U-20s: Canada wonder what might have been as 18 months of work dashed

PUEBLA, Mexico – For head Nick Dasovic and his Canadian Under-20 national team, Tuesday night's CONCACAF U-20 Championship quarterfinal against the United States was the culmination of a strenuous 18 months of work.

But it all went for naught as they saw their U-20 World Cup hopes disappear with a 4-2 loss. And instead of planning for what could have been an exciting summer competing with the world's best young players in Turkey, the players will disperse to their respective clubs and be left to wonder what might have been.

“We’ve all become a family and we’ve all clicked,” said Dylan Carreiro, who gave Canada hope when he opened the scoring in the 23rd minute. “We have everything together. We’re brothers, we’re family and it just feels sad because we’re leaving each other now.”

It’s now been six long years since Canada last participated at the U-20 World Cup, and that was when they hosted the 2007 tournament. This time around, there was optimism that this could be the group to get them back to that stage.

There were certainly positive results in the months leading up to the CONCACAF tournament, with wins over the United States and Costa Rica, and the team looked to have significant depth and goalscoring potential – two key elements Canadian teams have lacked more often than not.

READ: Canada's World Cup dreams dashed with 4-2 loss to the United States

“We have a lot of good guys here – a lot of players who have a lot of potential,” said midfielder Samuel Piette, whose fantastic strike on Canada’s second goal of the night is fast becoming his trademark. “We just have to keep our heads up and keep working because we are the future for Canada.”

Tuesday night also represents another missed opportunity for Canada to get young players experience at the top level. In addition to qualifying for the World Cup, which would have been huge for Canadian soccer by itself, a win would have guaranteed Canada two more games at this tournament and at least three more at the World Cup this summer.

For head coach Nick Dasovic, that represents the biggest loss on Tuesday night.

“The sad thing about not going to the World Cup is the fact that we don’t get five extra games now,” said Dasovic. “That’s five [games] that are guaranteed in this calendar year, so that’s the biggest tragedy for me for not qualifying.”