As regional rivals battle for a spot at the 2018 World Cup, Canada’s men’s national soccer team faces another rebuilding process and the growing pains that go with it.
Canada lost 2-0 loss to South Korea in an international friendly Friday on the same day that six other teams in the CONCACAF region kicked off the final round of World Cup qualifying.
Canada, eliminated from the final qualifying round in September, has started the slow build to the 2022 World Cup that has an important stop next summer at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
“It was a disappointing year. We had set goals at the end of last year as to where we wanted to take 2016,” said defender Adam Straith. “We didn’t obviously quite get there. Now it’s another rebuilding phase.”
Kim Bokyung and Lee Jeonghyeop scored in the first half as Canada finished the year with a record of 3-6-1.
Kim got Korea on the board in the 10th minute when he was played through into the Canadian penalty area with plenty of space to slot his shot across the goal. Canadian goalkeeper Simon Thomas got down hand to the ball but couldn’t stop it from sneaking into the just inside the post to his right.
South Korea continued to dominate possession as Canada hardly disturbed the grass in the opposing half of the field.
A poor Canadian clearance led to Lee smashing a shot through some in front of the goal to double the lead in the 25th minute.
“I think there was a little bit of nerves there and Korea’s a very good side. They played well and caused a lot of problems,” said interim head coach Michael Findlay. “At the end of the day, we’ve got to get ourselves a front-foot positive feeling. I thought we rebounded quite well (after going down two goals).”
Canada eventually worked its way into the game, and defender Marcel de Jong came up with its best opportunity of the half when he struck a powerful free kick from the right side that was denied spectacularly by Korean keeper Kim Jinhyeon.
“You saw tonight a decent to good performance,” Straith said. “We lost the game and are disappointed with that. There were some positives to take out of today and the year as well.”
Findlay’s has now run two camps since the departure of former head coach Benito Floro with Canada picking up a win and two losses in that span.
The biggest issue facing the men’s program as the new year approaches is who will take the reins on a full-time basis.
“I’ve made it very clear that I would love to carry this group through and I will do what they ask of me to do,” Findlay said. “Until they tell me I’m not involved I guess I’m involved. But that’s their issue. I’ve been very clear that my objective is to affect the program positively.”
One of the number of young players in camp that did impress for Canada was Vancouver Whitecaps attacking midfielder Marco Bustos.
He was a handful on a few occasions for the Koreans, and with veterans Julian de Guzman and Atiba Hutchinson potentially wrapping up their international careers, Bustos helped his case on Friday.
Goalkeeper Jayson Leutwiler made his Canada debut, coming on in the second half.
Leutwiler, who plays with Shrewsbury Town in England’s League One, was born in Switzerland, attained Canadian citizenship through his mother and played in the Swiss youth system before recently changing international loyalties.Report Typo/Error