SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras – When Honduras came within a few feet of scoring on Canada in the opening moments on Friday afternoon, there was a fair amount of Canadian supporters dreading that history was about to repeat itself.
What happened here four years ago has come to define a program that is still trying to find its way in the wilderness but after some initial scares, Canada actually looked like a team that was playing with a plan.
“We had a good game plan and for the first 15 to 20 minutes we stuck to it,” said midfielder Atiba Hutchinson. “We really didn’t give up too much in the beginning and we got our chance and we took our chance and got our goal but as the game went on, we lost our shape.”
A 2-1 loss does not exorcise the demons that have hung over since the 8-1 loss in the same circumstances, in the same stadium four years ago, far from it. But at least the worries that the weight of the occasion would overcome the Canadians never materialized.
Manjrekar James’ goal brought a few minutes’ joy to the team before Mario Martinez struck back on the stroke of halftime.
The team chartered a flight out of Honduras immediately following the game and now head to Vancouver with a game in the loss column but still holding onto a tiny chance of continuing on, with a win over El Salvador plus a Honduras loss against Mexico and a swing in goal difference being required to move on to the hexagonal round.
“We’ve had good results at home,” said Hutchinson. “The last game at home wasn’t the best but there were a lot of parts of the game where we did well. We know what we can do at home but we’re kind of at a low point but we know what we can do.”
Canada’s struggles in Central America have lingered since long before Benito Floro took charge of the national team and won’t truly be beaten until Canada picks up a win of great consequence in this part of the world.
But after a game where Canada absorbed a lot of body blows and very nearly came out the other side with a point, they head home with at least some optimism that they can go toe to toe with the team that caused so much grief to the program.