For the Canadian men’s national team, one word describes Friday’s 1-1 draw with Bulgaria in an international friendly: relief.
Atiba Hutchinson’s penalty-kick goal in the first half equalized the score and broke a 10-game scoring drought for Canada, stretching back to last March against Japan.
“A couple of us were talking about [the goal drought] after the game. It’s a little bit of a relief to get that over and done with,” Hutchinson (above, right) said after the game. “We had some good parts in the game, but overall we’re building to where we want to be, so it’s getting better and better.”
Breaking that string of goalscoring futility wasn’t the only relief the Canadians felt after the game, played in Ritzing, Austria. After a robust first-half performance, Les Rouges clearly grew tired as the second half went on, as the Bulgarians continued pressing for the winning tally. In the end, though, the Canadian defense held firm.
“In the second half we withstood a lot of pressure. In the first half, I thought we controlled it quite well,” said center back David Edgar. “They switched things up in the second half and went a little more direct, which is a compliment to us as a team and as a back four.
“We stayed really compact, put our bodies on the line and we got a good draw out of it.”
Hutchinson and Edgar are two of the veteran players head coach Benito Floro is relying on during Canada’s 10-day training camp in Austria. With nearly all North American-based players unavailable, Floro had to turn to a number of young and inexperienced players to fill out his roster. But for their part, the veterans appear to understand their role and the importance of a game like this in Canada’s ongoing rebuilding process.
“You can see with Benito and the players he’s bringing in — the younger players, the younger generation and they’re buying into it. We all have to buy into it,” said Edgar. “It’s going to take time and today we were a credit to ourselves and to the manager and what he’s trying to do.”
Floro, the 61-year-old Spaniard, who officially took the reins on Aug. 1, 2013, appeared to also be relieved that his team held on for a crucial, morale-building result against a European opponent.
“For us, it has been a very good result — not only because we scored a goal and we tied the game. I liked our tactical behavior. The team demonstrated the ability to change our strategy immediately and I am very happy because it is very important,” he said.
“Our players were tired because our players are at the end of their season. We don’t have many other experienced players to bring in. For that, the result and our tactical behavior was very good.”
With the goalscoring monkey off their backs, the Canadians will be looking for a different kind of relief on Tuesday, when they go up against Moldova in another friendly.
“The next step is obviously to get a win,” said Hutchinson, whose team hasn’t tasted victory in its last 15 international outings. “We’re going to work hard at that.”