Canada are nearly into the all-important semifinal round of the Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying tournament, following a 0-0 draw with Haiti on Monday night in Group B action and a 1-1 result between El Salvador and Honduras later that evening.
Both Honduras and Canada are even on four points, though Los Catrachos are narrowly ahead on goal differential. Their Under-23 sides now meet Thursday (10 pm ET | FS1, TUDN, OneSoccer) in a match that’ll profoundly shape who books passage into the knockout round as Concacaf’s two representatives at the Tokyo Summer Olympics get determined.
There was an ounce of frustration from head coach Mauro Biello’s team, though, as New England Revolution winger Tajon Buchanan and CF Montréal winger Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla both had chances to put Canada ahead. Their missed opportunities, especially late in second-half stoppage time when Buchanan led a breakaway and Tabla couldn't steer home a one-timed effort, allowed their Caribbean foe to nearly snatch a winner themselves.
“I think the first half we were able to control the tempo of the game,” Biello said. “We created some good opportunities. We didn’t take our chances in that first half. I think in the second half we got a little bit too loose and in different moments they caught us in transition. We knew that was going to be their strength, so I think the second half we allowed them to creep back into the game from the transitions. We needed to be tighter, better.”
One highlight for Canada was the play of CF Montréal goalkeeper James Pantemis, who produced several crucial saves. Eliader Dorlus and Dutherson Clerveaux were both particularly dangerous for Haiti, though neither could beat the 24-year-old.
Should Canada ultimately advance to the Tokyo Summer Olympics, it’d be the first time their Under-23s ever reached the tournament. Buchanan, who scored twice in Canada's opening 2-0 win over El Salvador, could be the difference against Honduras.
“The destiny is in our hands with the four points after two matches and even though we would have liked to close it off, we knew this was going to be a hard match against Haiti,” Biello said. “Now our focus will be Honduras and to get the points we need to go through to the next round.”