Goal difference puts Canada in welcome but unfamiliar territory in Group A

Alphonso Davies’ second goal of the Friday night’s 4-2 win over French Guiana didn’t just give the Canadian national team a badly needed insurance goal, it also gave Canada the goal difference needed to lead Group A after the first matchday at the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

That doesn’t happen too often.

In fact, the last time Canada found itself leading its group was 2009, when back-to-back wins over Jamaica and El Salvador staked them to the top of the group. They would go onto win that group and eventually get knocked out by Honduras in the quarterfinals.

Given Canada’s Gold Cup futility recently, a win was necessary to set them up for Costa Rica, who they’ll play on Tuesday in Houston.

“In the Gold Cup, you need to start with a victory. It’s good for the confidence and the strength of the group to believe in what we’re doing,” said captain Patrice Bernier. “We’re going to face Costa Rica that is more fine-tuned and used to big tournaments, so now we have this boost that will help us be more confident in what we do against Costa Rica.”

It was by no means the finished product, with French Guiana suddenly back in the game with 20 minutes to go and nearing an equalizer during the heavy rains that came down at Red Bull Arena.

Canada's goals were encouraging, but they're a team that has historically relied on a solid back line. Against Costa Rica, similar lapses in shape will be exploited heavily.

“As a professional footballer, you always look back at your standards, and the 20 minutes that we lost the two goals, we were guilty in the midfield three off getting the game stretched,” said Scott Arfield. “If we can’t get that transition a lot better, then we certainly see the game out and the two goals don’t happen if we’re not too stretched from the back four.”

Having crumbled under the pressure so many times before, this time Canada stepped up and saw a game out that looked like it was going sideways.

French Guiana is, admittedly, a more modest opponent than Canada will face the rest of the way. Still, Arfield knows a win is a win, and that the response to adversity also matters.

“The character that we showed [to] see the game out rather than losing our shape for 20 minutes is far more important for a young team,” said Arfield. “Certainly, after this game we’ll have the confidence down in Texas.”