Spratt on Canada: Mixed grades for the Reds

May 28, 2013, 11:29 PM

Canada dropped a 1-0 decision to Costa Rica in a friendly in Edmonton on Tuesday night, but it was far from the most disheartening defeat they’ve had in recent times.

The match was played on a non-FIFA date, so Canada’s access to players was limited, having been turned down on player requests by many clubs. Dwayne De Rosario, Atiba Hutchinson and Will Johnson were among the key names not in Edmonton, giving a host of youngsters and unattached players a chance to show their worth.

And it wasn’t a bad performance, all told. Canada had several decent chances to make something of the match, but was bitten by that old nagging problem that’s plagued the national team for years: a lack of finishing ability. Costa Rica, for its part, fielded something of a reserve squad as well, albeit one that featured dangerous striker Jairo Arietta up front – a player with technical quality that no Canadian player could equal on the night. His penalty kick proved the difference on the evening.

Despite the result, it was a somewhat encouraging showing by a young Canadian side and several depth players received some good minutes as Canada prepares for the upcoming Gold Cup. Let’s take a closer look at their performances.


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GOALKEEPER

Milan Borjan (B-) – Did decently enough, though he didn’t face a lot of action on the night. Guessed the right way on Arietta’s penalty kick but it still wasn’t enough. Borjan was also a bit lucky that a legitimate goal was disallowed by the referee, and a powerful Costa Rican header hit woodwork. With Canada not exactly flush with top-level goaltending talent at this point, he’s probably the best option for the national side over the next few years.

DEFENDERS

Nik Ledgerwood (C) – Quite the up-and-down game for the experienced Alberta native. Didn’t see a lot of action down his side of the pitch during the opening 30 minutes, and did okay getting forward. Was unfortunate to be shown red after a rather tame confrontation stemming from a challenge he made in the 74th minute. A good player to have around in the national team set-up, and plug into the lineup as needed.

Andre Hainault (D) – The big central defender, who is playing his club football with Ross County of Scotland, won’t be a first-choice player for Canada going forward. He lacks a bit of pace, which was exposed a couple of times by the Costa Rican attack, and should have done much better on a free header in the box that he sent wide of target. A good guy to have around if injuries arise, and he has played his club football at a decent level. but he’s certainly not a long-term replacement for the likes of Kevin McKenna.

Doneil Henry (C-) – Henry would likely not have seen the pitch if Canada had the luxury of a full roster, but he did okay. Still quite raw with his defensive positioning, which was evident during a few Costa Rican attacks, but the Brampton, Ont., native continues to improve slowly. He fills a roll as a big target on attacking set pieces, but would be much more effective in that role if he was able to get his headers on target more often.

Ashtone Morgan (B) – The young Toronto FC defender has struggled mightily in league play this season, but he played his best football of 2013 on this night. Tracked runs well and was very active getting forward down the left flank – which is likely his best asset as a player. A promising performance that provides some hope he can find his way back to the form he’s shown in past stretches.

MIDFIELDERS

Julian De Guzman (B+) – Currently unattached following his side’s relegation from the Bundesliga 2., de Guzman played an important role for Canada in connecting the back four to the attacking midfield, and did so quite effectively at times. His ability to take a moment, have a look, and spray balls to wide players is a skill that few Canadian players can offer. Quite a decent performance, which showed that in the right system, he’s still a useful player.

Samuel Piette (C-) – The 18-year-old linked up with de Guzman nicely a few times in midfield on some tidy bits of play, but lacks a bit of polish. His first major mark on the game was a clumsy tackle to gift Costa Rica a penalty. Still, he’s playing his club football at a good level at an extremely young age, and will be one to watch going forward as he tries to become a fixture in the Canadian starting 11.

Issey Nakajima-Farran (B-) – His work rate is off the charts, and he’s always willing to put work in to win the ball. Had a few decent chances, putting one over the bar, and making a nice run into the box on a ball by Kyle Bekker, for which he was ultimately shown yellow for simulation. Probably not in the long-term plans, but a good, loyal soldier to have on hand for the national team as it transitions toward a new generation of players.

Randy Edwini-Bonsu (A) – The man of the match for Canada, the Edmonton native put in a great shift in front of his hometown fans. Made several long runs from the midfield into attack, and by the second half, the Costa Ricans had targeted him as a player to mark closely. Had a few half-chances to do some damage but the final ball just wouldn’t fall for him. A very promising performance, and one that puts him into the discussion as one of Canada’s better offensive threats in the future.

Kyle Bekker (B) – At this point in his career, Bekker’s a bit of a difficult player to get a read on. He hasn’t featured as much as expected for Toronto FC in MLS, but he does have some level of quality evident in his game, particularly on set-pieces and crosses. Though not all of his corners and free kick deliveries were great on this night, he had a couple of really good balls that his teammates just failed to finish. It will be intriguing to see how the crafty 24-year-old develops over the next few years – one gets the sense that with a player like Bekker, he could be outstanding, or could end up being a bust. It’s just impossible to say at this point.

FORWARD

Marcus Haber (C) – Playing up top in front of Canada’s three-man attacking midfield setup, Haber found himself isolated at times. Showed some good pace, but wasn’t given much service and doesn’t have the skill to make a huge impact without it. Probably not a top-notch option in the future, but an ideal change-of-pace hold-up forward to deploy late in matches.


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