Canada huffed and puffed, but was unable to blow the Honduran house down.
A helter-skelter and naive approach to the opening 45 minutes coupled with Honduras’ greater sense of nous throughout, ensured Les Rouges wouldn’t open their qualification campaign in the octagonal with a win.
They looked enthusiastic but disorganized throughout the opening 45, so much so it was difficult to understand the game-plan or roles required of certain players, particularly Buchanan and Laryea and the by-passed midfield.
At times it looked not much more than a case of give it to Fonsie, let him weave his magic and we’ll be ok. Options were unavailable in a one-track approach. The Bayern youngster and star of this team shone brightly, looked dangerous early on and had a significant part to play in the penalty award which yielded the equalizer, but at times attempted too much in Canada’s generally frenzied performance.
By the time the 39th minute and Alexander Lopez arrived to put Honduras ahead from the spot, the visitors were playing the better, more controlled, football. The signs had become ominous and Tajon Buchanan, isolated, was left to barge Andy Najar to the ground. Lopez converted comfortably, but bizarrely left the arena less at ease on a stretcher, having damaged a hamstring in his execution.
Canada’s tempo didn’t decrease but they looked better in a second-half with the interval introduction of the more experienced Hoilett for Buchanan.
Waves of attacks came from the red shirts, but they struggled to create clear-cut openings for either Larin or David, each striker experiencing a frustrating evening.
Midfield, so confusing or anonymous in the first-half, began to influence and finally in the 66th minute an equalizer arrived. Davies played a part down the left, but it was the movement of Hoilett in the box that enticed Figueroa’s rash challenge, Mexican referee Fernando Guerrero Ramirez pointing convincingly to the spot.
Larin stepped up and converted to the centre of the goal much to the relief of a raucous 14,822 Covid-restricted crowd that punched above it’s weight. Sprinkled with a few Hondurans, they created quite an atmosphere.
Canada continued to press against a resilient Honduras, which in defence looked over-worked at times, yet rarely out of shape. They’re a team that knows how to get results in these types of game. Contrastingly for this Canadian squad and coaching staff, World Cup octagonal represents a learning process and they’ll need to get clued-in quickly.
They almost paid dearly when despite their incessant second-half pressure, Brayan Moya’s 74th minute header came within a whisker of regaining the lead for Honduras. Milan Borjan was Canada’s saviour however, coming up big with the slightest of touches to divert the ball onto his left-hand upright, before Johnson, probably Canada’s top performer of the evening, hooked clear.
“That was a big welcome to the CONCACAF Octagon, I guess you could say,” said Johnston. “Nothing’s going to be easy, nothing’s going to be given.”
Post-match Canadian coach Herdman was clear about the performance and the challenges ahead and pretty much called it accurately when he said, “It’s the start of a journey and we‘ve got the ability to get better. That’s the exciting thing for us.”
It doesn’t get any easier for his team which now travels to Nashville to face USA on Sunday, before returning to BMO Field for a must-win contest against El Salvador next Wednesday.
Last night’s result was one of three draws on the evening, with Mexico, 2-1 winners over Jamaica, the only side to claim three points from the first round of group matches.