There’s just something about Canada playing a must-win game in San Pedro Sula.
On Sunday, Canada’s Under-17 national team went into a one-game playoff against Costa Rica at the CONCACAF U-17 Championship, being held in Honduras, with a spot in this year's FIFA U-17 World Cup on the line. The Canadians were solid in the group stage, going 3-1-1 and rallying for a 3-2 victory against that same Costa Rican side.
But in the decisive game of the competition, in the same Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano in which the senior national team’s own World Cup dreams ended in the past two qualification cycles, Sean Fleming’s U-17s came up disappointingly short, falling to a 3-0 defeat.
Fleming made one change to the starting lineup that faced Costa Rica on March 3, inserting Kosovar Sadiki into the lineup in place of Matthew Baldisimo. In Baldisimo’s absence, Vancouver Whitecaps residency product Munir Saleh wore the captain’s armband for Canada.
As has happened several times in the tournament, Canada fell behind early, with Luis Hernandez opening the scoring off a set piece in the 18th minute. Costa Rica doubled the advantage just nine minutes later, with an Andy Reyes goal putting Canada in a hole they simply could not dig out of.
To add insult to injury, Sadiki was credited with an own goal in the 74th minute when his back pass skipped under the boot of unfortunate goalkeeper Luciano Trasolini.
Under Fleming, Canada had qualified for the past two FIFA U-17 World Cups and looked in a good position to do so again after winning three of their first four games in this tournament. But Canada missed out on a chance to win their group and clinch a World Cup berth on Thursday, falling 1-0 to Panama – a result that put them into the playoff against Costa Rica.
Perhaps the Canadian team will take consolation from the possibility that these bitter memories in Honduras will help prepare this group of youngsters to have some success in that stadium at some point down the line.
Canada: Luciano Trasolini; Kadin Chung, Kosovar Sadiki, Gabriel Boakye, Thomas Mickoski; Duwayne Ewart (Cyrus Rollocks 58), Munir Saleh, Harrison Paton (Dante Campbell 46), Jean-Yves Ballou Tabla, Tristan Borges; Daniel Sagno (Terran Campbell 76).