Gold Cup 2009: Canada exhales

For about 70 of the 90 minutes, Canada kept its shape and maintained its defensive discipline. For an underdog, discipline is the key to success: an underdog can’t take stupid penalties nor can it be carded. It must stay in front of the opposing attackers and it must capitalize on its opportunities. In its first two games, Canada did exactly that and it won both games, assuring itself of a place in the quarter-finals.

For the other 20 minutes of tonight’s game against Costa Rica, Canada played alternately beautiful and brutal soccer. In those 20 minutes, 4 goals were scored and the end result was a 2-2 draw. Which is fine, because Canada won the group. But it’s not fine because it will, in all likelihood, have to play a rather good Honduas team in the next round.

I realize that Canada played mostly second-stringers tonight in an effort to get them playing time. I also understand that they played pretty well against a reasonably decent team. I was, however, confused when coach Stephen Hart brought Ali Gerba on in the 75th minute. That seemed to signal, to me, that he was going for the win. Why else bring on your first choice striker? That move was countered by Hart himself in the 81st minute when he brought on Adrian Cann, a defender.

Though I don’t know what’s going on in Stephen Hart’s head, I do know that Canada plays somebody on July 28. Even with the long time off, they should go in to the game well-rested and confident.

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