PUEBLA, Mexico – Canadian Under-20 national team head coach Nick Dasovic had plenty to digest after an eventful and convincing 5-1 win over Nicaragua on Friday night.
First and foremost, though, is that Canada are going to be up against southern neighbors the United States in a quarterfinal Tuesday night that will determine who goes to this summer’s U-20 World Cup in Turkey.
“They’re in a very good moment right now,” Dasovic said of the Americans in his postgame press conference. “They’ve scored some goals, but they’ve kept a clean sheet. It’s going to be a massive game. It’s a rivalry, but I know they’re probably looking forward to it as much as us.”
As the rosters were released before Friday's decisive game, there were a few eyebrows raised about the decision to leave influential midfielder Keven Aleman on the bench.
Aleman was arguably Canada’s best player in their opening-game loss to Cuba on Monday night and could have opened the scoring in the first half of that game, but missed on a breakaway. In his place Friday was Dylan Carreiro, and Dasovic was quick to allay any concerns over why Aleman was left on the bench.
“I felt that Dylan has been doing well in training and he looked sharp,” he said. “We gave the kid a chance and to be fair he had a good game today. Everybody’s going to get a chance to play or not to play and again it’s a coach’s decision.”
But at the end of the first half, there was a flashpoint that could have – and perhaps should have – seen Nicaragua reduced to nine men. After Canada were called for a foul in their half, Alessandro Riggi looked to have been hit in the face by a Nicaraguan player, an offense which usually carries an automatic red card.
Instead, nothing was given and on the ensuing play Nicaragua won the penalty for their only goal.
“I saw something but I didn’t have a clear view,” Dasovic admitted. “The referee had the vision and I can’t really comment on that.”