Analysis: CanMNT Denied Early World Cup Celebrations in Costa Rica

CanMNT Denied Early Celebrations: The CanMNT Starting XI in San José, Costa Rica

ANALYSIS – CanMNT denied early celebrations on Thursday. They lost 1-0 to Costa Rica in San José.

It was supposed to be a magical night, thirty-seven years in the making for the Canadians. But instead, Los Ticos made Canada wait at least another three days to clinch their first World Cup Qualifying birth since Mexico 1986. It wasn’t pretty, but Costa Rica found enough to deliver an important 1-0 win.

Analysis: CanMNT Denied Early Celebrations in Costa Rica

National Team veteran Celso Borges scored a beautiful header moments before half-time, and it held up to be the winner. These three points for Costa Rica are massive, as they have now jumped Panama for the Intercontinental playoff spot.

Tactical notes

Canada boss John Herdman tweaked with his starting eleven a little bit in this one. Veteran Atiba Hutchinson was used as a centreback, despite not much familiarity playing there recently. This was quite a surprise, as players like Scott Kennedy and Steven Vitoria were available for selection. Hutchinson stepped in and did an admirable job, but his presence could have been used further up the pitch.

This left Canada with only one true centreback in the lineup. Kamal Miller has been traditionally used as part of a back three, but Herdman trusted him with more responsibility against Costa Rica. Canada came out in a 4-4-2 formation and showed no intention of holding on for a draw. Give the Canadians credit, they wanted to win this match and played the game on their terms.

Mark-Anthony Kaye has a nightmare

Usually a reliable presence in Canada’s midfield, Kaye was a loose cannon in this match. Perhaps Kaye let the importance of the match get to his head, as he was sent off for a silly altercation in the thirty-fourth minute. Kaye was already incredibly lucky to not be sent off earlier when VAR looked at a prior challenge of his. He went in studs up and probably should have seen red instead of a yellow.

Even with the let-off, Kaye bumped Johan Venegas in midfield and got the red he deserved. Despite some obvious simulation on Venegas’ part, Mark-Anthony needs to know better and not engage already on a yellow. It will be interesting to see if this affects Herdman’s trust in Kaye going forward or not.

Costa Rica capitalize right before half

With the man advantage, it didn’t take Costa Rica long to get their goal. Without the presence of Vitoria or Doniel Henry, Canada was always going to be vulnerable to aerial attacks. Especially with the 6’5” Kendall Waston drawing so much attention when forward.

And it was the second wave of a set piece that ultimately was Canada’s downfall. Gerson Torres had an abundance of options to aim his cross at, and picked out Borges who leaped over the smaller Stephen Eustaquio to get the goal. This was enough to give Costa Rica the lead into halftime and allow them to implement a new game plan.

New Half, New Canada

Despite being down to ten players, Canada dominated the second half. Costa Rica tried to press early on, but the Canadians still broke it, even with a man disadvantage. Herdman feared nothing and made sure his team went for the win. Costa Rica saw their best way forward was sitting down in a low block and holding their own for a 1-0. Canada created many glorious opportunities but could beat Keylor Navas (or the post) on the night.

Posts denied Canada: CanMNT denied early celebrations

Not once, but twice the goalposts prevented Canada from getting their equalizer. In the seventy-third minute, Navas stopped Richie Laryea but spilled the rebound right to Tajon Buchanan. His header went agonizingly off the crossbar, and his second attempt on the half volley went over.

Then, moments before added time, Lille striker Johnathan David hit the post as well. A beautiful, well-worked attack found Laryea in space behind. His cross was perfect, and David flashed it across his body and past Navas, but square off the post.

Canada worked so hard for their equalizer, and maybe even deserved it. Canada had sixty-eight percent possession and outshot Costa Rica 18-12. Even the expected goals suggested Canada controlled the play, 1.51 to 1.18. But it never translated to actual goals, and Canada will need to be more clinical on Sunday.

Credit Costa Rica

Even though Los Ticos sat back for most of the second half, they deserve credit for executing their game plan. Sitting back on a one-goal lead-up a man at home for an entire half may sound ridiculous. But given their position in the standings and how important the three points were, it was smart to lock up shop.

If Costa Rica opened up and went on the attack, with how threatening Canada looked, it might spell trouble. Sitting back on a one-goal lead can be dangerous, but having a keeper as Navas helps, and they saw through a nervy 1-0 result.

Laryea, Eustaquio show no signs of rust

Richie Laryea hasn’t played a match of club football since November, but you wouldn’t know it based on his performance. Laryea has been fantastic throughout the entire cycle and was again in San José. He beat countless players for pace, had a few well-timed crosses, and even nearly caught Navas off guard with a sweet hit outside the box. Hopefully, Nottingham Forrest was watching, and give him some minutes at the club level.

Eustaquio was also brilliant, as Herdman has come to expect. He completed 78 total passes, second-most on Canada, and his 4 key passes were helpful in unlocking Costa Rica’s low block. He also hasn’t seen a lot of time since moving to FC Porto and showed no signs of slowing down for Canada here.

Ismaël Koné Debut

Ismael Kone has burst onto the scene, and his meteoric rise continued as he made his Canada debut. Kone just recently cracked the CF Montreal first team, and after a surprise inclusion on the national team roster, had a solid inaugural game. He looked calm and cool, and his young legs were helpful to have in the dying minutes. There is a lot of potential here, and it’ll be exciting to see if he features in the final two games.

Looking ahead: CanMNT denied early celebrations

Despite automatic qualification not being secured yet for Canada, the results would have to be extreme to see them miss. Canada has a chance to make it official Sunday at home against an already eliminated Jamaican side. A draw or a win is enough.

Costa Rica now controls their own destiny. They face El Salvador on Sunday, who are already eliminated. Winning that match is a must if they want a top-three spot. They cannot afford much of a slip-up either, with Panama still just one point behind them for the Intercontinental playoff spot.

Photo Credit: Canada Soccer by Mexsport on March 24, 2022.