Anyone observing Tajon Buchanan’s performances for New England last season is possibly not that surprised, apart perhaps from learning this was the 22-year-old’s first-ever international cap at any level.
The Brampton native who furthered his soccer pedigree in Colorado before settling down to life with New England proved the difference-maker on a night when 3 points were crucial to Canada’s Olympic qualifying hopes.
They will want to do all that’s humanly possible to win this group and thus avoid a semi-final clash with hosts Mexico, who look too good not to win Group 1. So, remaining level on points with group favourites Honduras was tonight’s key objective.
Unlike the Americans who looked leggy against Costa Rica last night, Mauro Biello’s selection appeared to make light of the heat, altitude and the fact that match fitness was lacking, against an El Salvador side comprising players five months into their league season.
Buchanan’s double came in the 17th and 21st minutes and crushed the opposition whose best chance was thwarted by James Pantemis’ left boot, the Montreal custodian’s best moment in a comfortably competent display.
Buchanan was Biello’s ace in the pack though and simply turned on the burners after accepting a pass from Ballou Tabla to leave Menjivar in his slipstream before planting a firm drive below the body of Martinez in the Salvadoran goal. It was an explosive run and finish.
He followed up that powerful left with a powerful right four minutes later, latching onto a ball on the edge of the box, before rifling home with Martinez again well-beaten.
Perhaps the bright start helped the Canadians forget about the conditions, which right-footed, left-back Marcus Godinho described post-game as ‘horrible’, but they looked comfortable and disciplined against an opponent that grew more ragged and robust as their hopes evaporated.
Vancouver’s Derek Cornelius was as dominant in central defence as he had to be during the first 45, but had less to trouble him after the break.
Ballou Tabla should have added a third five minute after the restart. He managed to get on the end of Buchanan’s cross, but his well-struck effort from close range was straight at Martinez.
Still it was a decent performance from a gifted player who really needs to show his club more desire and commitment in 2021, now he’s clear of nagging injury.
There were other good performances from the Canadians, most notably from Vancouver’s Metcalfe who vertically patrolled the midfield, but none to compare with Brampton’s Buchanan who must certainly have played himself into the thoughts of John Herdman. Clearly that won’t be for the upcoming double-header, but when the international schedule resumes in June, I can’t see this player getting the week off at his MLS club.
It all augurs well, yet it’s still not time to get carried away. If truth be told El Salvador on the night were poor, certainly not at the level of Costa Rica for instance, who deserved better than their narrow 0-1 defeat to the US the previous night.
But it’s a perfect start and while the victory margin could have been greater, it should ensure Canada approaches their next challenge against Haiti in confident mood.
Biello, who may have to guard against complacency against Les Grenadiers, wisely kept things simple for this opening game deploying a standard 4-4-2. Apart from those in the squad hailing from Vancouver or Montreal, many of the players had never before played together. Keeping it straightforward probably helped generate a level of cohesiveness and understanding that might not have been possible under a more complex system.
The only CFM player not to receive minutes was Zorhan Bassong and there was a cameo appearance for Quebecer and Canadian u21 Player of the Year Mo Farsi, now plying his trade with Tommy Wheeldon Jnr’s Cavalry.
It was something Farsi would not have expected a few short days ago, having travelled to Mexico not as part of the squad but as as emergency back-up with Diyaeddine Abzi, but the eleventh hour withdrawals of Kris Twardek and Thomas Meilleur-Giguere, ensured the Quebec pair’s promotion.
Canada u23 - Pantemis - Brault-Guillard, Montgomery (Norman Jnr, 46), Cornelius, Godinho - Buchanan, Metcalfe, Baldisimo (Dias, 72), Tabla (Bair, 56) - Daniels (Raposo, 56), Brym (Farsi, 85)
Coach - Mauro Biello
El Salvador u23 - Martinez - Menjivar, Gomez, Campos (Alvarado Sanchez, 53), Renderos - Rivas, Portillo (Molina, 74) - Munoz, Hernandez, Perez (Castillo, 74) - Marquez (Calvillo, 46)
Coach - Hugo Perez
Referee - Fernando Guerrero (Mexico)
Check out the latest, The Ball Is Round Podcast (Episode 20). Recorded Wednesday evening, the TBIR team discuss the Montreal captaincy, Henry’s recent UK TV appearance, Gilmore’s CCL comments and describe what the dawning of a new season means to each of them. Plus all the usual favourite features...and a new one... Eve’s Time Machine... Don’t miss it!
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