TORONTO – Entering Friday night's opening leg of Canada's World Cup Qualification series against Belize, there was much consternation over the state of the side's offense, having played three matches without a goal at the summer's Gold Cup.
Though it did not come quickly – Canada had scored within five minutes in both legs against Dominica – they would eventually find the breakthrough in the 25th minute through Tosaint Ricketts for a 3-0 win at BMO Field.
“Once the first one gets in, the pressure eases up,” said Ricketts about his scrappy opener. “The guys can relax; then the gates are open. It was good to get that one in.”
Ricketts would add the second, sealing the night in the 65th minute, but it fell to Atiba Hutchinson, sporting the captain's armband after Julian de Guzman was forced off with a calf issue, to add the third in stoppage-time, all but clinching the series.
“Of course [three is nicer than two],” Hutchinson chuckled post-match. “It's a little bit more comfortable in terms of the score, home and away. To score that for the team is very important.”
Issey Nakajima-Farran, who nearly had a few of his own on the night, concurred, “If it was just two goals, it wasn't good enough. The third goal [took] the pressure off our back.”
While those in the stands may have been anxious through the opening stages, Hutchinson saw the entirety of the match in a different light, calling the performance "good."
“We controlled the game from start to finish, we played some good football, created a lot of chances, had crosses coming in from the left and the right side. It was a good attacking performance from us. We're happy with the result.
“Most importantly, we didn't give up any goals”
That was what most pleased Canadian head coach Benito Floro, his team's defense.
“This was the first time in my life as a professional,” he beamed, “that my team didn't receive any shots on target. It means our team played a very good game.”
“It was only our not understanding how to arrive to shoot on target, [otherwise we may] have scored eight goals. The team has played perfectly: controlling all the game, all the time, create a lot of attacking moves.”
The defense, an asset that saw them concede just once at the Gold Cup, was again solid, keeping a third clean-sheet of the World Cup qualifying cycle.
Despite the happy thoughts coming out of the game for Canada, if Belizean assistant coach Charlie Slusher is to be believed, that positivity may be tested in the second leg on Tuesday in Belmopan, as he promised, “in Belize, it will be a far different game.”