PANAMA CITY, Panama – There was simply no sugar-coating Canada’s performance for head coach Stephen Hart.
When even a point would have worked wonders for his side’s qualification hopes, Hart saw his team get off to an uninspired start that they simply weren’t able to overcome. And while Panama were only able to pick up a goal in each half, it very easily could have and perhaps should have been more.
“We were second-best in everything,” Hart admitted to the Canadian media assembled in Panama. “We were second best to close the ball down, second best in the tackle. We didn’t pass the ball well or keep possession well and they scored the goal and put us under pressure and I thought our heads dropped way too easily because one goal was scored on us.”
There were a few flashes of inspiration from Marcel de Jong, making his first start for Canada since facing the United States in last summer’s Gold Cup. If the Canadians were going to get a goal, it likely would have come from him but apart from a shot that went across the goal and wide in the first half and a free kick that came close in the second.
Canada had created plenty of chances of late but on this night, they had difficulty creating even half-chances.
It certainly didn’t help that Dwayne De Rosario had to be substituted after what was essentially a six-minute outing. Perhaps even more worrying – both for Canada and De Rosario's club, D.C. United – is Hart's admission after the game that his star attacker's knock could be a knee ligament injury which could see him miss quite a bit of time.
“It might be an MCL [injury],” admitted Hart. “We don’t know. We have to do an MRI.”
One thing is for certain, however, and that is that Hart and Canada have a very small window to recuperate, recover and rally in time for the final two group matches Cuba and Honduras next month.
“It’s a crucial game,” said Hart of Canada’s next game, against Cuba at BMO Field on Oct. 12. “We need to get three points out of that game and then go to Honduras and try to get three points. The reality is that we didn’t get a result down here so we still have two games to play for.”