It was perhaps predictably disappointing.
It just seems to be the way things are when Canada meets Haiti in soccer. Or when Canadian optimism and hope rises a little too swiftly.
It’s not as though Canada didn’t have chances to win this game and put daylight between themselves and Honduras... they did, but on a night when Tajon Buchanan and Ballou Tabla left their shooting boots at home, Canada were left thankful for an excellent display by last line of defence, James Pantemis, in securing the draw.
Pantemis could have been sat in the empty stands during a first-half in which he was idle, but the well-organized Haitians grew in confidence the longer the game wore on without concession, or the emergence of a consistent Canadian threat.
The Montreal ‘keeper had to be sharp to repel efforts from Dutherson Clerveaux on 56 mins, New England’s Francois Dulysse (67 mins) and the best stop of the lot, again from a Clerveaux header on 72, when he got down low to his left to ensure parity was maintained.
Earlier, in the opening half, Buchanan thought he had given Canada the lead after a Brault-Guillard cross and touch-on by Brym provided a wonderful opportunity, but Haitian ‘keeper, Jerome managed to get a foot to what looked a certain goal. It really should have been converted, as should a headed opportunity in the second-half from Baldisimo’s free-kick, Buchanan directing the ball tamely towards a grateful goalkeeper.
Less than a minute later a quick Haitian break almost paid off but Eliader Dorlus fired powerfully and narrowly wide. Pantemis could not have done much with this one had it flown past the other side of the upright.
By the time a series of substitutions from both sides occurred, the game was already turning away from the white-shirted Canadians, yet it was they who should have claimed all three points as the game entered added time.
Buchanan, who operated centrally for too much of this game, found the energy to break down the left, a couple of players trailing in his wake, before setting Ballou Tabla up for the second successive game.
But again the Ivorian-born forward missed from close range, Jerome winning the battle of wits to divert the ball to safety off an outstretched boot.
And with that the chance to collect all three points was gone.
It was a disjointed display by Canada who started the game as brightly as Haiti did apprehensively. But the gap was to close and the pendulum swing, as Canada’s lack of midfield cohesiveness and striking firepower became evident. This was a performance to make you ponder, if Buchanan doesn’t score, who will?
Haiti for their part must be the most resilient of Caribbean nations. We’ve seen this quality emerge from them before to Canada’s cost, and again it was apparent this evening.
You wondered how they’d adapt to having only 16 players in their squad (everyone else has 20) and react to the administrative nightmares which have undermined their campaign, caused embarrassment, and challenged the very integrity of this tournament.
However despite their disappointment in effectively throwing away all three points from their opening game against Honduras, they were the team which probably felt slightly more frustrated at the end of tonight’s proceedings at Estadio Akron.
But Canada too will rue its profligate finishing. Had they converted just one of three gilt-edged opportunities they’d now be sitting atop the table, just needing a draw with Honduras (who could only draw with El Salvador in the night’s other game) on Sunday to win the group and (probably) avoid a semi-final with hosts, Mexico.
Now however, as things stand, to avert that eventuality, they must put Honduras to the sword. And in Olympic u23 play in four attempts, that’s never happened.
We live in hope!
Canada - Pantemis - Brault-Guillard (Bassong, 70), Norman Jnr, Cornelius (c), Godinho - Brym (Raposo, 79), Metcalfe, Baldisimo, Daniels (Tabla, 58) - Bair (Dias, 70), Buchanan
Coach - Mauro Biello
Haiti - Jerome; A - Wendy, Dulysse, Jerome; O, Pierre - Archelus, Dorlus, Bissainthe, Louima - Joseph Jnr, Clerveaux (Thomas, 74)
Coach - Webens Princime
Referee - Juan Gabriel Calderon (Costa Rica)
Check out the latest, The Ball Is Round Podcast (Episode 20). Recorded last 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!
Every Week - The Ball Is Round... @TBIRMontreal - please follow us for regular, weekly CF Montreal, Canadian, MLS and international content in English!