After seeing their matchup with the Cayman Islands postponed from Sunday to Monday due to a testing mishap, Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team took out their frustration on that decision Monday, beating their Island foes by a historic 11-0 scoreline. Here’s what stood out from that game from a Canadian perspective.
Canada wanted goals, and boy, did they get them.
After beating Bermuda 5-1 on Thursday, Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team wanted to rack up the goals on Monday, and they did just that, beating the Cayman Islands by a scoreline of 11-0, breaking their record for the biggest margin of victory in a match.
They scored early and often in this one, racking up 6 goals in the first half, before adding 5 more in the second, allowing them to cruise to a comfortable victory in their second matchday of World Cup qualifiers.
It was tough to watch at times, as the Cayman Islands team were severely overmatched against a Canadian side out for blood, but in a busy World Cup qualifying schedule where goal difference may play a big role, Canada did what it had to do in order to improve theirs in this one.
Now, they head into the last 2 matchdays of this first round of qualifiers with 6 Points and a +15 GD, putting them ahead of Suriname, who also has 6 points but only a +9 GD, giving Canada a slight edge.
Ultimately, Canada will be expected to win their last two games of this phase, which come against Aruba and then Suriname in their final game, but with CONCACAF being as unpredictable as it is, they want to assure that they have the cushion of a draw versus Suriname being enough to get them through to the second round, hence this ruthless performance against the Cayman Islands.
Alas, as a famous person once said, you can only beat the team in front of you, and Canada more than did that on Monday, giving them this famous victory.
“You can only play the team in front of you,” Canada’s head coach, John Herdman, said after the game. “Happy with the level of professionalism that the guys showed tonight, they had a clear mindset of being ruthless which would lead to the outcome of making history.”
Heading into June, it should more than give them enough confidence to now finish off the job they started here, allowing them to progress to the second round.
Before looking too far ahead, however, we’ll try our best to look back at this game, one where Canada made history in a devastating way.
Wotherspoon remains in form:
Heading into this camp, David Wotherspoon was arguably one of Canada’s most in-form players at the club level, having put together a very solid campaign for St. Johnstone over in Scotland so far.
Seeing that, you did wonder if he’d get a chance to impress Canada head coach John Herdman in these games, knowing his current form, and he certainly did that in this game.
Earning a rare start, he scored 1 goal and added 3 assists, making a big impact on the scoreboard for Canada. From a personal perspective, the goal was important, as it was his first tally for his country, but from Canada’s point of view, his offensive contributions proved to be important, as they all came within the first half, allowing them to build up their lead.
It’s unlikely to turn into a start for Canada in a big game, but he’s a great example of the sort of depth this program is starting to build up in all positions, allowing them to increase competition in the squad.
He’s going to have to make the most of these sorts of starting opportunities, as they’ll be few and far between if Canada finds a way to make the ‘Octogonal’, CONCACAF’s final round of World Cup qualifying, but at the very least, he showed that he can be an option off of the bench for Herdman if needed.
When you rotate the squad as heavily as Herdman did, making 9 changes, you want your depth players to step up, and Wotherspoon led the way for Canada in that regard.
Cavallini shrugs monkey off of his back:
But while Wotherspoon wanted to impress Herdman as someone looking to claw his way up the Canadian depth chart, Lucas Cavallini found himself at the other end of the scale, as he was looking to redeem himself before his stock fell too hard, or at least it seemed that way on Monday.
After a tough performance in a starting role for Canada last Thursday against Bermuda, where he had plenty of chances to score but somehow failed to breach the goal, he had an impressive cameo off of the bench in this one, scoring 3 goals in 15 minutes to really solidify Canada’s lead.
It was a bit tough to see him and lay a beating down on an already-suffering Cayman Islands team, but on the other hand, he really did need those goals.
With a lot of people starting to doubt him after a tough first season for the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2020, with the doubters starting to get real loud after his tough performance versus Bermuda, he showed a bit more of the Cavallini that has allowed him to crawl up to 6th in all-time in the Canadian Men’s goalscoring charts with his ruthless performance on Monday.
Again, the level of the opposition matters, but it can only be a good thing if your striker finds a way to bag a hat trick, so you can’t help but feel happy for him from that perspective.
Heading into a big year for the Vancouver Whitecaps, he’ll be relied upon to come up big for them as their club-record signing, so they’ll have to be happy to see him find a bit of form at the end of this camp, especially after his nightmarish start to it.
Crepeau finally starts… didn’t have to do much, though:
And speaking of Vancouver Whitecaps players getting a chance to impress Herdman, Maxime Crepeau got a big opportunity to strut his stuff in the Canadian goal on Sunday, earning his first competitive start for Canada.
Unfortunately for him, however, he didn’t have to do much in this game, as the Cayman Islands mustered up a total of zero shots, giving him the easiest clean sheet of his life, but just to see him get on the field was nice.
That’s not the worst thing ever for a goalkeeper to face little action, as you’ll never complain about an easy clean sheet, but you do still feel like this could’ve been a great opportunity for him to show a little more than he did.
Considering that he was supposedly close to winning a starting spot off of Milan Borjan at the backend of 2019, only missing an audition opportunity versus Cuba in September of that year due to injury, this game was theoretically another chance for him to make that discussion interesting again.
Especially after Borjan’s error versus Bermuda, one that gifted their opponents a crucial goal, the conversation seems to be open, making it disappointing that he didn’t get a chance to do anything in the Canadian goal in this one.
Seeing that Herdman was confident to turn to him here, you do feel like this isn’t the last we see of him for Canada in 2021, which is good news, at the very least.
If Borjan’s going to keep making big errors in a Canadian shirt, it’d be good if Crepeau could be there to keep him honest, either supplanting him completely in goal, or at least pushing him to find another level.
