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The Collapse - A Sad Night for Canadian Soccer

Back to the drawing board for Herdman’s Canada.

Soccer: CONCACAF Gold Cup-Haiti at Canada
Dejection. Canada throws away two-goal lead and lose to Haiti, who are enjoying a fantastic tournament.
Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Haiti .... 3 Canada .... 2

Soccer is littered with stories of great comebacks down through the years. Canada now has it’s very own. But it’s one they’d prefer to forget, although that will not be easy.

At least from a learning or development perspective, the pain of what happened last night, should stay with the players for a long, long time. If it cranks up their delicate resolve and drives them on to greater, more complete performances, then something positive will have been gleaned from this evening of disaster. It’s a big ‘IF’ though.

Let’s take nothing away from Haiti, who opened the game the brighter yet fell two behind before 30 minutes had elapsed, before staging a magnificent second-half comeback that their tenacity, hunger and determination richly deserved.

Canada collapsed under the strain. Capitulated even. They had the match won, but so poor was their game management, you wonder where they go from here. Remember we are talking about losing to Haiti, spirited and committed as they were, but hardly a side you should benchmark against.

This tournament was about seeing the best Canadian line-up test itself against one of the big boys of the region. It never happened. The night they faced Mexico, players were rested, considering the more critical game ahead against Cuba, a side which could have been beaten by a Quebec Premier League selection.

Soccer: CONCACAF Gold Cup-Haiti at Canada
Haitian joy, as they advance to the Gold Cup semi-finals for the first time.
Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

This column just yesterday spoke of the prowess Canada was developing as an attacking force, but it also highlighted concerns about the defence. There’s not much pleasure in being proven right, last night’s defending in the second-half was an abomination.

My defensive concerns were directed more at the centre-back pairing, but all of the goals conceded against Haiti were the consequence of terrible full-back play.

Marcus Godinho, a player struggling to get regular first-team football with Heart of Midlothian in the Scottish Premier League had the proverbial nightmare. Leaving a back-pass short, which Borjan may also have done better with, gave the enthusiastic Haitians hope. Not long after the restart they were back in the game, the deficit halved.

This was the spark. The blue touch paper had been lit. If anything the Haitians who never seemed to stop believing, even at 0-2 down, believed even more.

Canada found it difficult to cope with their opponents’ drive, their sheer pig-headedness not to be beaten. Les Rouges lost their composure, lost the midfield, and all of a sudden were a disjointed lot, unable to put their foot on the ball.

Haiti smelt blood, detected fear, and went about their business with a relentless passion. They couldn’t have expected to receive the two further gifts that came their way however. Firstly when Godinho naively clattered onto Herve Bazile, a French Ligue 2 player with Le Havre, giving away the type of penalty VAR was never designed to arbitrate. The 29 year-old French born attacker picked himself up, held his nerve and despatched the spot-kick into the net. Was there ever any doubt?

Soccer: CONCACAF Gold Cup-Haiti at Canada
Haiti’s Wilde-Donald Guerrier (10) scores past Milan Borjan to send Haiti into the Gold Cup semi-finals.
Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

That was on 70 mins. Then six minutes later Haiti scored again, a goal that turned out to be the winner, and spoke volumes about the naivety on the left side of defence. Alphonso Davies, arguably Canada’s most exciting attacking talent, should probably never play left-back, he doesn’t have a defender’s instinct.

Davies switched off as a ball came into the danger-zone, allowing Wilde-Donald Guerrier, a 30-year-old with experience in Polish and Turkish football now plying his trade with Azerbaijan’s top club, Qarabag, to get behind, control the ball and slide past Borjan. The Haitian remained on his back arms outstretched looking up to the sky, the goal sparking scenes of wild jubilation all around.

The Canadians, try as they did to restore parity, simply became more ragged. Panic had set in. They were rocked, and when the only thing that may have steadied the ship, a goal, was chalked off (rightly) for offside, the game was up.

You wonder where it all goes from here. You hope this is an aberration the squad may learn from, but steam-rolling teams the likes of Cuba, St Kitt’s, French Guyana, US Virgin Islands and Dominica is not what will improve Canada’s national team. Yet this very pattern has defined the Herdman-era, thus far.

Nothing, absolutely nothing results-wise, has been achieved up until now.

They’ve had two tests, if you include the group meeting with Mexico, and failed both. The second one last night, miserably, and you do wonder if World Cup qualification eventually does come, will it only arrive as a privileged host in 2026, even though the ‘divine right’ of previous hosts is not yet a given for the North American World Cup, apparently.

Herdman and his boys will be hurting mightily this morning. And well they might!