It was a fitting end to 2013 for the Canadian men’s national team: yet another loss, and yet another goalless performance.
Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to Slovenia was Canada’s 10th straight game without a goal – a dire streak that now extends over 932 minutes of play – and their 14th straight without a victory. Despite putting together decent stretches of play against the No. 30-ranked Slovenians, Canada will end their 2013 campaign with an overall record of three draws, 10 losses and just one goal scored.
The string of poor results can be attributed, in no small measure, to the fact that it’s been a transitional year for Les Rouges after the team’s exit from World Cup qualifying last October. Canada have competed under three different head coaches (including current manager Benito Floro) and incorporated a large number of new, young players into the national-team mix throughout the year.
Several youngsters who came off the bench Tuesday – like Toronto FC's Kyle Bekker and Jonathan Osorio – have made the most of their opportunities, and have become national-team regulars. Meanwhile, Montreal Impact defender Karl Ouimette earned his first cap for the senior national team when he came into the game for Adam Straith late in the second half.
Floro also did some experimenting in the starting lineup, making several changes from the XI that started against the Czech Republic last Friday. Kenny Stamatopoulos got the nod at goalkeeper, while 22-year-old midfielder Stefan Cebara also started. Cebara is currently without a club, but played the last two seasons in Celje, the venue for Tuesday’s friendly.
D.C. United winger Kyle Porter started at striker, after Caleb Clarke and Simeon Jackson both returned to their clubs following the Czech game. Veteran Dwayne De Rosario (Porter’s teammate prior to having his option declined last month) wore the captain’s armband in his 76th appearance for Canada.
Just like in the Czech game, De Rosario had Canada’s best opportunity of the game, with a curling crack from distance that was pushed away by Slovenian ’keeper Jan Oblak early in the first half. Slovenia had their own quality chance to open the scoring in the opening 45, but saw their best opportunity ricochet off the Canadian crossbar.
The decisive strike came in the 53rd minute when AC Milan midfielder Valter Birsa’s daisy-cutter eluded Stamatopoulos’s reach.
Canada came into this international window with an all-time low FIFA ranking of No. 111, a seeding that will surely dip further after another pair of losses, including last Friday's 2-0 setback to the Czech Republic. With so many distressing numbers looming around the men’s national team, Canadian fans will need to keep faith that 2014 can’t possibly be any worse than 2013.