With no more games until Nov. 17 when they play Japan in a pre-World Cup tuneup, this September window should leave head coach John Herdman with plenty to ponder heading into Qatar in about 50 days time.
Here are three things we learned in Canada’s defeat.
It might’ve been a friendly, but this was like a cup final for Canada, who had gone more than eight years without facing Conmebol opposition and almost two years’ worth of Concacaf-only matchups.
Rodrigo Bentancur and Federico Valverde are two of the best midfielders Canada have battled. Darwin Núñez and Luis Suárez are two of the world’s most lethal finishers, even if the latter isn’t in his prime years. The garra charrua – Uruguay’s trademarked tenacity and fighting spirit – was supposed to match up well with Canada’s intensity.
Boy, did it ever.
A wonderful free kick from Nicolás de la Cruz early in the match was followed exquisitely by a Núñez finish on 33 minutes, which was enough for Uruguay to wrap up the victory.
“I think when you have that much opportunity, you gotta take it,” Herdman lamented after the game. “You see the level of clinical [finishing]. Uruguay were taking their moments and we wanted that extra pass, extra touch."
“It's another level,” stated defender Kamal Miller. “You can’t switch off the whole game. I just felt like it was two moments that cost us the game.”
There weren’t many clear-cut opportunities after Núñez’s goal. There didn’t need to be. Uruguay continually forced turnovers off sloppy Canadian passes or touches thanks to their high press while playing quickly and incisively through Canada’s own pressing.
“The quality stands out,” midfielder Stephen Eustaquio said. “They had a very good free kick, [it’s] 1-0, and then the second ball, the cross of [Luis] Suárez and the finish of Darwin, but we kept at it. We controlled the game, both sides had our chances, but we just didn't finish them.”
Canada controlled possession and outshot Uruguay by the full-time whistle.
Les Rouges generated a few half-chances. The difference is that a world-class side was more ruthless in front of goal.
“As I said to the players, we're not going to get a prize for a performance award at the World Cup,” said Herdman. “You have to take your moments and we didn't tonight and that's the big learning.”
It’s no secret that Canada need Alphonso Davies to be their best player in matches of this magnitude to have a chance at the World Cup.
The good news, on a rather disappointing day overall, is that Davies was one of the team’s top performers on Tuesday.
Most of Canada’s best opportunities were created via Davies’ dribbling in the left half-space. He fed Jonathan David twice in the final moments of the first half, who was thwarted by Uruguay’s defense, recovered possession up high in the second interval to spark some counter-attacks, and maintained the intensity to launch an attempt at salvaging a result.
There were some miscontrolled touches and hesitation around the box, which has plagued Davies before. That being said, there’s little chance Canada would’ve tested Uruguay in the first half hour if it wasn’t for his efforts in the final third.
It’s no longer a question of whether Ismaël Koné is going to be on the final World Cup roster. It’s about how big of a role he’ll play in November.
Just like Friday’s win over Qatar, the 20-year-old midfielder entered the match at around the hour mark for CF Montréal teammate Samuel Piette. Yet again, Koné was magnificent on the ball. He progressed the ball elegantly, hit some beautiful switches to release Canadian forwards into open space and got stuck in defensively.
“He has very good quality,” Eustaquio said of Koné. “He's very young, but it's just the quality he has, the way he goes forward. He's not afraid to play anybody. He doesn't mind the name on the back of the shirt, he just goes after it. He’s going to help us a lot in the future.”
It’s hard to believe that Koné hadn’t played professionally prior to the 2022 MLS season, although he now has multiple European clubs enquiring about his services after a breakout campaign with Montréal. A strong World Cup will only bolster his value.