KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Despite coming just one step short of qualifying for the Olympics for the second time in a row, the Canadian team, to a man, is proud of how they performed over the last two weeks.
On Saturday in the CONCACAF qualifying semifinals, Canada were simply no match for a Mexican side that moved the ball around with ease and looked like it could score at will. For one brief moment, when Marcus Haber equalized in the first half, it looked as if Canada could make a contest of it.
However, whatever confidence they picked up evaporated within seconds as Alan Pulido scored the goal that ultimately gave the Mexicans the win.
“Obviously, when we score in a situation like that, you think you’re back in the game, and all of a sudden, you go down again,” head coach Tony Fonseca said in the postmatch press conference. “It makes an impact in the team, but I thought we kept fighting and we kept battling for things. But at that particular moment, it was painful to watch.”
Mexico were expected to pick up the win, and for good reason. They were more talented and had more momentum behind them. In terms of media presence, a caravan of cameras and journalists followed this game while only a small handful of Canadian reporters made the trip to Kansas City. Very little was expected of this Canadian team back at home. And the young Canucks hope they've changed perceptions a little.
“It shows that we can play a little bit,” midfielder Philippe Davies told reporters. “We went to the semifinal and nobody expected us to, and we’re proud of this for sure.”
Four years ago, it was the United States knocking off the Canadians 3-0 in the decisive game of this tournament. Ironically, that game was played at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., the same stadium where Canada started the tournament this time around. It almost seemed as if destiny were guiding the Canada. But on Saturday, they came crashing back to earth.
“When you lose it, you’re out of the dream,” said Fonseca, who is also the assistant coach of the Canadian senior men’s team. “It’s painful, and they’re paying a high price. But when I went inside of the locker room, I said, ‘You have to be proud of yourselves. You left everything on the field. Today, you didn’t stand a chance because you faced a team that was better than you.’”