So there you go, folks—that’s what it looks like when Canada utterly dominates a competitive match, and wins easily.
It is admittedly a rare sight, although those with memories that span beyond the past three months might recall a similar result against Dominica in a World Cup qualifier this past June.
But Friday night’s comfortable-would-be-an-understatement 3-0 defeat of Belize at BMO Field gave the Canadian team and its fans a welcome bit of good news after a frustrating, goalless performance at this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Of course, this is Canada, so despite an embarrassingly lopsided advantage in nearly every statistical category (25-0 in shots, and nearly 76 percent possession), it didn’t come as easily as it could have. After all, while racking up 25 shots is mighty impressive, three goals is hardly an optimal return on investment.
But even so, at no point in the match did Belize—which, say what you will about the size of the country or the pedigree of its roster, is still made up of men with pride and passion for their country—present itself as a team capable of scoring. Unless Deon McCaulay finds himself belted by gamma rays between now and Tuesday, this two-legged series is over.
For now, though, here are my Three Things from the first leg of Canada vs. Belize:
1. Hutch + WJ = good things
Hey, whaddaya know? Having two of Canada’s best players — Atiba Hutchinson and Will Johnson — back together in the midfield for the first time since 2012 had a massive positive impact on Canada’s fortunes!
While Hutchinson appeared to be in cruise control for large portions of the match (yet remained one of the best players on the field), Johnson seemed especially determined to put to rest any lingering doubts about his commitment to the national team. He worked tirelessly, bossed the midfield and nearly found the back of the net with a diving header (thankfully, teammate Tosaint Ricketts was there to convert that chance).
This is probably the final World Cup qualifying cycle that Hutchinson, 32, and Johnson, 28, will play alongside one another. If Friday’s game against Belize is any indication, they intend to make it count.
2. Tosaint Ricketts, (something) wicked
Tosaint Ricketts is an ongoing conundrum for fans of Les Rouges.
The 28-year-old Edmonton native is fast, he’s unabashedly proud to suit up for Canada, and has done enough to entrench himself as a regular starter for the national team’s last two head coaches. But, to be polite, the finer points of his game often leave something to be desired.
And yet, with a brace against Belize—his 11th and 12th goals for Canada—Ricketts moved himself ahead of greats such as Tomasz Radzinski, Carlo Corazzin and Paul Peschisolido into a tie for sixth on the all-time national team scoring list.
His detractors might say that the majority of those goals came against CONCACAF minnows. While that’s true, here’s another truth—until the 90th minute on Friday, nobody else on the Canadian team was able to find the back of the net against Belize.
Everyone has fallen over themselves to anoint Cyle Larin as Canada’s goal-scoring savior—but recent games, including Friday’s, have shown the 20-year-old isn’t there just yet. In the meantime, Canadian fans can (or at least should) thank the soccer gods for Ricketts.
3. Where do you go?
There were plenty of reasons for the game to have drawn just over 10,000 fans to BMO Field—the start of a long weekend, the red-hot Blue Jays also being in town, a lack of promotion/marketing (the game only found a TV home earlier this week) and, perhaps, national team fatigue in a city that’s seen its share of Canada in recent years.
Since BMO Field opened in 2007, 15 of Canada’s 20 home matches have been played there, including nine out of 12 World Cup qualifiers—an understandable sore spot for fans elsewhere in the country. But come November, another city will get a chance to help will the team towards the 2018 World Cup.
Canada’s opening game of the semifinal round will be against Honduras on Friday, Nov. 13 (how fitting) somewhere in the great white north—just not Toronto. Uncertainty about when construction will resume at BMO Field (it all depends on Toronto FC’s playoff fate) means that venue will be unavailable.
Wherever that game ends up, it’ll be incumbent upon the fans in that city to do everything needed to give the Canadian team a home-field advantage. After all, that day’s opponent is going to be a whole lot tougher than Belize.
Kenny Stamatopoulos (0): Oh, sorry, are these ratings or shots faced? He could have taken a nap on the field, so, a rating hardly seems needed.
Marcel de Jong (8): Lots of movement on the left side, and showed his dangerous left foot with plenty of crosses.
David Edgar (8): Made a few thundering forays into the Belize penalty area, presumably because he was getting bored.
Adam Straith (8): Does anyone recall whether he ever touched the ball? Seriously.
Nik Ledgerwood (8): I feel like Oprah—you get an eight, you get an eight! Because why not.
Julian de Guzman (N/A): Subbed out due to injury after 14 minutes. Here’s hoping it’s nothing serious.
Samuel Piette (8): Came on in relief of JDG, and looked more comfortable than in recent games (playing in his actual position, as a DM, helps.)
Atiba Hutchinson (9): For long-time Voyageurs, it was good not only to see him play, but to look as a cool as a… wait for it… cucumber.
Will Johnson (9): See above. Worked his backside off. Nearly scored. An outstanding return to the national team.
Issey Nakajima-Farran (7): Bit of a mixed bag. Lots of energy and some trickery, but spurned a few great scoring chances.
Tosaint Ricketts (9.5): Not only because he scored twice, but because this rating will profoundly infuriate numerous people.
Cyle Larin (6.5): When he’s on, watch out. He wasn’t on, this time.
Marcus Haber (7.5): Came on for Larin, and wasn’t called offside once!
Russell Teibert (8): Very limited time on the field, but he’s rounding into the “super sub” role quite nicely.