Canada celebrate a goal by Tosaint Ricketts
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Mad Bull & Maestro steal show as Canada advance in World Cup qualifying | Three Things & Player Ratings

That wasn’t a World Cup qualifier. That was "The Mad Bull and Maestro Show."

If you’re a Canadian who giggled/suffered through watching Tuesday night’s match down in Belize, congratulations—you’ve earned one million Voyageurs points (whether you want them or not). This game had it all: a bumpy Central American field, a terrifying performance by Canada and a pair of mostly-unintentionally-hilarious commentators from a tiny CONCACAF country.

Those commentators were, of course, the above-named Mad Bull and Maestro, who filled every second of the choppy, 1980s-vintage broadcast (read: web stream) with auctioneer-level logorrhea, a baffling array of player name mispronunciations (Cyle Latin/Lawren/Lawrence/Lareen/etc.) and, of course, unabashed and passionate homerism in favor of their beloved Belize.

And at halftime on Channel 5 Belize, we were also treated to some local advertising.

I don’t emphasize these elements of the game experience simply because they were hilarious (or because of the absurdity of only being able to watch a Canadian World Cup qualifier through a web stream offered by a TV station in Belize), but because thinking of the game itself is enough to retroactively melt my bones.

Canada could have lost to Belize. In a World Cup qualifier. Sure, we won by three goals on aggregate—but that was about as uncomfortable as three-goal-aggregate wins get, I’d reckon.

All of the uncharacteristic Canadian chest-puffing following the team’s performance in the first leg quickly came home to roost (y’know, as chest-puffing does) when Belize, early in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw in Belmopan, looked capable of scoring. Then did score. Then nearly scored again. And again.

But that’s OK, we’re through to the next round, which will get us a sextet of creampuff matchups against some much easier opposition, surely! The likes of El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico (cries, curled up in fetal position).

Perhaps the overreaction to this draw (in Belize!) is as misplaced as the overreaction to the lopsided victory in the first leg. Perhaps it’ll all even out in the grand scheme of things, and Benito Floro’s long-term plan really will pay off when it matters most, as we find a way back to the Hex for the first time since 1997.

Or maybe… well, the usual.

Either way, we’ll always have Mad Bull and Maestro. Thanks, guys.
 


WJ does it again: After the first leg, I said we could put the “Will Johnson doesn’t care about the national team narrative” to bed. Well, we can now wake it up, read it a lullaby and put it to bed again, just to hammer the point home.

The Portland Timbers captain not only scored his first goal for Canada since 2012 (to the dismay of cardiologists across the land), he was once again all over the place. He quickly became Mad Bull and Maestro’s favorite player—which is to say, he was the first player whose name they could consistently remember.

Young Sam gets a run: For hardcore Canadian fans, it’s impossible to be truly excited about the prospects of a young player until he’s cap-tied to the national team. After all, the masochistic thinking goes, every single Canadian player with multiple national-team eligibilities is, of course, going to jump ship at the worst possible moment and leave us heartbroken once again.

So raise a glass to Sam Adekugbe, the 20-year-old Vancouver Whitecaps fullback who is now cap-tied to Canada after seeing the field against Belize. That’s one off the list! Only… let’s see… several hundred left to go!

Defense wins… well, something: For a long time, we’ve been told that Floro’s plan is to create a structured squad that won’t be easy to break down on the road in Central America. Well, let’s hope Tuesday’s performance can be chalked up to collective food poisoning or forgetting their shoes at home or something, because against Belize—population 350,000, highest-ever FIFA rank No. 118—Canada did not look especially difficult to break down.

Again, maybe this game was the anomaly. The team got complacent or had different instructions or suffered food poisoning/wrong shoes or whatever. But even as one of the team’s most ardent and unapologetic boosters, I’m finding it difficult to look ahead to the next round with anything but dread.

Prove me wrong, boys! Please, for the love of God, prove me wrong.

Player ratings

Note: The stream offered by Channel 5 Belize generally had the picture quality of an uncared-for VHS copy of The Land Before Time, and was occasionally interrupted by ads featuring Michael Strahan drinking Metamucil. Not being able to see players for minutes at a time may have had an impact on these ratings.

Milan Borjan (7): Not really at fault on the goal, but had a brain fart that nearly allowed Belize to lob another one in.

Marcel de Jong (6): Not as dangerous going forward as in the first leg; part of a back line that looked shaky at times.

David Edgar (5): Not his finest night for Canada; had two giveaways that nearly led to Belize goals.

Adam Straith (7): That rating is actually the number of different names he was called by: Strain/Strength/Streen/Strange/Stran/Stren/Straight.

Nik Ledgerwood (6): See Marcel de Jong, flip “left back” for “right back”.

Samuel Piette (5): His job was, presumably, to protect the back line. They didn’t seem very protected.

Will Johnson (7): A goal, lots of running and a new place in the hearts of many across Belize.

Atiba Hutchinson (6.5): Not quite at his full potential for Canada, it seems—but still above most guys on the field.

Issey Nakajima-Farran (5): Didn’t show the danger he showed in the first leg.

Tosaint Ricketts (5.5): After a brace in the first leg, the Deadly Striker (thanks, Mad Bull and Maestro) looked notably less lethal.

Cyle Larin (6): Seemed a bit livelier than in the first leg, but didn’t really trouble the Belize goal.

Tesho Akindele (5.5): Came in as a sub for Issey, didn’t prove to be the game-changer Twitter thought he would be.

Karl Ouimette (n/a): He apparently came into the game as a sub. The stream was having some real trouble by this point.

Sam Adekugbe (n/a): The stream was indecipherable in the game’s waning minutes, so I’m hoping Twitter wasn’t lying about him being subbed in.

Mad Bull (10): An excellent all-round performance. Or should I say, BEAUTIFUL!

Maestro (10): Lived up to his name, and then some.

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