The Canada men’s national team had a chance to book their ticket to the 2024 COPA America. All they had to do was beat Jamaica in the second leg of their CONCACAF Nations League tie.
Canada beat Jamaica 2-1 in Kingston on Saturday so they had the advantage. To sweeten the pot, they were at home in the friendly confines of Toronto’s BMO Field.
But sports are never easy. Canada did not make it easy for themselves.
They blew it. Literally. Canada collapsed in the second half like the Hoover Dam did in that one scene in San Andreas. As we have done in several articles for this site, it is time to cue Billy Madison yelling “You Blew It!”
Too bad UrinatingTree doesn’t make videos on soccer. He could’ve just put the You Blew It clip over his rambling over Canada’s collapse in a video titled: “Congrats Canada Men’s National Team!”
Instead, you will get rambling on this match from me. Canada’s Nations League quest has ended and they would have to wait for March to qualify for the COPA America. Mexico beat Honduras on penalties and as a result, Canada will play Trinidad and Tobago in Frisco, Texas.
The first half
Overall, Canada had a good first half. But it could have been so much better.
The biggest reason why was Andre Blake. Jamaica’s goalkeeper was celebrating his 33rd birthday and he made two big early saves off Cyle Larin. It would’ve been great if Larin got off his goal drought. He’s got zero goals in 11 games at Real Valladolid.
But the man who got Canada on the board was none other than Alphonso Davies. This was an ugly goal but you can take ugly goals. Ismaël Koné got the play started with a nice pass to Richie Laryea who found Alphonso Davies in the box. It looked like Blake made another great save but he couldn’t stop Davies from putting in the rebound.
From there, it looked like Canada had the tie in the bag right?
Other than some nervy moments defending (especially when Demari Gray had the ball) and some poor play in the final third, there was a lot to like in the first half.
Canada looked threatening on the counter with Koné and Stephen Eustaquio leading the charge. Tajon Buchanan was effective down the flanks with his passing and Jonathan David looked creative and comfortable in the central attacking midfield position.
The second half
Let’s face it, Canada came out sloppy in the second half. There were a lot of turnovers and Jamaica put their tackling ability to good use.
The sloppiness ended up biting them in the behind.
Instead of taking the ball up the pitch or passing it forward, Eustaquio decided to run backward and Shamar Nicholson said: “Thank you very much” and beat Milan Borjan to tie the game.
Nicholson was not done there. Like lightning, he struck twice. Canada was pressing high and Koné ended up losing the ball. Only two Canadian players, Kamal Miller and Derek Cornelius were the ones in the back. Ruh Roh.
But Koné made up for it just a few minutes later with a solid header. The pass from Davies was great but we have to get credit to Alistair Johnston for getting the ball before Gray. At just 21, Koné is a big part of the future of the Canadian Men’s National Team and he showed why in this game.
But then disaster struck.
First of all, the handball rule is as confusing as what goaltender interference is in hockey and what a catch is in the NFL. Eustaquio doesn’t make mistakes often but he made two big ones on Tuesday night. To be fair, it was kind of a weak call as he was pulling his arm away from the ball. But Fulham’s Bobby Decordova-Reid easily beat Borjan from the penalty spot.
It ain’t a CONCACAF game without some wild stuff. I’m not sure if I’ve seen anything like this before. Gray seemed to have been injured and the stretcher was taken out. However, Gray did not get off the pitch and was issued a yellow. But things got wilder. Gray got a second yellow for getting back on the pitch before the referee allowed him to. Everyone watching the game must have thought: What is going on? Sergino Dest would be proud of that one.
Canada had a golden opportunity to get a goal. A goal was all they needed to win the tie. Despite being up by a man, the opportunity was wasted. Canada was passing and crossing too much and the chances weren’t dangerous enough except for the header that David sent over the bar. It was a shame because that was a perfect pass from Liam Millar to make that happen.
What was said
“We were too casual…we lost easy balls,” said Canada interim head coach Mauro Biello after the game per CBC’s Ben Steiner. “They took some momentum and were able to score. We weren’t able to forget ourselves and climb out of that.”
“I’m disappointed for (today), but I know there’s a process,” he said when asked about his audition to be Canada’s manager per Alexandre Gangue-Ruzic of OneSoccer. “I think I did everything I can, but I’ll have to look at things and look at myself and see what I could have done even better”
Borjan did hold back on his words speaking to OneSoccer after the game.
“We have to sit down all together, look each other in the eyes, and see what went wrong,” he said. “This is unacceptable…I’m very angry. As a captain, I’m sorry to our nation.”
Stat of the match
Koné got a goal and a hockey assist on Davies’s goal but he also completed 87% of his passes according to FotMob.
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Larin, Buchanan, Eustaqio and Koné were providing service all game. Biello took them off and Davies was trying to do everything himself. Other than him, the service was lacking in stoppage time.
Best strikers lacking striking
I mentioned Larins’s stats and David’s missed header earlier. An in-form Jonathan David would have put that in. He only has two goals in 12 Ligue 1 matches with Lille this season. Last season, he had 24.
Both he and Larin are supposed to lead the line for Canada and they are the guys Davies and others are supposed to pass to and trust. Right now, they look like ghosts.
Best now you know who we feel
If you are a new Canada men’s national team fan, welcome. You are going to need therapy after a while. I still remember Canada losing 8 to 1 to Honduras in 2012. I also remember them blowing a 2-0 lead to Haiti in the 2019 Gold Cup.
This is easily the lowest point for the Canadian men since I started writing and podcasting about them.
This feels like watching the Canada of past years. But unlike the Canada of past years, the team has more talent.
The collapse against Jamaica shows that Canada is not ready to compete in 2026. Yes, we can blame Canada Soccer for the financial trouble and the fact they haven’t been getting many games in the fall window. However, that cannot be an excuse.
The bar has been raised for the Canadian men since they qualified for the World Cup in Qatar last year. Jamaica is a team they should beat. They need to get into the COPA America every time and reach the CONCACAF Nations League Final at minimum.
It is time to move on from the old guard. Players like Borjan, Junior Hoilett, Steven Vitoria, Jonathan Osorio and Mark-Anthony Kaye have done their duties for this team. But it is time for players such as Ali Ahmed, Luc De Fougerolles, Jacen Russell-Rowe, Jacob Shaffelberg and Victor Loturi to step in. Canada needs younger players who deserve to be in the lineup to help Davies, David and all the other veterans out.
Canada also needs a new manager as soon as possible. They need someone who is experienced and a good tactical mind. Who will that be? It seems Biello isn’t the guy. We shall see.
Games like the one against Jamaica can’t happen. Say what you want about the penalty call but you can’t lead a 3-1 lead on aggregate slip away.
Canada needs to focus on building a good team for the 2026 World Cup and future tournaments because right now, it is not good enough.