The wait continues.
The Canadian men’s national team was down a man. It was down a goal. It played in front of a raucous, desperate home crowd that needed a monumental result for their side. It would’ve been easy if Canada folded under the pressure like so many teams before.
Yes, the first half was a folding of sorts in the form of Mark-Anthony Kaye’s sending off in the 34th minute and the goal conceded off a set piece. But credit the Canadians for willing themselves back into the match and almost securing an equalizer, even in a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica at Estadio Nacional on Thursday.
A defeat means Canada’s inevitable qualification is prolonged until Sunday against Jamaica at BMO Field, it also means that attaining more favourable seeding for the World Cup draw on April 1 is likely out of reach.
Baby steps, though. First, Canada needs to qualify for Qatar, and the silver lining is that the team could do so at home and kick off a celebration 36 years in the making.
Here are three thoughts from Canada’s first loss in World Cup qualifying.
TALE OF TWO HALVES
Canada coach John Herdman named a unique lineup for this game. Ever-present centre-back Steven Vitoria was not risked due to a minor injury, Doneil Henry – his usual replacement – was suspended, so Herdman started four midfielders.
Some of those decisions paid off, like Atiba Hutchinson as a defender-midfield hybrid (more on him later).
Other choices were less rewarding.
Canada’s major issue in the first half, apart from Kaye’s unnecessary sending off, was defensive set pieces. By not having any of Vitoria, Henry or Scott Kennedy – who was on the bench along with Vitoria – no one in that side was a capable defender in the air.
The early warning signs were apparent after about 150 seconds when Costa Rican defender Francisco Calvo was wide open but fluffed his header.
Calvo latched onto another corner about nine minutes later, although this one was significantly more dangerous.
Celso Borges got in on the act shortly thereafter, too.
But Borges wasn’t going to miss twice and converted the eventual winner.
“We said in the big learning from November, we were too aggressive,” said Herdman. “We weren’t controlling enough in our own defending quarter. We said we can’t give those cheap free kicks away because the only way they are winning this tonight was a set piece and a transition and I thought we managed the transition brilliantly. But the set pieces when they have got [Kendall] Waston on the pitch, Calvo, they are good threats, and they’ve been training for two weeks on it.”
In terms of expected goals (xG), Canada generated 0.33 xG in the first half on four shots, none of which hit the target. Three of those attempts were blocked and half of that output was from outside the box. Costa Rica only had five shots, yet four came off those set pieces and Borges’ goal.
Yet Costa Rica wasn’t a major threat from open play when analyzing its first-half pass map and touch map. Then again, neither was Canada.
The game completely changed in the second half with some of Herdman’s substitutions, primarily Junior Hoilett, who provided an outlet for Richie Laryea on the left and they managed to pick the lock of the Costa Rican defence a few times.
Stephen Eustaquio was equally brilliant in the second half and created two golden opportunities for Canada that went to waste.
“Absolute warriors,” Herdman said of Laryea’s and Eustaquio’s performances. “I think that there is no doubt in my mind when you have players when they are fighting for a World Cup, they can find another level. The sports science will tell you they can play for 60 minutes in altitude and the human will, it will just keep pushing.”
The common theme was Canada increasing the tempo of its attacks and weaponizing its superior speed. Costa Rica eventually sat back and absorbed pressure to the tune of 14 shots in the second half alone.
Ultimately, Canada won the xG battle 1.55 to 1.09 and Tajon Buchanan alone could’ve pulled the visitors level in three different sequences.
Jonathan David came just as close to wrapping up a World Cup berth, too.
“The response was solid,” Herdman said. “I thought the boys responded really well. Football is football; cruel at times, it’s been good to us for the last 17 [games] but we’ll take this one on the chin tonight.”
Coaches will make decisions that occasionally go awry. The key is how the team and the coach adjust when it does, and to Canada’s credit, it essentially righted the wrong of the first half. All it needed was that elusive goal.
THE AGELESS WONDER
There are no more superlatives to describe Atiba Hutchinson. At 39 years of age, the national team’s all-time caps leader was deployed as a centre-back for the first time since the 2019 Gold Cup group stage, yet none would be the wiser based on his performance.
Hutchinson completed an astonishing 89 of 93 passes, nine recoveries, three tackles and one interception in his 90 minutes. But it was not just the accuracy of the passes, it was how he calmly orchestrated his side when building from the back to bypass Costa Rica’s medium blocks. There were some lovely passages of play kick-started by the veteran that may not have been executed as precisely without him.
Even defensively, Hutchinson contributed greatly. Goalkeeper Milan Borjan might owe him a steak dinner for this intervention on Joel Campbell in the second half, which was arguably Costa Rica’s only dangerous sequence in the final 45 minutes.
