It wasn’t the long-awaited win that Canada was hoping for, but it was a credible result against a decent European side and an end to an embarrassing 14-month goalless run for Canada’s men’s soccer team.
The Canadians came from a goal down to draw Bulgaria 1-1 in an international friendly at the Sonnenseestadion in Ritzing, Austria on Friday.
Atiba Hutchinson converted a penalty in the 26th minute to tie the game after Bulgaria had opened the scoring with a nicely-worked goal by Andrey Galabinov in the 18th minute.
The draw represents arguably the best result of the team’s current project under the leadership of Spanish coach Benito Floro.
The Canadian side has been mired in a miserable spell on the back of a calamitous exit from World Cup Qualifying in October of 2012, but Floro said that Friday’s result in Austria signals the end of the “first stage” of his restructuring of the team’s fundamental philosophies.
“For us it (was) a very good result. Not only because we scored a goal and tied the game but especially because of the tactical behaviour,” said Floro, who still speaks largely through an interpreter due to his limited English.
Canada showed some rare attacking verve in the first half with Hutchinson’s incisive passing leading to clear-cut chances for Tosaint Ricketts and Randy Edwini-Bonsu.
But as the game wore on and the score level at 1-1, it was Bulgaria who looked the more likely to score the winning goal — something that Floro attributed to end-of-season fatigue for his players.
“In the second half our players were very tired because they are at the end of their (club) seasons and we did not have another experienced player to make a change with.
“So, at the end, it was a very good result and tactical behaviour,” he said.
For Hutchinson, who broke Canada’s ugly goalless streak that dated back to a March 2013 goal by Marcus Haber, it was simply a feeling of “relief to get that over and done with.
“Now the next step is to get a win,” he said.
A victory would indeed go a long way to adding some sincerity to the notion that Canada is a team on an upward trajectory.
The Canadians have not won a match since beating Cuba 3-0 in Toronto in October of 2012 and they’re still winless in six matches under their new Spanish boss.
But despite another match without a win, Hutchinson cited the resiliency that Canada showed as something that bodes well for the future.
“It’s something that’s definitely been a problem for Canada. Whenever we’ve conceded goals we’ve dropped our heads,” he said. “Now we’re looking forward and building the right attitude, on and off the pitch.”
Canada will next take on Moldova on Tuesday in Mauer, Austria, before the team disbands again until its next camp in Toronto in September.