Canada embrace elements in WCQ vs. Mexico: "We're built for this weather"

There's no getting around it: The weather will play a major factor in the Canadian men’s national team’s Concacaf World Cup qualifier against Mexico on Tuesday evening (9:05 pm ET | OneSoccer, Paramount+).

The temperature is expected to drop to around 18 degrees Fahrenheit at the time of kickoff at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, with consistent snowfall expected until the late afternoon on Tuesday.

“I didn’t know that,” Davies said when speaking to media on Monday. “That’s going to be a little bit tough. But we’re Canadian, we’re built for this weather. I don’t know what to say about the Mexicans. I hope they enjoy the snow, I hope they enjoy the cold weather.”

Even without the flurries and temperatures slightly above freezing last Friday night in the 1-0 win over Costa Rica, weather was still a factor. The artificial playing surface at Commonwealth Stadium was hardened and played fast, leading to some unexpected bounces and extra touches to settle the ball.

That will surely influence the proceedings against El Tri.

However, unlike the Costa Rica match, Canada aren't under pressure to win. A victory would behoove the Canadians with fourth-place Panama hosting El Salvador. A win for the Panamanians would temporarily lift them into third place, but a draw keeps Les Rouges in an automatic qualification spot.

Mexico are coming off a 2-0 loss to the United States, which is always a fierce rivalry. With the prospect of finishing this window empty-handed and falling to as low as fourth in the table, El Tri need some points to salvage what would be a disappointing month.

Even with Mexico coming off a defeat and narrowly avoiding a loss at Estadio Azteca to Canada last month (1-1 draw), the poster boy of Canadian soccer isn’t letting his guard down.

“Mexico is a good team – we can’t take anything away from them, even if they lost the other day,” Davies said. “We know they’re a good team and for us, we’re fighting for our place in Qatar. We know they’re coming in with a strong mindset even though they lost to the US, but we can’t take anything away from there, they’re a good team.

“But we’re a good team as well and we’re going to give them a good fight.”

With more than 50,000 fans expected to attend the game, coupled with the frigid conditions, Canada should hold an advantage, even if the weather doesn’t allow them to play their usual fluid, up-tempo style.

Luckily for Canada, there are no suspensions or injuries to speak of entering the match. Couple that with no travel in between games, unlike Mexico, and John Herdman's team should be extra fresh.

But given that Herdman threw a trademark curveball or two into his lineup versus Costa Rica, there could be another surprise thrown into this starting XI on Tuesday.

Canada were arranged in a 4-4-2 formation versus Costa Rica, which is the same system that allowed them to thrive against Mexico in the Gold Cup semifinals. That was the go-to during the second half of last month’s qualifier as well when Canada could’ve nabbed a second goal if not for a couple of wasted opportunities.

That was also a game where top scorer Cyle Larin missed out with an injury alongside Atiba Hutchinson, with the veteran midfielder one game away from breaking Canada's all-time men's appearance record. Now both are available.

Alistair Johnston and Jonathan Osorio are favored to return in defense and midfield, respectively, but everything else is on the table for Herdman.

Even Ike Ugbo could figure into the coach’s plans. Despite logging a little more than 10 minutes off the bench in his national team debut on Friday, Ugbo nearly bagged his first goal in stoppage time with a scintillating strike that only missed the far post by a few inches. Given his poacher’s profile, he could prove useful as an impact substitute.

"I said this to the players, no one's getting free caps this week and if you don't perform in training – the things that we wanted to see – you won't be playing, and to be fair, Ike has been sharp,” Herdman said after the win over Costa Rica. “The small-sided games, he's banging goals, he's a real poacher and I think you had just seen if he had a bit longer, he might have found the back of the net."

This year's previous meetings between these sides are proof that a nail-biter awaits. That speaks to Canada’s growth, but there's another litmus test to chalk off as well, one that extends beyond the result.

“We’re happy to play in these conditions to show that we’re able to play in tough places like we did in Mexico, when it’s hot in Jamaica as well,” said midfielder Samuel Piette. “But we want to show that we’re able to play in our own conditions when it’s cold as well.”

They will have a chance to back that up in the most extreme conditions seen in Concacaf World Cup qualifying since the infamous “Snow Clasico” in 2013 between the US and Costa Rica at Colorado's Dicks Sporting Goods Park.