In last’s night 0-0 tie between Canada and the USA, the rare occurrence of Canada’s national team coach, Stephen Hart, getting his tactics correct took place. A national team program so fraught with under performance, poor leadership, and failure finally showed some resemblance to a properly functioning national team.
The 4-3-3 system employed by Hart seemed far too ambitious at the beginning of the game considering the USA’s two most recent games against Brazil and Scotland, in which they scored 9 goals combined. This system, however, worked perfectly for the Canadians and Hart, continually frustrating the USA’s midfielders and forwards while not allowing for too many clear-cut opportunities.
The system even delivered to the Canadians a few attacking chances for themselves, that with a striker on form would have easily capitalized on, (finger pointing at Mr. Jackson). The 4-3-3 positioned on the field played in truth more like a 4-5-1, with De Rosario and Ricketts playing heavily on defence, while attempting to maintain possession of the ball through their central midfielders when on attack, giving the aforementioned wingers a chance to break forward.
The strength at the back for Canada was also evident in the superb play of their Captain, Kevin McKenna. Early in the game, before the fifth minute in-fact, McKenna wrestled an American forward off the ball for a corner and smiled cheekily as he walked to his defensive position, relishing the fact that the American forward tried, and I mean tried, to push him off the ball and failed. The Canadians were filled with great team play and also superb individual play, coming from all three sections of the team.
Kevin McKenna – His leadership and experience shone through at the heart of the Canadian defence, as the stalwart Canadians held the USA at bay. McKenna made a number of strong tackles and timely interruptions, helping to both cover and support his defensive teammates. On the rare occasion a ball managed to pass the Canadian captain, goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld was there to stop the opportunity.
Julian DeGuzman – Julian had a fantastic game in his defensive midfield role, plugging the gap between defence and forward, making life for the American forward players miserable. DeGuzman expertly supported his teammates in both defence and attack, covering the defensive space that the injured Hutchinson usually inhabits. His work on the ball was also quite impressive as he easily pinged passes out wide to De Rosario and Ricketts, while also making short, effective passes to his central midfield teammates, Johnson and Ledgerwood. Julian’s first touch and turning capabilities were also on full display, as on a number of occasions he used both to turn defenders and escape pressure.
Surprise, surprise but the best forward in the Canadian lineup was once again Dwayne DeRosario. Although he played a heavy defensive role as well, Dero’s attacking runs and possession looked Canada’s best chance to score time and time again. His tactical awareness and attacking play were far above any of the other Canadian forwards and if he had been playing for the USA, I doubt there would have been a 0-0 scoreline.
Dero’s ability to get wide on the left and create with a cross, in-cutting run, or fantastic dribbling run made him a constant threat to the American goal. Canada’s best opportunity came through Dero in the 92nd minute when he played the ball to the feet of Simeon Jackson, after bringing the ball into the box and dribbling past his American defender.
Overall the Canadian effort put forth was extremely satisfying to both the players and the coach, while also affording the fan something to cheer. The defence looked steady, giving up chances as any team might, but never looked under too much stress.
The midfield looked aware and prepared for the American plan of attack and did a thorough job of stopping it. The forwards looked to make most of the chances they got but were unable to finish the few they had.
This effort is an encouraging display ahead of Canada’s upcoming World Cup qualifying game against Cuba, who will put up a far different test than the Americans did. The Cubans will look to flop and cheat their way to victory and it is up to the Canadians to maintain their cool and look for victory themselves.
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