Basseterre, Saint Kitts and Nevis – He didn’t say anything, but he didn’t have to because Josh Simpson’s post-match reaction was all you needed to know what he was thinking.
Approached for his comment on Canada’s 0-0 draw against St. Kitts and Nevis Friday night, the Canadian midfielder waived off a fellow reporter as if to suggest he didn’t have anything positive to say.
You can hardly blame him, really.
The Reds needed only a point from their two-game series against St. Kitts in order to advance to the third round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. In the bottom line business of international soccer, the final result is all that matters. So on that front, it was mission accomplished.
But is a goalless stalemate against the 109th-ranked team in the world really how you want to move on to the next round? Does doing the absolute bare minimum really inspire confidence? Can there be much hope for Canada against the likes of Honduras and Panama next summer when they can’t even find a way to beat a team the calibre St. Kitts and Nevis?
In the context of one night, it would be harsh to read too much into this result and write off Canada’s chances of qualifying for the World Cup. That’s not the proper context, though.
It would be one thing if Canada was the victim of bad luck, played down to St. Kitts or didn’t put forth a full effort. Those are all excuses, albeit not very good ones, that you could use to overlook the Canadian team’s poor outing on a hot and breezy night in Basseterre.
That wasn’t the case. Suggestions that Canada intentionally sat back against St. Kitts and never really pressed forward because they didn’t need to win are, of course, ridiculously wide of the mark.
Let’s be perfectly clear so there is no confusion, and let’s not mince words: St. Kitts was the better team on Friday night. They outplayed Canada for most of the match, and but for a lack of touch around the 18-yard box, the islanders should have walked away with three points.
That’s a major cause for concern, and the expressions of coach Stephen Hart and the Canadian players after the game, looking as though they had just attended a funeral, suggest they knew they were lucky to escape with a point.
Again, if this was an isolated instance, you could easily write off this result and pay it no further mind.
But there is a clear pattern developing, one obstructed by the fact Canada is unbeaten in five qualifying games, has outscored its opponents 14-1, and moved on to the next round with a match to spare.
This qualifying campaign has been littered with one unconvincing effort after another, and the team’s inability to put in a complete 90-minute performance is worrying. In wins over St. Lucia and Puerto Rico, Canada laboured to put their opponents away. The last two times out, the Canadians were shut out by two of the weakest teams in CONCACAF.
Take away the 7-0 win over St. Lucia, and Canada has scored just seven goals in four games against pretty meagre competition.
A team that boasts talented attacking players such as Simeon Jackson (on the books at Norwich City), Dwayne De Rosario (an MVP candidate in MLS this season), and Josh Simpson (who is turning heads in the Turkish top flight) should be easily brushing aside teams like St. Kitts.
Canada should be scoring goals at will against CONCACAF lightweights, and the 7-0 win over St. Lucia should not be the exception, but the standard.
Sadly, it’s not. And unless Canada addresses its scoring deficiencies before the start of the next round, you can forget about qualifying for ‘The Hex,’ never mind the World Cup.