SEATTLE – There was a small smile on his face after the game but below the surface, interim Canadian national team head coach Colin Miller was boiling.
Miller had seen his team put in an improved performance against Mexico on Thursday night, but any hope of salvaging a point went out the window when Marco Fabián went down theatrically in the box under no pressure early in the second half to win a Mexican penalty kick. Fabián was the one who converted, making it 2-0 – the eventual final score.
After watching the highlights prior to his post-game press conference, there was no doubt in Miller’s mind that it certainly wasn’t a penalty.
“It’s not a penalty. I’m biting my lips here as hard as I possibly can,” said Miller. “What I’m saying and what I’m feeling are two totally different things, I can assure you.”
Penalty aside, Canada’s performance was a great step ahead after the subpar effort in their 1-0 loss to Martinique on Sunday at the Rose Bowl.
Canada had some decent spells in possession and though they were once again left off the scoreboard, they managed to cause some very nervous moments. Marcus Haber had a header saved in the first half and Marcel de Jong had a thundering free kick rattle off the crossbar late in the game.
More than that, Canada did it with a great deal of youth on the field and despite a depleted lineup.
“We finished the game with two 18-year-olds on the field, a 21-year old in midfield, and a 21-year-old that we took off so the youth that played today learned a great deal,” Miller said. “I am so proud of our players tonight.”
The expectations coming into this tournament were admittedly not very high, and no goals in two games seems to have justified that gloomy outlook. But there were glimmers of optimism in the performance.
Miller admitted that midfielder Russell Teibert is likely headed back to Vancouver due to an illness. With him and Will Johnson out sick and a roster that seemingly gets smaller by the day, he’s happy with players who have stepped in.
“Anytime you take Will Johnson out of the group, when you take Russell Teibert with the quality you’re then looking at the rest of the group,” Miller said. “How much progress has been made since we’ve been together and what they have character-wise.”