Canada overcomes shaky first half to rescue a draw vs. Honduras

Canada Soccer vs. Honduras
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Analysis — Buckle up Canadian Men’s National Team fans. If Thursday’s 1-1 draw against Honduras at BMO Field is any indication of the 13 matches to come, Canada could be in for a roller-coaster ride to qualify for Qatar 2022.

Canada overcomes shaky first half to rescue a Draw Vs. Honduras

First Half Analysis

Besides a few solo runs from Alphonso Davies and a late flurry to end the half, Canada looked sluggish. With some players returning into the side after missing the Gold Cup, it was expected they might take a few minutes to shake off some rust. But few expected the integration period to last as long as it did.

Canada looked sloppy on the ball, and made it easy for the visiting Honduras to grow into the game. To make matters worse Canada conceded a penalty late in the half to give Honduras a chance to open the scoring. Alexander Lopez converted and Canada had it all to do in the second half.

What went wrong for Canada in the opening 45?

Canada used their fluid tactic of a 3-5-2 in possession and 4-4-2 in defence to begin. And for most of the first half, it looked like they could use some additional help in midfield. Wingers Alphonso Davies and Tajon Buchanan were starting really high up the pitch and Canada struggled to get them and the strikers into the play.

Perhaps bringing in Mark-Anthony Kaye or Jonathan Osorio for Tajon Buchanan and switching to 4-3-3 could have fixed this. Or, starting Buchanan and Davies deeper to help the build up would have been another alternative.

Gold Cup best young player with a rough outing

Buchanan had a poor showing in this match. Not only did he give away the penalty that put Canada down a goal, but he also didn’t add much threat to the Canadian attack.

In order to attempt to get Buchanan going midway through the half, Canada boss John Herdman had Buchanan and Davies switch wings. But instead of having a positive effect, it only seemed to slow down Phonzie playing on his off wing.

Buchanan is going to be a fine player for Canada. Club Brugge would not have just spent upwards of $5 million in transfer fees if he wasn’t. But he certainly didn’t continue on with his outstanding 2021 Gold Cup or MLS form against Honduras.

Tale of two halves for Canada

At the break, Herdman substituted Buchanan for experienced winger Junior Hoilett. And while not as much changed tactically for Canada, the results on the pitch did.

Canada came out flying, with a new found confidence to look for an equalizer. Canada had countless corner kicks but Honduran backline just would not budge inside the eighteen yard box. Anchored by captain Maynor Figueroa, they did a good job dealing with wave after wave of red jerseys.

Canada controlled the ball for virtually the entire opening twenty minutes, but couldn’t find their goal. Instead of panicking and trying to do too much, the Canadians keep their cool and did not get ahead of themselves.

Finally in the 66th minute, Canada drew a PK of their own. Hoilett, the substitute, was taken down after a beautiful combination by Richie Laryea and Davies. Besiktas’ Cyle Larin stepped up and hammered the kick straight down the middle to draw Canada level.

After the goal, the Hondurans really slowed down the pace of play, time wasting at every opportunity. Not only did it take the crowd out of the game, it stopped Canada’s momentum. Canada was being CONCACAF’d, to be sure, something many CanMNT supporters know all too well Honduras is capable of doing against them.

Milan Borjan saves the day for Canada

In the 74th minute, Canada’s number one keeper was called into action and he delivered big time. Out of nothing, striker Bryan Moya headed a shot on target where Borjan had just gotten enough of to deflect off the post before being cleared.

Initially, it looked as if it had just hit the post straight on. But after replay, it was clear that Borjan got just enough to keep Canada level. It was a world class save to secure the draw.

Canada and Honduras share a point in match day one of the Octagonal

When it was all said and done, both sides could argue they deserved more from this one. Honduras played a perfect road game. They were both strong in defence but also threatening on the counter attack.

Meanwhile, Canada overcame a slow start to start, and were pouring in chances in the second half. Overall, Canada perhaps was a bit unlucky to not find a second goal. Les Rouges will hope they don’t have to look back at this match in March and think about what could have been. Dropping home points to a team you want to finish ahead of in the table is not usually a successful formula.

Overall thoughts

Alphonso Davies was outstanding for the Canucks. Despite some poor corner kick deliveries, he was absolutely flawless running up and down the pitch for Canada. Davies completed five successful dribbles in this match and gave Honduras’ defenders fits.

Nashville SC man Alistair Johnston was quietly rock solid in this one too. Johnston was very cool and calm defending under pressure. He was comfortable on the ball, and more importantly, made some really beautiful tackles as well.

Atiba Hutchinson returned to the Canada side for the first time since March, and didn’t have the best of games. In addition, Jonathan David also didn’t live up to his quality in this match. Going forward, it will be important that Canada gets more out of these two in order to qualify for Qatar 2022. While they were not awful, both are capable of much more.

Whats next?

Canada has a quick turnaround, playing the USMNT Sunday night. After only using two substitutions, and with only two days in between to travel, Canada may need to use a rotated squad. Even if that’s the case, John Herdman has to be confident that Canada can sneak a point out after USA shockingly drew El Salvador 0-0 Thursday evening. And, they may have to. Canada are now two points behind schedule to begin the Final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.



Photo Credit: Martin Bazyl/Canada Soccer.