Game in a sentence
Canada’s road to the Hex becomes dicey after a 2-0 dismantling at the hands of Panama in a strange and disheartening affair in Panama City.
- Yes the 14 minute blackout at Estadio Rommel Fernandez was unfortunate, and the source of many clever jokes, but the first 20 minutes of this match was defined by the injury to Canadian talisman Dwyane De Rosario. Canada’s all time leading goal scorer appeared to hurt his knee after a rash challenge from Armando Cooper. Eventually the lights came on, but De Ro was gone, making way for Tosaint Rickets when play resumed. It was a double blow for Stephen Hart as you would imagine Ricketts would’ve been better suited to come on later in the game.
- Much like the Canadians at BMO field, Panama was letting it fly early. Cooper – one of four changes for Julio Dely Valdés’ side – was immense for the Panamanians. Cooper’s deflected shot in the 36th minute resulted in a corner for the home side. Rolando Blackburn capitalized on poor set piece defending to open the scoring on the ensuing kick. David Edgar found himself in no man’s land, leaving the far post unoccupied. Lars Hirschfeld has to organize his defenders better.
- Without De Rosario, coming from a goal down was going to be a tough task. Hart averted to a 4-5-1 formation that saw Ricketts basically alone up front. The absence of Olivier Occean on this night was glaring – neither Simeon Jackson or Ricketts excel at holding the all up. Faced with this reality Canada opted for long balls to the front that repeatedly failed to connect.
- More disconcerting was Canada’s passive play towards the end of the first half. You’d have thought Canada had the lead watching the back four meander about before playing a ball forward to the De Guzman and company, who failed to do much of anything all night – Canada’s midfielders as a whole had a game to forget, Will Johnson was missed.
- While Canada was poor, Panama were full value for the result. The trio of Blackburn, Cooper and Alberto Quintero was fantastic throughout. Quintero’s probing run, dismantling Edgar on the way, set up a Blas Perez goal in the 57th minute and ended Canada’s chances of leaving Panama with a point.
- Going through the motions is a horrible cliche – but tonight it was an apt description of a Canadian side that slept walk through an incredibly important fixture at this stage in World Cup Qualifying. What happened to the squad that went full throttle on Friday night? Frankly it was stunning to see Canada play so passively – even if it was away from home. The players handled the hotel theatrics on Monday night extremely well, but perhaps they really were intimidated. This loss isn’t shocking – Panama is a strong team – but it was the way in which it happened that is troubling going forward.
- The road to the Hex comes down to two fixtures in October – at home versus Cuba followed by a daunting trip to Honduras. In all likelihood that final game will decide Canada’s fate. I cannot think of a more stress inducing scenario than needing a result in San Pedro Sula. Such is life in CONCACAF. The team will regroup in one month’s time with everything on the line.
1. Armando Cooper
2. Alberto Quintero
3. Rolando Blackburn