While a 1-0 loss to El Salvador was hardly Canada’s preferred outcome in Sunday’s international friendly in Houston, let’s invoke the spirit of (Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend to identify some actual points of gratitude for followers of Les Rouges.
We are thankful to have seen seeds being planted for long-term danger along the flanks, at fullback — Mark-Anthony Kaye, Michael Petrasso and Juan Cordova, all 22 — and in the wide areas of midfield, with Keven Aleman, 23, Raheem Edwards, 22, Fraser Aird, 22 and Kris Twardek, 20, all seeing the field Sunday.
We are thankful that Scott Arfield (pictured above), who went from scoring at Anfield in English Premier League play for Burnley three weeks ago to running around with a bunch of kids at BBVA Compass Stadium on Sunday, has committed himself to the program at the perfect moment to take the midfield reins from the quasi-retired Atiba Hutchinson.
We are thankful that Sunday’s drab and disjointed affair, in which Canada struggled to create clear-cut chances and ultimately failed to score, is an anomaly rather than standard operating procedure under head coach Octavio Zambrano.
And we are (counter-intuitively) thankful that this underwhelming performance came in an experimental friendly rather than in a do-or-die end-of-the-Hex showdown — because a game like this would have been no way to end a World Cup qualification campaign.
Simon Thomas: 6. An uneventful first half in his sixth Canadian start, followed by a few alert moments after the break to deny El Salvador, prior to their eventual breakthrough.
Mark-Anthony Kaye: 5.5. In his second senior-team start, provided a welcome surprise with his work rate and tenacity at left fullback, though he did get burnt on El Salvador’s goal.
Dejan Jakovic: 5. Wearing the captain’s armband for the third time, the 32-year-old provided some veteran stability for a relatively untested squad.
Steven Vitoria: 4.5. Steered clear of egregious errors, but was caught flat-footed by opposing attackers on several occasions, particularly as the game wore on.
Michael Petrasso: 5.5. A lively start at fullback, before slotting into his more customary role as a winger in the second half.
Raheem Edwards: 5.5. In his third Canadian start, the 22-year-old showed plenty of the attack-minded energy that’s led to his revelatory year at Toronto FC.
Samuel Piette: 5.5. Forced the El Salvador attack to the outside for the most part and got Canada going on a few potentially promising counterattacks.
Scott Arfield: 6.5. His individual footwork and ability to link opponents were a cut above most on the field, though he did spurn one of Canada’s best scoring chances.
Jonathan Osorio: 5. Showed some good connective moments in Canada’s 4-1-4-1 setup, but hardly stood out in a flat first half by both teams.
Fraser Aird: 6. An energetic outing at his natural position on the wing, giving El Salvador’s defenders plenty to think about during his 60 minutes of play.
Cyle Larin: 5. Provided some decent pressing and tracking back as lone striker, but without good service, never really got a whiff of goal.
Anthony Jackson-Hamel: 5. Got immediately involved upon his entry as a second-half sub, but couldn’t put the pieces together to pose a serious threat on net.
Keven Aleman: 5.5. In his first senior-team appearance since 2013, showed glimmers of the craftiness that turned so many heads at the U-17 level way back when.
Juan Cordova: 5. Made his case for inclusion in Zambrano’s plans at fullback with a half hour’s worth of work in the second half.
Kris Twardek: 5. Earned his first Canada cap in the game’s closing minutes, but circumstances didn’t align to give him any sort of heroic debut.