Canada got their 2020 slate of games off to a positive start this week, as they beat Barbados in a pair of back-to-back games down in California. Here is our report from the 2nd of those 2 games.
The games may have been different, but the results would eventually prove to be the same.
After a tough loss against the US to end off 2019, Canada’s Men’s National Team has gotten things started off on the right foot in 2020, beating Barbados by an identical 4-1 scoreline twice in a span of 4 days. While the victories did little to help them accumulate the valuable points needed by June to participate in the Hexagonal, the final stage of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, they provided a chance for many youngsters to get their first opportunities with Canada.
“I think the lads are happy,” Canada’s head coach, John Herdman, said after the 2nd game. “It’s their 2nd game, some of them are still in preseason mode, they haven’t played for a while, but I don’t think that showed tonight.”
Over the course of both games, 9 Canadian players made their debut with Canada, with a further 4 scoring their 1st ever national team goals. Considering that Canada was missing several key players, with these games coming outside of the normal sanctioned FIFA windows, they did what they needed to do, and it has gotten the ball rolling nicely heading into a pivotal clash with Iceland next Wednesday.
Canada got started off on the front foot early on in this 2nd game, as striker Charles Andreas Brym was played in by left back Zorhan Bassong in the 2nd minute, but the young forward slashed his attempt well wide of the goal. Despite having rounded the Barbados keeper, he was unable to keep his composure with the chance, giving Barbados an early lifeline.
Brym would atone for that miss shortly after, however, as he put Canada ahead on a corner. On the set-piece, Russell Teibert whipped in a hard near post ball, and Brym rose highest, meeting the ball cleanly to open his international goalscoring account with Canada.
Barbados would wake up after that goal, finding 3 good chances, but they were unable to find the target with either. First, it was a goalmouth scramble, where the striker poked just over after pouncing on a loose ball, before he managed to find himself shortly after on a 1v1 with Canada’s Max Crepeau, hitting it just wide. Shortly after, Barbados executed a nice flick on at the near post off of a cross, but they headed just wide, keeping Canada ahead.
That would pave the way for Canada to double their lead, as this time Teibert played finisher, latching onto a Bassong cross to slot in his 2nd goal for Canada. Heading into half time, it was a good end to the first 45 minutes for Canada, as they had a well-crafted lead tucked into their back-pockets.
After regrouping at half time, only making one sub with the addition of Montreal Impact midfielder, Shamit Shome, Canada started to control the game more. While they weren’t testing the Barbados goalkeeper enough, they had a hold on the game, and it would soon lead to their 3rd goal.
Off of a Liam Fraser corner, centre back Amer Didic rose nicely at the back post, becoming the first-ever Canadian Premier League to score for the Canadian National Team, on a day he became the first player to feature in a match. It was a historic goal for Canadian soccer, and while it wasn’t celebrated much on the field, it’s a sequence that will be remembered across the country for the next while.
Canada would switch off for a moment not long after the 3rd goal, however, as Barbados’s #13, Shamar Edwards, pounced on a failed Derek Cornelius clearance, rounding Crepeau and finishing calmly to make it 3-1. It was a surprising error from the usually calm Cornelius, as he’s been one of Canada’s most reliable defending options in recent months.
“Barbados, they were committed,” Herdman said. “We knew it would be physical, it would be a battle at times, and I thought the players competed, they played some good football. We’ll be disappointed in again, giving away the clean sheet, the lads will be really disappointed, with that, but there’s a lot of positives (as well).”
After cutting into the lead, Barbados wouldn’t get to see much more of the Canadian goal for the rest of the game, as Canada threw in their youngsters, as they played the rest of the game with 8 under 23 players. As they prepare for Olympic qualifiers in March, it was a good opportunity for the young guns to shine, and many of them did just that.
Another CPL debutant, MVP Tristan Borges, nearly made it 4 late in the game, but he sent his free-kick attempt just over the crossbar. Canada would remain relentless, however, unfazed by the missed attempt, and it would soon pay off. 17-year-old Jayden Nelson, the youngest player in the squad, pounced on a goalkeeping error to slam home into an empty net from distance, marking his first national team goal, on a moment he soon won’t forget.
With the 4-1 lead intact, Canada would cruise to the finish line, avoiding any further embarrassment, as they get off to 2020 on the right foot. While it was unlikely to ever imagine them losing to Barbados, in CONCACAF anything can happen, so they’ll be happy to leave these 2 games relatively unscathed.
