Commentary: CanMNT showing campaign promise with eyes on World Cup qualifying

As Canada winds down a long and bitter federal election campaign, its citizens have grown accustomed to being fed a steady diet of lofty promises. At this late juncture, a new contender has arisen to give us hope about what lies ahead.

I’m speaking, of course, of the Canada men’s national soccer team, who are in the midst of their own long and bitter (World Cup qualifying) campaign.

While the Canadian team started the campaign strong, with a couple of wins against Dominica back in June, there was a bit of a gaffe in September, when the team hobbled to a 1-1 draw in Belize. In fact, that one stop had the potential to derail the entire campaign completely.

But the team survived to fight another day and, much to the surprise and delight of supporters, benefitted from a crop of star candidates parachuting themselves into the equation. Junior Hoilett! Fraser Aird! Lucas Cavallini! Wandrille Lefèvre!

It may sound strange to an outsider, but with the excitement of the new candidates' potential impact on the campaign platform (“We will qualify for the Hexagonal on the road to Russia 2018”), the team simply had to make an unofficial stop in the hub of North American democracy, where all political dreams come true — Washington, D.C.

That pit stop came on Tuesday night, when the team took on the political heavyweights from Ghana. Though an unofficial campaign stop, it still gave a wide variety of candidates a chance to show what they could bring to their constituents in the years ahead.

On the wing, Hoilett promised cunning movement and creativity. Up top, Cavallini demonstrated a commitment to attacking pressure. On the backline, Aird pledged resources for the often-underfunded right side, while Lefèvre proved himself adroit in shutting down attacks from the Ghanaian opposition.

A few other candidates — Charlie Trafford, Kianz Froese and Marco Bustos — got to make presentations on the Team Canada ticket for the first time in their political careers, while grizzled veteran Marcel de Jong showed that even long-time incumbents can sometimes offer moments of amazement.

While there were no TV cameras or massive cheering crowds, this event still did plenty to stir up the party faithful. Some of the side’s most ardent supporters had been questioning whether the group had what it took to fulfill their campaign promise. But after what they saw on Tuesday, hope is springing anew.

Of course, as in any drawn-out bit of political theatre, there are questions of leadership. With leader Benito Floro absent from this event (occupied elsewhere with the junior wing of the party), some noted a change in the style and tone of what Canada had to offer on this occasion.

Coincidence? The natural byproduct of a wave of new candidates? And, more importantly, was it the sign of a new, campaign-long approach or a mere aberration?

Whatever the case, Canada offered supporters (and potential supporters) a few of their lofty promises on Tuesday night: A goal! Numerous good-looking chances at goal! A result against a difficult opponent!

So the most important question is: Can this momentum spill over into the actual campaign?

Canada’s next campaign stop — its first of six planned ones, with the hopes of booking 10 more in the years ahead — comes at BC Place in Vancouver on Nov. 13 against longtime foes Honduras. With plenty of mudslinging guaranteed in that one, the party leader and its star candidates will need to be on the same page, or this campaign might be over before it even truly begins.

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