Canada's Brazil Death March kept up its charge into the valley of death today with a thoroughly inglorious 3-1 loss to Armenia in Cyprus.
The Canadian men's national team didn't look completely out of place against a country with a per-capita GDP 12% of our own and a lower population than urban Toronto. A few players, particularly David Edgar and Tosaint Ricketts, played most of a good game. Milan Borjan made his first start in Canadian colours since the 2011 Gold Cup, didn't have a chance on either goal he conceded, and made some good saves, while Kenny Stamatopoulos was mistake-free. Our set pieces were sporadically dangerous. And, of course, we scored, which I did not predict, as Kevin McKenna knocked home let another corner which, sadly, proves him once again to be among Canada's most dangerous attacking players.
But you'd never have confused it for a game Canada was going to win. Armenia's pressure completely threw the Canadians off their stride, the same way every nation's pressure always completely throws the Canadians off their stride. Simeon Jackson was isolated up front (again) while inconsistent wing play meant there were no good crosses (again) and our central midfielders let their central midfielders play as they saw fit (again) causing Armenia to get several great long-range chances (again) as well as send through their forwards on a number of dangerous runs (again).
We know what Canada is. This team hasn't surprised anybody since the summer of 2009: it's the same old song and dance day in, day out. Only the jerseys change.
We know, for example, that head coach Stephen Hart, alumnus of Halifax King of Donair, appears inflexible and easily-thwarted by any non-amateur opponent. We know that our 4-3-3 doesn't work as there's no linkage between midfield and attack. (We don't know if anything would work better: this seems to be a failing of players and of systems, not of formations.) We know that Atiba Hutchinson and Josh Simpson, as brilliant as they sometimes look, seem habitually unable to put it together for Canada. We know that, sadly, Mike Klukowski hasn't had a Klukowski-quality game in a lot of years and that, while he's still a bloody terror on set pieces, Kevin McKenna's getting awfully slow out there.
We know that this is the least-talented Canadian team since the Bob Lenarduzzi days. I've been saying it for months so I can smirk freely but this is becoming a majority opinion. I think most of us know that it'll take acres of luck for us to reach the hex this coming summer: all we can do is get our best players, hope for Jonathan de Guzman to join them, and try like hell to make gold out of all this lead.
I think Stephen Hart's a failed coach, but if we sack him that won't make Julian de Guzman younger, or Nik Ledgerwood quicker, or give us a spirited right wing who can be more of a team threat than Ricketts's individualism allows. I think Junior Hoilett would be a lovely creative and athletic addition to our lineup, and I think that with our MLS players in tow we'd have mounted a more balanced threat today. That game cried out for Will Johnson and even a bit of Terry Dunfield would have helped, but it wouldn't have been the difference between losing and winning.
I admit that writing these match reviews is getting tiring. The Canadian team remains the sorry lump it's always been; a team whose closest aspirations should be in 2018. So I was disappointed that Samuel Piette didn't get in because he's a player who'll be working his way into the team when, in four years time, a younger (and above all different) team, hopefully with a decent head coach and a soccer association that knows what it's doing, will be going for glory in Qatar.
The tragedy is that this game was broadcast nationally on Sportsnet One. No, I'm phrasing that badly: Sportsnet deserves all the credit for broadcasting that dog of a friendly on a Wednesday morning. But, at this very moment, on that very island, the Canadian women's national team is playing the Cyprus Cup and doing very well against quality opposition. Yesterday, the ladies beat Scotland 5-1. Why couldn't those games be on television? Instead of watching a world-class team, we watch a mediocre one because its players have penises.
I suppose that's not surprising. Nothing about this Canadian team ever is.