Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ooh Ah Canada! A 4-1 win over St.Luca to help calm the nerves

For those for those of you who live in Toronto and did not attend the Canadian Men's National Team's (CMNT) 4-1 victory last night against St.Lucia, you missed a special evening. The stadium was not at capacity, but if you were standing outside BMO you would have thought it was ram packed. The atmosphere from the Canadian supporters in the south end was absolutely amazing. Last night was my first opportunity to watch a Canada match from that end of the stadium and I must admit it was an incredible experience. A major factor in that made the experience so memorable was the fact that the majority of the fans were Canadian supporters.

It has been well documented in the past that matches played in Toronto lack home support. Aside from the Voyageurs and the TFC supporters groups who always turn out in their numbers for CMNT games, the crowd tends to be tilted in favour of the away side. A case in point would be Canada's Pre Gold Cup friendly against Ecuador in early June. I was at that game stuck in a section that was 99% Ecuador supporters. Out of the announced attendance of just over 10,000, 90% of those were supporting the away side. What made last night so special was the fact that people of all races and ethnic backgrounds were in the supporters end legitimately supporting Canada. It is a reflection of the current Canadian urban landscape and a refreshing site to see in a city that at times can be quite divided.

Josh Simpson (Centre) celebrating the opening goal.

As for the match itself, Canada dominated with large amount of the game spent in the attacking end. It was clear that they were playing a side in St.Lucia that had a large amount of Semi-Pro players who did not have the conditioning to sustain the pace Canada set. Although Canada eventually put four behind the St.Luca keeper, head coach Stephen Hart will have some concerns heading into Tuesday's match at Puerto Rico. After winger Josh Simpson opened the scoring in the 6th minute, the Canadian back line when to sleep and immediately gave up the tying goal on a wonderfully struck 30 yard shot. The Canadian defenders did a poor job of closing down the St.Lucian midfielder, and keeper Lars Hirschfeld did not cover the proper angles on the shot. However that would have been the only real defensive complaint, the left and right backs for Canada were so far up the pitch they should have considered proper wingers.

Going forward Canada looked sharp, although they at times lacked wide play. Especially down the right in the first half in which there was a lot of space to create chances. The attacking trio of  Simeon Jackson, Dwayne DeRosario and Josh Simpson worked very well along side central midfielder Julian De Guzman. Granted St.Luca were abject at the back, but these are the type of games Canada must to assert its dominance in order to progress to the next round of World Cup qualifying. The road to the next stage is clear, they must win this group to advance. With remaining home and away games against the aforementioned  Puerto Rico and St Kits, plus one more away game at St.Luca this is a group Canada should win.

And a opening match 4-1 thrashing goes a long way to establishing that claim.

Cheers,
Mike

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