LIMASSOL, Cyprus — Though ending up on the losing end of a 3-1 loss to Armenia was hardly what the Canadian national team was looking for, they managed to find a few silver linings in the game.
First, playing without Lars Hirshfeld in goal meant both Milan Borjan and Kenny Stamatopoulos each had 45 minutes to show head coach Stephen Hart they have the quality to be considered for the next round of World Cup qualifying games coming up in June.
Borjan started and gave up one goal while Stamatopoulos gave up two (one being a penalty). While conceding three goals isn’t something to write home about, neither ‘keeper was responsible for the scores, and both made some solid saves.
In the first half, Borjan was sharp a few times, including once coming off his line to make a stop on former Real Salt Lake man Yura Movsisyan, closing him down from close range. And the score would have been much higher had Stamatopoulos not been on top form in the second half as he faced wave after wave of Armenian attackers.
“I think I left a good performance,” said Borjan, who just completed a loan move to FC Vaslui in Romania from Turkey's Sivasspor and wasn’t involved in the last four games of the second round of World Cup qualifying. “I haven’t been in the last two camps. They scored one goal. It was a good shot, but we’ll see in the end.”
The second small upside to the Armenia game was the return of Atiba Hutchinson in the Canadian midfield. The PSV Eindhoven midfielder hadn’t played for Canada since the 4-0 win over St. Lucia at BMO Field in September.
After needing an operation on his knee, Hutchinson had been out for both club and country but recently made his return to the PSV lineup and got a full 90 minutes in for Canada.
His touch was still a bit off and some of his passing wasn’t as sharp as it has been when fully fit, but Hutchinson will be a crucial part of Canada’s plans if they have any hope of moving into the final round of World Cup qualifying.
“A knee injury is not something easy to come off of,” said Hart. “He’ll be all right. He just needs to play and has been playing sporadically with his team. I think come summertime, he’ll be OK.”