TORONTO—Canada’s goal drought at the CONCACAF Gold Cup continues.
Canada bowed out in disgrace of the continental tournament following a 0-0 draw to Costa Rica on Tuesday evening at BMO Field, the third consecutive match the Reds failed to score during the group stage.
In fact, Canada has gone the last two Gold Cups without a single goal, and hasn’t scored from open play at the CONCACAF competition since 2009.
Canada finished bottom of Group B with two points, behind Jamaica (seven points), Costa Rica (three) and El Salvador (two). Jamaica beat El Salvador 1-0 earlier in the evening at BMO Field to finish first. The top two teams in the group advance to the quarterfinals. Canada finished behind El Salvador by virtue of its dreadful scoring record.
The two best third-place nations out of the tournament’s three groups also move on, so a 1-1 draw could have kept Canada’s meagre chances alive. They couldn’t even manage that, another stark reminder of how far the men’s national team has sunk since it shockingly won the Gold Cup in 2000.
Costa Rica is ranked No. 41 in the world by FIFA, the third-highest ranked team in CONCACAF. Canada is No. 103. Maybe we shouldn’t have expected more from the Reds, especially with influential midfielders Atiba Hutchinson and Will Johnson absent for this tournament, but there’s no way to put a positive spin on a group stage performance that produced two points and not a single goal. There simply isn’t.
That didn’t stop Canadian coach Benito Floro from looking for silver linings, as well as making plenty of excuses for the team’s first-round exit, and he had plenty of them—from player absences, to players not getting first team action with their club teams, to other players being in their off-seasons. To his credit, he also laid the truth bare, admitting that Canada simply isn’t skilled and deep enough to compete against teams the calibre of Costa Rica and Jamaica.
After being grilled by journalists about Canada’s lack of goals for the majority of the post-match press conference, Floro turned the tables and asked the assembled media why they weren’t focusing on the fact that the Reds kept two clean sheets and conceded just one goal at this tournament?
“El Salvador 0, Canada 0. Jamaica 1, Canada 0, one goal in the last minute. Costa Rica 0, Canada 0,” Floro shot back. “Why aren’t you asking about those other teams not scoring?”
When Floro was reminded that Canada also didn’t score, he retorted: “But they didn’t score, either.” It was an utterly embarrassing and a feeble deflection tactic by the Spaniard, and came across as totally clueless.
Veteran Canadian defender David Edgar wasn’t in full spin mode like his coach, but he did offer hope for the future.
“Overall, through the 90 minutes (tonight) we probably did deserve to win. It’s tough to take, again not scoring. From a defensive point of view, we’ve not conceded again. We played teams ranked higher than us. We have to take positives from that and move on—it’s as simple as that” Edgar said.
“We didn’t quite do enough attacking wise to move on in the competition but on another day we probably could have got the goals and moved forward.”
He later added: “We are (progressing), and that’s what we want the fans and everyone to see. We are moving forward, and the goals will come.”
Floro made four lineup changes: right fullback Karl Ouimette and midfielder Jonathan Osorio (for the suspended Nik Ledgerwood and Samuel Piette), midfielder Maxim Tissot (for Tesho Akindele) and veteran forward Marcus Haber (for youngster Cyle Larin).
The sky opened up just before kickoff, with rain sheeting down with biblical fury. It didn’t dampen the atmosphere, though, as Canadian fans packed into the south end were in good voice, making up for the disappointing turnout of 16,674.
Canada played with great pace and forced Costa Rica onto the back foot right from the opening kickoff. Julian de Guzman’s powerful header forced a save from goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado, and Tissot’s curling free kick from distance sailed over the wall and glanced off the outside of the far post.
Canada’s best chance came when Marcel de Jong’s quick throw in was flicked on by de Guzman inside the box for Haber who couldn’t beat Alvarado from close range. It was a glorious scoring chance that the Canadian forward should have buried.
Before that, David Ramirez picked Ouimette’s pocket and drove a low shot from outside of the box just past the post. Canadian goalkeeper Kenny Stamatopoulos came up with a huge save in injury time, getting low to deflect Bryan Ruiz’s blistering attempt.
Stamatopoulos came up big twice early in the second half as he palmed away Johan Venegas’s blast after he turned a Canadian defender inside the penalty area, and then parried a curling shot from Venegas out of danger.
Haber appeared to score off a de Jong free kick delivered into the box in the 68th minute, but he was correctly ruled offside.
With his team needing a goal to survive, Floro made an odd substitution when he replaced Osorio with defender Andre Hainault. Adding a third centre back into the mix at the expense of an attacking player made no sense under the circumstances, and Osorio brushed off his manager when he made his way to the bench.
Hainault nearly made Floro look like a genius in the 82nd minute. Alvarado bungled a high cross played into the box, and the ball pinballed on the ground before landing at the feet of Hainault. He lashed at a shot that was cleared off the goal-line by a Costa Rica defender.
NOTES: Canada resumes World Cup qualifying with a third-round, home-and-away playoff series played in the first week of September. Canada’s opponent will be determined during CONCACAF’s official draw on July 25. Possible teams the Reds could face include Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Belize, Aruba, Nicaragua, Curacao and Grenada… If Canada wins that two-leg playoff, it would advance to the semifinal group stage, where the top two teams in each of the three groups move on to the final qualifying round, known as The Hex… According to FIFA statistics, Los Ticos lead the all-time series against the Reds with eight wins and eight draws in 19 games. Costa Rica won the previous meeting—a 2013 friendly in Edmonton—and hasn’t lost to Canada since the group stage of the 2003 Gold Cup.