Five questions for Canada ahead of their World Cup qualifier vs. Honduras

The day is here. The preparations are done. It’s Canada and Honduras in World Cup qualifying (10 pm ET; TSN1 in Canada), and one thing is clear: If the Canadians have designs on reaching Russia 2018, tonight’s game is essentially a must-win.

What’s less clear is how they might achieve that result at Vancouver’s BC Place. If Benito Floro’s team is to gain full points against their Central American rivals, we’ll need to get some answers to these five burning questions:

1. How’s Will Johnson?

The Portland Timbers captain brings lots of big-game experience to the table, but hasn’t played in more than a month, after electing to undergo a procedure to have metal screws removed from his leg. But the 28-year-old has declared himself fully fit and ready for selection.

If Johnson is close to top form, he and fellow veteran Atiba Hutchinson will form a potent duo in the center of the Canadian midfield. If not, Floro will be hard pressed to replace what the Timbers man brings to the table.

2. How will the newcomers fit into the mix?

In a friendly last month against Ghana, the trio of Junior Hoilett, Wandrille Lefevre and Fraser Aird all looked pretty solid in their respective roles. Hoilett offered lots of playmaking spark on the wing, Lefevre was a steady presence in central defense and young Aird, normally a midfielder, put in a good shift as a fullback.

But one game does not a national-team resume make. None of the three players previously have stepped into the spotlight of World Cup Qualifying, so it remains to be seen whether their solid debuts can transfer over into this round.

3. Can Canada score?

The answer is, of course, “yes”; Canada’s players are physically capable of putting the ball into the opponent’s net. So the better question is: Will Canada score? It’s been a difficult few years in terms of offense for Les Rouges, but the recent additions of Hoilett, Cyle Larin and Tesho Akindele have bolstered the squad’s chances of bulging the old onion bag.

Five questions for Canada ahead of their World Cup qualifier vs. Honduras -

Part of scoring is being put in the best position to score, meaning that the defensively minded Floro will need to deploy his troops in a way that facilitates their offensive tendencies. But the players, too, must also ensure they’re clinical when opportunities present themselves. Canada is unlikely to see many great scoring chances on Friday night; can they make them count?

4. Who gets the nod in goal?

At the beginning of 2015, this wouldn’t have been a real question; Milan Borjan was the unquestioned go-to goalkeeper. But he sat out this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup due to club commitments, allowing veteran Kenny Stamatopoulos to step up and have an excellent tournament in his place.

Floro is likely to go with whichever ’keeper has performed best in training camp, and the team will be well served by whichever man ultimately dons the gloves. But with the goalkeeper often holding the team’s fortunes in their hands, Canada’s selection will surely be a point of interest.

5. Will Vancouver show up to support the home side?

It’s been more than a decade since the men’s national team played in Vancouver, an understandable point of frustration for many in Canada’s third-largest city. But given the consistent support shown to the Whitecaps (and the Women’s World Cup earlier this year), there’s no reason for locals not to show up in droves for this crucial match.

A lower-bowl sellout is a distinct possibility, which would create a great visual on Canadian TV. But most important is that the thousands of Canadian fans in attendance make their voices heard and give the team that slight psychological edge, the sort of edge that can make all the difference in a World Cup qualifier.