Canada vs. El Salvador | 2018 World Cup Qualifying Match Preview
CANADA VS. EL SALVADOR
Tuesday, September 6, 10 pm ET
BC Place, Vancouver
One team will be playing for pride, while the other will be praying for a mathematical miracle.
Heading into the final game of the penultimate round of World Cup qualifying in the CONCACAF region, El Salvador’s chances of reaching Russia 2018 are officially nil. Their hopes were formally dashed with a 3-1 home loss to Mexico on Friday night.
Canada, meanwhile, are still holding onto their World Cup dreams by a near-imperceptible thread. To reach the Hexagonal round, Canada must defeat El Salvador and Mexico must defeat Honduras on Tuesday, with the combined margin of victory in the two games likely needing to be six goals or more (in a few scenarios, a five-goal swing would suffice).
While Friday’s 2-1 loss in San Pedro Sula has left many Canadians assuming the campaign is over, there does remain a faint flicker of possibility.
Mexico were booed off the field at the end of its last World Cup qualifier at Estadio Azteca in March, after only defeating Canada 2-0. Then in June came the team’s humiliating 7-0 loss to Chile, knocking them out of the Copa América Centenario. Though their passage to the Hex is already assured, manager Juan Carlos Osorio’s side will be gunning for redemption in front of their unforgiving home crowd.
Canada, for their part, will be going up against a demoralized Salvadoran side with nothing to play for, in front of a BC Place audience desperate for something to cheer.
The odds are still heavily stacked against goal-shy Canada finding a way through to the Hex for the first time in two decades. But if both they and Mexico can pop a few early goals on Tuesday night, fans will suddenly be in for one frantic race to the finish.
When the teams met earlier in the round, on Nov. 17, 2015, they played to a scoreless draw in San Salvador. Though a point on the road in Central America is a rare treat for Canada, some followers viewed the result as an opportunity missed against an undermanned home side.
Their prior two meetings this century both came at the CONCACAF Gold Cup – another scoreless draw in 2015, and a 1-0 win for Canada in 2009.
In 15 meetings dating back to 1977, Canada have seven wins, El Salvador have four wins and four games have been drawn.
With the campaign representing the last chance at a World Cup for veterans like Atiba Hutchinson and Julian de Guzman (who is with the team, but not playing due to injury), the squad surely won’t go down without a fight.
Head coach Benito Floro – whose contract ends if Canada doesn’t get the required combination of results to advance on Tuesday night – has steadfastly stuck to his defensive-minded system during his three-plus years at the helm.
But the experienced Spaniard knows that a lopsided win will be necessary for his team to have a realistic shot at advancing. He does have some attacking weapons at his disposal, in the form of Cyle Larin, Junior Hoilett, Tesho Akindele, Tosaint Ricketts and Scott Arfield.
Could this potentially be the day, long theorized but never yet witnessed, that Floro deviates from his preferred 4-5-1 formation and gives Canada a different look in attack? It’s a wild idea, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
EL SALVADOR OUTLOOK
It’s been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad few years for Los Cuscatlecos.
In 2013, over 20 national-team players faced sanctions in connection with match-fixing. Then, at the start of this qualifying round in late 2015, manager Ramon Maradiaga was forced to name a new squad when most of his original selections went on strike.
While a number of those players have returned to the fold, it’s been too little too late for a team that hasn’t notched a win so far in 2016 (two draws, six losses).
Both El Salvador (1982) and Canada (1986) are in the midst of extended World Cup droughts. The Central Americans know their drought will continue for at least another six years, and will be keen to play their part in resigning Canada to the same fate.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Canada – Cyle Larin: We know two things: Canada will need goals, and Larin is capable of producing them. The 21-year-old Orlando City SC striker has been dynamite in his first two MLS seasons, but hasn’t yet produced the same consistency for his national team. If he’s going to change that, now would be the ideal time.
El Salvador – Nelson Bonilla: The 25-year-old wore the captain’s armband against Mexico on Friday, and scored the biggest goal of the year (from the perspective of both El Salvador and Canada) back in March. His late equalizer against Honduras on March 25 not only gave El Salvador a point against their most hated rivals, it also led to the situation we face today, where Canada could still catch Honduras in the group standings.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Milan Borjan (PFK Ludogorets Razgrad/Bulgaria); Kenny Stamatopoulos (AIK Fotbol/Sweden); Maxime Crepeau (Montreal Impact)
DEFENDERS (10): David Edgar (Vancouver Whitecaps); Andre Hainault (FC Magdeburg/Germany); Dejan Jakovic (Shimizu S-Pulse/Japan); Manjrekar James (Vasas Budapest/Hungary); Doneil Henry (West Ham United/England); Marcel de Jong (Vancouver Whitecaps); Nik Ledgerwood (FC Edmonton); Karl W. Ouimette (Jacksonville Armada); Adam Straith (Fredrikstad/Norway); Steven Vitoria (Lechia Gdansk/Poland)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Tesho Akindele (FC Dallas); Scott Arfield (Burnley/England); Jamar Dixon (Ottawa Fury); Junior Hoilett (unattached); Atiba Hutchinson (Beşiktaş JK/Turkey); Simeon Jackson (Walsall/England); Samuel Piette (CD Izarra/Spain); Tosaint Ricketts (Toronto FC)
FORWARDS (2): Marcus Haber (unattached); Cyle Larin (Orlando City SC)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Derby Carrillo (IBV/Iceland); Luis Contreras (FAS/El Salvador); Oscar Arroyo (Alianza/El Salvador)
DEFENDERS (9): Xavier Garcia (FAS/El Salvador); Alexander Larin (Alianza/El Salvador); Alexander Mendoza (FAS/El Salvador); Henry Romero (Aguila/El Salvador); Juan Barahona (Santa Tecla/El Salvador); Roberto Dominguez (Santa Tecla/El Salvador); Ivan Mancia (Santa Tecla/El Salvador); Bryan Tamacas (Santa Tecla/El Salvador); Marlon Cornejo (Santa Tecla/El Salvador)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Jaime Alas (Municipal/Guatemala); Andres Flores (New York Cosmos); Darwin Cerén (San Jose Earthquakes); Richard Menjivar (Rayo OKC); Pablo Punyed (IBV/Iceland); Gerson Mayen (Santa Tecla/El Salvador); Dennis Pineda (Santa Clara/Portugal); Oscar Ceren (Alianza/El Salvador)
FORWARDS (2): Nelson Bonilla (Nacional/Portugal); Irvin Herrera (Saint Louis FC)