TORONTO – All Julian de Guzman could do was apologize.
With the Canadian national team attracting unprecedented levels of media interest at home and higher turnouts at BMO Field than ever before, the team appeared to be on the verge of pushing the domestic game to the next level. But Tuesday’s shocking performance and 8-1 defeat at Honduras that ended Canada's 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign could be a momentum-killer for a program whose history has been dogged by fan apathy.
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“It’s sad,” a dejected de Guzman said immediately following Tuesday’s loss. “I mean, I totally feel bad for the supporters. They were there. It hurts me just to know that we can’t take it to them and just enjoy the next stage for the fans. It’s something that they wanted. They were there for us.”
It’s a precarious time for the senior men’s team in Canada. With Stephen Hart’s departure as head coach and no meaningful games on the horizon until next summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup, Tuesday’s loss is so much than another early exit from World Cup qualifying. De Guzman hopes the lessons of Honduras will be learned and that the players will still have the fans behind them next time.
“On behalf of myself and everyone on the team, we ask for forgiveness from the fans and hopefully we find a way out of this and a solution for the next time,” he said. “It’s just really unfortunate because we thought we had this in our hands.”
Tuesday’s debacle might never have happened had Canada simply been able to convert even one of the multiple chances they created against the same Honduran side in June at BMO Field. The eventual result, a 0-0 draw, denied the Canadians vital points that might have seen them head to San Pedro Sula already qualified for the Hexagonal.
For de Guzman, who may not get another shot at a World Cup, that reality may haunt him for quite a while.
“If we can’t beat a team like Honduras at home and can’t get a result on the road,” de Guzman said, “then we clearly don’t deserve to move onto the next stage.”