAF they have to learn to win difficult matches away from home. This phenomenon will be placed squarely in the spotlight when Canada visit Honduras on the final match day of Round 4 of qualifying. Recently, a loss to Panama away from home somewhat deflated the momentum that Canada had been feeding for several matches. It was a match in which Canada struggled to deal with the pressure of playing in a hostile CONCACAF environment.
If Canada can realize their potential and get themselves to the next round the resulting chain-reaction could finally carry this program into legitimacy in the Canadian sporting culture. The club will advance to the next round with more media coverage then ever before. There is no indication as to where the next round of matches will be should Canada advance, but so far the CSA’s decision to host all three games in Toronto has been a good one. The crowds have shown up and are finally almost completely in support of the home side.
Should Canada advance they will also receive a face lift for their lineup. Canada will go into this final set of World Cup Qualifiers without the man who earned them their biggest victory thus far, Dwayne De Rosario. Should they advance to the next round Canada’s leading international goalscorer will return to th fold more hungry then ever. On top of that Josh Simpson, quite possibly Canada’s best player, will return to the fold after being out 8 months with a broken leg. Even more importantly Canada could finally acquire Junior Hoilett of QPR, a player who could make all the difference for a program.
It will not be easy. The away match against Honduras will be one of the more difficult matches in CONCACAF. Yet if Canada can pull off what some would call a miracle the sport will have finally arrived domestically in the country.