The Canadian men's national team couldn't quite pull off a fairytale finish to their successful Concacaf World Cup Qualifying cycle, closing out the March window with a 1-0 defeat at Panama on Wednesday evening.
With their spot in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar already clinched by virtue of Sunday's emphatic 4-0 victory over Jamaica at BMO Field, Canada took just their second defeat in the Octagonal courtesy of a second-half concession to Panama's Gabriel Torres and a late leveler from Cyle Larin that was disallowed.
After a scoreless first half, Torres found Panama's opener in the 49th minute, capping off a well-worked counterattack. The sequence was spearheaded by José Luis Rodríguez, who got loose down the left side and sent in a pinpoint cross that Torres met in stride and deposited past Canada goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau.
Canada nearly equalized just past the hour mark off a slick counter of their own, which saw Junior Hoilett and Larin combine to set up Jonathan David with a clean look on goal that was saved by Panama backstop Luis Mejía.
Shortly after Crépeau saved Canada from going down 2-0 with a highlight-reel save of a Yoel Bárcenas free kick, Larin thought he struck for Canada's equalizer right on 80 minutes. The Beşiktaş striker cashed home a lunging header, but the goal was disallowed on Video Review for offside.
- 49' – PAN – Gabriel Torres
- THE BIG PICTURE: A win would have made the last week picture perfect for the CanMNT, but in the end, this result does little to take the shine off what's been an incredible cycle for head coach John Herdman's group. Even with the defeat, Canada finished off Octagonal play in the No. 1 spot on the table, not something many would have predicted when this all started. The focus now turns to preparation for Qatar, where Canada will get to showcase the group behind that rapid ascent on the world's biggest stage.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Larin's would-be equalizer in the 80th minute would have slotted in had it not been overturned by Video Review. Instead, it has to be Torres' first-half strike that stood as the game-winner.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: CF Montréal defender Alistair Johnston showed why he's established himself as such a key cog over the course of qualifying, putting in another workhorse shift and making several key blocks and tackles.
- CAN: TBD, 2022 FIFA World Cup
- PAN: End of Concacaf Octagonal, fifth place