Good Friday morning Caps fans. We are almost upon a three-day weekend here for the Labor/Labour Day holiday so I hope you all have suitably exciting plans to celebrate and enjoy some well deserved time off.
If you’re anything like me, it will be a weekend of soccer, with the Caps playing Saturday night against Austin, a team they had success against when they played a few weeks back. Then on Sunday night, the big match: U.S. versus Canada, in what is probably the juiciest matchup of the first tranche of World Cup qualifiers.
Both countries kicked off their WCQ campaigns with a draw last night. While Canada had a strong second half, it wasn’t enough to break down a resolute Honduras side, despite a Cyle Larin penalty to even things at 1-1. A nervy first half and a battle tested opponent were difficult to overcome for the Canadians, who are in somewhat uncharted territory when it comes to the arduous journey that is World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF.
The U.S. is in a similar boat in many ways. While they have naturally played in their fair share of qualifiers (insert Trinidad and Tobago joke here), this is a roster which has almost no institutional memory of the failed 2018 qualifying campaign. This is by and large a good thing — it is a team which does not play scared and which is riding high from momentum in the Nations League and the Gold Cup.
But that still means that away trips, like their opener in El Salvador, will be a tricky proposition. Both BMO Field and the fans in San Salvador were in full voice, creating compelling atmospheres — and ones which had a tangible effect on the matches, pushing the players along. While it wasn’t enough to get Canada three points, in El Salvador’s case it was probably the difference maker in unsettling the Americans and keeping them at bay.
The old adage in CONCACAF qualifying is that winning your home matches, drawing your road games and avoiding any painful losses will book you a ticket to the World Cup. Those of us who have lived through many qualifying efforts will be fully on board with this adage.
But I was seeing a lot of people on social media (more on the U.S. side than the Canadian side) questioning this wisdom, basically making the argument that countries with the resources and talent pool like the U.S. and Canada should not be drawing against supposedly lesser Central American sides.
I would make the point, however, that both El Salvador and Honduras are quality opposition, with both teams largely holding the U.S. and/or Mexico in check in recent months. If the match is on home soil, this effect is magnified.
There is the simple fact that, in World Cup qualifiers, weird stuff happens. In CONCACAF it is almost a given that you will encounter a waterlogged pitch/overzealous riot police/snowstorm at some point. But in other confederations you see superior teams held in check all the time — take Japan’s loss yesterday to Oman in their qualifying match or France drawing with Bosnia. Virtually unlimited funds and a squad of players in the best leagues don’t mean much when national pride is at stake.
Given how their first matches played out, however, the U.S./Canada match will be a massive one. Both teams will be anxious to get a win to steady the nerves and after a testy affair during the Gold Cup, there will be some motivation on both sides to get three points at the other’s expense. Both teams showed real weaknesses in their first match, both teams showed moments of real promise. I’m expecting a wide open game and I’m not sure how exactly the chips will fall. Either way, I do know it will be must-see TV.
Shameless Self Promotion
The Caps have a lot of players on loan at the moment and because you can’t be everywhere at once, Caleb gives a status update on their performance.
Best of the Rest
If you want to feel a bit better about the Canadian Championship match that shall not be named, get caught up on Pacific FC’s performance in the CPL this year
Player ratings from Canada’s 1-1 draw with Honduras
Meanwhile, Mexico beat Jamaica on a late winner from Henry Martin, making them the only side to win their WCQ opener
With Javain Brown getting a call-up for Jamaica, it is probably best not to talk about the Caps’ fullback situation ...
The Caps tapped Emma Humphries, a veteran of both the organization and the English Women’s Super League, to lead their women’s football development