Canada gets average grade in loss to Mexico


Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

Outshot, outworked and outclassed.

Canada held on for 31 minutes in their fourth-round World Cup qualifying match against Mexico in Vancouver on Friday. However, the CONCACAF champions eventually broke free and clinched a 3-0 victory.

The Canadians are still in second place in Group A after El Salvador and Honduras drew 2-2. However, the Reds face a daunting task in the return game at Estadio Azteca on Tuesday.

There were a few standout individual performances from Canada on Friday night. But the majority of the players were distinctly average and will need to be near-perfect in Mexico City if they hope to gain at least a point.

Here’s the report card…

Milan Borjan (A) — Canada’s goalkeeper was, by far and away, the team’s best player on the night. Borjan was helpless on all three of Mexico’s goals, but if it wasn’t for him, El Tri‘s victory would have been far more lopsided. The 28-year-old made several outstanding saves prior to the Mexicans’ opening goal. His stop on Miguel Layun was arguably the best of the bunch.

Doneil Henry (C-) — The former Toronto FC defender is a central defender, yet coach Benito Floro has continually slotted him at right fullback. The 22-year-old understandably struggled whenever Jesus Corona was running towards him on the flank. The Brampton, Ont., native made a few solid tackles and interceptions, but he generally lacked positional awareness during the game.

Dejan Jakovic (C-) — Like his team, Jakovic started the game strong, then faded after the opening goal. He was caught ball-watching on two of Mexico’s goals and was uneasy whenever he was in possession. Overall, it was a not a great night for the centre back.

Adam Straith (C-) — Straith was solid early in the match as well. He was executing some astutely timed tackles and was holding his own against Hirving Lozano and Javier Hernandez. However, as Mexico continued to pressure the Canadians, Straith became fatigued and he simply could not keep up with the faster Mexican forwards.

Marcel de Jong (C) — The full back was caught roaming forward, which exposed Canada’s back line quite often. He was calm on the ball when in possession, but de Jong looked like he was lacking match fitness.

Atiba Hutchinson (C+) — Hutchinson was solid as usual, but an uncharacteristic turnover prior to Mexico’s second goal was a blow to the Canadians. Other than a couple of sloppy giveaways, the Besiktas midfielder was calm under pressure and was getting stuck in defensively whenever possible.

Tosaint Ricketts (F) — The winger was ineffective on Friday night and was eventually replaced at halftime by Scott Arfield. Ricketts almost looked stunned at times, especially when Mexico was in possession. He was also unproductive defensively and offered little support to Henry on the right flank against Corona and Layun.

Will Johnson (C+) — Johnson was getting stuck in a bit and he was composed on the ball whenever he was in possession. The Toronto FC midfielder wasn’t too influential in this match, although no other outfield player made a significant impact.

Julian de Guzman (C) — De Guzman was absolutely terrific in the first two matches of this qualifying round, but he was visibly slower against a much sharper Mexican side. On a night when he was honoured as Canada’s all-time leader in appearances, the Ottawa Fury midfielder failed to impress.

Junior Hoilett (C+) — The Queens Park Rangers forward showed flashes of brilliance and troubled the Mexican back line on a couple of occasions. With that in mind, Canadian fans will be left wondering what could have been if Hoilett buried his glorious chance on 21 minutes.

Cyle Larin (C+) — The MLS rookie of the year was also causing problems for Mexico’s defence. Larin made a few excellent runs and worked incredibly hard to close down the opposing defenders when they were on the ball. However, the forward looked rushed when faced with a decision to pass or shoot in the penalty area.

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