Molinaro on soccer: Five thoughts on Canada

Japan's Atsuto Uchida, right, challenges Canada's William Johnson for the ball. (AP)

Canada suffered a 2-1 loss to Japan on Friday in an international friendly from Doha, Qatar.

Shinji Okazaki opened the scoring for the Japanese in the eighth minute before Marcus Haber levelled the affair in the 58th. Substitute Mike Havenaar netted the winner for Japan with 16 minutes left in regulation.

Here are five thoughts on the game and Canada’s performance:

1) Goalkeeping crisis?

Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan didn’t exactly wrap himself in glory against the Japanese. Borjan looked uneasy and shaky in net the entire game, and was at fault for the first goal – his botched clearance allowed Okazaki to chip him from outside of the box and grab an early lead for Japan.

There were times, too, when Borjan looked hesitant coming off his line, punched the ball away when he could have easily caught it, and generally did not look at all commanding inside his area.

Remember, Borjan has been tabbed as the man to challenge long-time starter Lars Hirschfeld for the number one job. Hirschfeld’s best days are clearly behind in, so Borjan really needs to make a strong push with a string of solid performances if he’s going to establish himself as Canada’s starter.

But the evidence of this match, and recent outings from Borjan, suggest he doesn’t appear up to the task, leaving Canada with serious long-term issue in net.

2) Defensive miscues

Not for the first time, Canada’s defenders committed individual errors and needless turnovers in dangerous areas of the pitch that allowed Japan to press forward. Havenaar was left unmarked on the corner kick that led to the goal – he mishit his shot (even though it went in) but he could have easily taken a touch and controlled the ball if he wanted, such was Canada’s slack marking.

Also, too often Canada’s back four were too easily ripped open by Japan’s slick passing and dangerous runs off the ball, and it could have easily been 3-0 for the Japanese at halftime. But for a lack of finishing in front of goal from the Asian powerhouse, this game could have been over after 45 minutes.

After the game, Canadian interim coach Tony Fonseca talked about how they had worked and focused on cutting out individual errors in training sessions leading up to the game. They’re going to have to work much harder, because the ease with which Canada routinely conceded possession to the Japanese was pretty shocking.

3) Jakovic poor on the night

You hate to single one Canadian player out on a night when so many failed to impress.

But central defender Dejan Jakovic’s poor performance was especially shocking as he looked very good in Canada’s two friendlies in January, including his man-of-the-match effort in a 0-0 draw with the United States in Houston.

Usually one of Canada’s most reliable defenders, the D.C. United man was too often caught in possession, made errant passes and was caught out of position. Against the U.S. Jakovic was composed and a dominating physical presence, showing great leadership. We saw none of that versus Japan.

4) Tale of two halves

After being outplayed in the first half, Canada looked far stronger after the re-start, and even bossed the game at times.

Haber’s equalizing goal gave Canada a great deal of confidence, as it began to pressure Japan high up the field and looked to have wrestled control of the game away from their opponents.

But one of Canada’s long-standing problems has been to compete and put in a complete 90-minute performance. They were the better time for small stretches of this game, but those times were few and far between.

5) Japanese model

If Canada is looking for a country or a style of play to model itself after, it could do worse than pick Japan.

The Asian champions’ technical ability was on full display against Canada. They’re short-passing game was a wonder to behold, as was their composure on the ball and the way they comfortably built the attack from out of the back.

Also impressive was how Japan pressed Canada in their half to win the ball back, and the way they lent support to the ball carrier when in possession by giving him plenty of options. Contrast this with Canada’s Atiba Hutchinson, who didn’t have the same level of support in midfield, and was forced to to do too much on his own.

Say what?

“We are frustrated with the way we conceded the two goals.” – Tony Fonseca

“Defensively we could have been better and that is something we will have to work on over the next few days. That being said I thought we were good on the ball and created some good chances." – Atiba Hutchinson

Canada’s three stars

1) David Edgar: Often used as a fullback for Canada, the Burnley man was a tower of strength in the centre of defence, competently quarter-backing the defence and making several timely and crucial clearances, and important tackles.

2) Atiba Hutchinson: The PSV Eindhoven midfielder ran himself ragged in the first half, and kept the Japanese defence honest. Had Hutchinson received more midfield support, he could have been more effective.

3) Randy Edwini-Bonsu: It was only his second appearance for Canada, but 22-year-old forward looked pretty lively, made several dangerous runs at pace, and added some spark to what was an otherwise stagnant attack. Honourable mention goes to Marcus Haber.

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