With this game being a friendly, there was none of the usual stat-tracking we see from CONCACAF, so we did some stat tracking of our own. It isn’t completely accurate, but it gives an idea of how some players fared, and who were the high-event players on the evening.
|Player||Goal||Assist||Key Pass||ShotS||Tackles||Int + Duals|
|Charles Andreas Brym||1||3||3|
It was a banner night for defenders Amer Didic and Zorhan Bassong, who fared well in their national team debuts. Didic was a calming presence at the back, vacuuming up balls all night long, while also being composed in possession. After working hard defensively to win 11 duals/interceptions, scoring that late goal was a cherry on the cake, as he put in a good claim to be a regular starter for Canada.
For Bassong, he was a two-way force out at left back, as he managed to make things happen on both ends of the pitch. With 1 assist, 4 key passes and 1 shot, he was everywhere in the offensive end, but he didn’t sacrifice defence in order to jump up, adding 3 tackles and 6 interceptions+duels.
With both being fresh faces into the Canadian fold, it’ll be interesting to see how they progress from here, as you’d now figure they slot in against Iceland. As we mentioned in our article yesterday, Didic is someone you’d figure Herdman sees as a long-term centre back option for this country, while Bassong, the Belgian dual-national, can be a solid left back for the country, starting with the Olympic qualifiers in March, if they can convince him to come in for that.
Elsewhere amongst starters, Russell Teibert and Liam Fraser were strong in the midfield, helping Canada play on both sides of the ball. Fraser did a lot of work from deep, winning 3 tackles and 2 interceptions+duels, while also transitioning the ball from back to front, whereas Teibert was more involved offensively, scoring a goal and adding an assist, but also pressing the Barbados players relentlessly.
Off of the bench, Shamit Shome was a standout in his 45 minutes, adding 3 tackles and 3 interceptions+duels, while Okello, Nelson and Borges all had moments of attacking brilliance.
Heading into the last Iceland game, it gave plenty for John Herdman to think about, as he prepares his team for their toughest test of this camp. There are lots of intriguing names to look at, both U23s and senior, so hopefully we can see some of the standouts from today carry over their brilliance into next Wednesday.
- Canada defended nicely in their deep line, barring the Cornelius error, which is good to see. After getting torched by the US when they used a high line in November, it’s back-to-back games that they’ve gone with a lower set-up, which should help them in the future. We’ve been calling for a low line since that US game, re-iterating it in our article yesterday, so it’s good to see them practicing using it again, even against the likes of Barbados.
- Attacking wise, Canada didn’t look as comfortable, but that’s to be expected given all of the rotation and unfamiliar faces. They did make some penetrating passes, only for someone to freeze on the ball, which is something that will change with time. As they improve their final 3rd patterns in this formation, hopefully it becomes less of a worry, as they face stiffer defensive tests, starting with Iceland
- The 4-2-2-2 continues to look good. Canada has so many midfielders, so it’s good to see them capitalize on that area of strength, allowing them to control the middle of the pitch. Even when they struggle in the final 3rd, controlling the midfield buys them time to find those openings, as they can try to recycle the ball in order to open up passing lanes.
- Didic is someone to watch over these next few camps. He plays well with the ball at his feet, he can move around the pitch, and he has solid defensive IQ. Along with his size, which you can’t teach, he’s definitely someone that could improve Canada’s backline as he grows into the role.
Canada has 4 days to prepare for their next game, the Californian clash with Iceland. In their quest for FIFA points, it’s a game that looms large, as Iceland sits well ahead of them in the rankings, so it should be good to see Canada go for it.
With 3.11 points on the line, which is more than what the Barbados games combined gave them, it’ll be a pivotal clash for the country, one that will give them a short-term boost if they win, while also having a long-term impact in terms of the preparation provided. While Iceland is short some of their better players, it’s still a good test for Canada, as some of these young players get a chance to face their stiffest test to date with their country.
We’ll have you covered on that game, so stay tuned, as it’s the first big game of what looks to be a packed 2020 schedule.
Up Next: Canada vs Iceland, Wednesday, January 15th, 2020, 16:30 PST, 19:30 EST
Cover Photo by: Liza Rozales and Canada Soccer