This game didn’t really offer much for Crepeau to pad his resume in that quest, but at least it offered him a chance to show fans that there is a chance that he could work his way into the starting conversation sometime soon, maybe starting as early as in June for the next round of qualifiers.
The sub plan a bit questionable:
But while Crepeau got to impress in a rare cameo, there were 4 Canadian players who didn’t get a chance to see the field down in Florida, and those were Dayne St. Clair, Cristian Gutierrez, Joel Waterman and Jayden Nelson, who remained as unused substitutes in both games.
In the case of St. Clair, you’re not too worried, because as the third goalkeeper, he wasn’t going to play, at least barring an injury, that is, so there was no surprise to not see him see the field there.
As for the others, though, you do wonder if Canada could have given all of them a shot in this game, especially considering that they were up 6-0 heading into the second half.
Yes, Canada needed to pad their goal differential, but surely they could’ve given chances to Gutierrez, Waterman and Nelson while doing so, especially considering that two of them, Gutierrez and Waterman, are yet to earn a cap at the senior level for Canada.
It’s not the end of the world that they didn’t play, far from it, but you do feel like there could have been a balancing act between chasing a big result and giving everyone on the roster a chance to impress, and Herdman elected to swing the pendulum as much towards the big result as possible, bringing in 5 regulars off of the bench to confirm the result.
Seeing how well Canada’s rotated lineup did to build up the 6-goal lead, you would’ve thought Gutierrez, Waterman and Nelson could’ve helped them chase that result, but alas, we’ll have to wait to see them in red for now.
Again, full credit to Canada for chasing the result – goal difference matters, and they know that very well.
On the other hand, in a busy year with not a lot of time for exhibition games or any sort of preparatory matches, these sorts of games could be invaluable for seeing what some players offer, and it’s too bad Gutierrez, Waterman and Nelson didn’t get the same chance that some of their teammates got.
A quick tactical note:
We won’t dive too much into Canada’s tactics here, as it’s hard to take too much away from this sort of game, but much like in the Bermuda match, there were still a few tactical tweaks that were worth noting.
Defensively, there wasn’t much to talk about, other than the fact that Canada once again tried to defend in two compact banks of 4 whenever possible, but that wasn’t something that they needed to do all too often in this game.
Offensively, however, we saw a lot of flexibility from Canada, who tried to attack the inside channels in a hybrid 3-4-3 and 4-3-3 formation that caused a lot of problems for the Cayman Islands defence.
They were always going to win this sort of game on individual talent, but it was nice to see them score a few goals after some solid sequences of build-up play, showing how this team is reacting positively to having this sort of tactical flexibility in the final third.
“Again, we have rotations and exchanges in the team,” Herdman said. “I’ve said this, we want to be an adaptable team that is a part of our Canadian DNA to be disciplined. I’ve had that experience on the women’s side, when you work with Canadian players, they tend to work together cohesively in structure, and that’s an X-factor.”
Again, the quality of opposition makes it easier for Canada to pull off those kinds of sequences, but despite that, the tactics the Cayman Islands did employ did offer an opportunity for Canada to face the sort of defensive set-up they may face several more times this year.
Considering that Canada has struggled to break down low blocks in the past, seeing them put 11 past a Cayman Islands team that only conceded 3 against Suriname a few days prior has to be positive for Herdman to build off of.
“We started with the 4-3-3, and then that evolves with the movements and exchanges inside of the field,” Herdman explained. “We knew they were going to park the bus with a 5-4-1, and that opportunity to keep penetrating that inside channel was something we targeted, those runs from behind, to behind to break the low block.”
And ultimately, with Canada not having much time to work together as a team in the past 24 months, any chance to work on these tactics together can go a long way, so it’s worth highlighting these sorts of tweaks, as they could prove to be beneficial in the long run.
You have to feel bad for the Cayman Islands:
And to round things off, you can only tip your hat to the Cayman Islands for battling through this game, because it was far from easy for them to show up and take this sort of beating after a rough week for their team from an administrative perspective.
As Cayman Compass reporter Seaford Russell Jr told the Third Sub Podcast before the game, the Cayman Islands players had already endured a nightmarish week of travel, one that forced them to miss the covid testing period that originally postponed this game, so for it to end like this for them has to hurt.
On the other hand, this result could prove to be important for them in the long-term. As Russell Jr. told the Third Sub, the Cayman Islands is starting to invest more in the sport in the country, allowing them to push the program forward in the coming years.
With CONCACAF making more of an effort to give competitive games to these sorts of teams, who would often only get to play 2-8 competitive games every 4 years before, now they can start to dream of one day being a veritable threat in CONCACAF, a rise that a few small nations have successfully pulled off in recent years.
There’s a lot of work to do for the Cayman Islands there, especially since they don’t yet have a semi-professional or professional league in their country, but strides are being made, and that’s all you can ask for from them at this point.
Now, Canada’s players will return home to their clubs for the next few months, before reconvening in June ahead of a crucial two-game set of World Cup qualifiers, where they’ll take on Aruba and Suriname.
If they get through those games, doing enough to win the group, a two-legged series in Round 2 awaits them nearly immediately after, as well, so June could end up being a pretty big month for this Canadian team.
So for them, they’ll look to bottle up the positive energy that getting 2 wins and scoring plenty of goals can give you and channel it for their clubs in the next few months, saving some of course for those crucial games down the road.
In the midst of a big year for the senior National Team, they’ve gotten off to a strong start here with their performance in March, but they’ll want to continue that into the bigger games that lie ahead.
But as we said earlier, you can only beat the teams in front of you, and Canada did that, so credit to them for sticking to the task and starting things off on the right foot here.
Cover Photo via: Canada Soccer/Douglas DeFelice