Once Canada is officially slated for Qatar in November, no one will deserve it more than Hutchinson, who has logged nearly 20 years of lows with this program. Thursday might sting but the last two years have seen significantly more highs, and hopefully for Hutchinson’s sake, he experiences the euphoria he merits.
KONE SHINES IN DEBUT
Nineteen-year-old Ismael Kone was the headline inclusion on this roster after a hot start for CF Montreal. Even though he only registered just under 20 minutes versus Costa Rica, he showcased why Herdman, and many others, are enthralled by the youngster.
Kone checked into the game in the 77th minute and looked like he belonged from the moment he stepped onto the pitch. He completed all 11 of his passes and broke through Costa Rica’s lines gracefully.
With Kaye suspended, don’t be surprised if Herdman throws Kone into the starting lineup on Sunday against Jamaica. The Montreal midfielder has now played at Costa Rica’s Estadio Nacional, Estadio Azteca in Mexico City and in two pivotal Concacaf Champions League second legs at home against Liga MX opposition. Kone has proven he can shine in big moments, and this can be a real boost in confidence to have that trust from his coach.
Marner shows off custom All-Star Game skates at Maple Leafs practice – NHL.com
Mitchell Marner is going to be skating on sunshine.
The Toronto Maple Leafs forward has some custom skates with a distinct Florida feel for the 2023 Honda NHL All-Star Game at FLA Live Arena on Saturday.
Marner, who will play for the Atlantic Divison team on Saturday, helped dream up the design, which is a beach theme over a pastel pink boot. On each tongue is the All-Star Game logo and inside each boot is the Eastern Conference logo.
Marner’s big customization? Adding his dog, Zeus, to the mix.
“(Zeus) riding a croc, one riding a shark and then just the city outlines,” Marner said. “The white look I think looks sick though. That’s just kind of the idea of them. I wanted to do something cool for the All Star game, don’t really get to customize a lot of stuff as hockey players.”
The True brand skates were on display at Maple Leafs practice on Tuesday. Were they a hit? Well, it depends on who you ask.
“A couple guys said it was pretty juicy looking, a couple guys were chirping me but that’s what usually happens with our team,” Marner said. “I think everyone probably likes them but they’re never going to say it to your face because it’s better just to make fun of you and chirp you. That’s how this team rolls.”
While he won’t be wearing them for a regular season game, trying them out at practice was a must, but did come with it’s challenges.
“(Alexander Kerfoot) and (Justin Holl) were trying to get some scuff marks on them early,” Marner said. “It’s going to happen eventually but I’ll try to keep them as white as possible until Saturday or Friday.”
– NHL.com Independent Correspondent Dave McCarthy contributed to this report.
Former captain Horvat, family pen letter to ‘Our Canucks family’ after trade to New York – Global News
Horvat was dealt to the New York Islanders Monday afternoon for two players and a protected first-round draft pick, after months of contract negotiations proved unfruitful.
“To our Canucks family. The past 24 hours have been filled with an overwhelming number of memories from inside and outside of the rink,” reads the statement in part, posted to Instagram on Tuesday.
“Nine years ago you welcomed us to your beautiful city and province, and before long, you would make sure it felt like home.”
Coming to Vancouver as a 19-year-old and leaving as a 27-year-old father of two, one of the many highlights for Horvat was getting a chance to play alongside Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
“I remember meeting Daniel and Henrik that first year. Through them you could immediately feel the history, and the connection the team had with fans and the community… the respect everyone had for what it meant ‘to be a Canuck,’” he said.
“I was only 19, but I knew I was a part of a special place in the hockey world. I remember being determined to work hard, keep getting better and always bring my best effort.”
He also took time to thank his teammates, coaches, trainers and members of the organization along with the many people behind the scenes.
“To have been your captain, was a tremendous honour for us…It was beyond the wildest dreams of that 19-year-old who just wanted to fit in and earn your respect one day at a time.”
“The city of Vancouver and Canucks fans will always have a place in our hearts. Thank you.”
Vancouver Canucks trade Bo Horvat
© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Tom Brady retires from NFL, insisting this time it's for good – CBC Sports
Tom Brady, who won a record seven Super Bowls for New England and Tampa, has announced his retirement.
Brady — the most successful quarterback in NFL history, and one of the greatest athletes in team sports — posted the announcement on social media Wednesday morning, a brief video lasting just under one minute.
“Good morning guys. I’ll get to the point right away,” Brady says as the message begins. “I’m retiring. For good.”
He briefly retired after the 2021 season, but wound up coming back for one more year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He retires at age 45, the owner of numerous passing records in an unprecedented 23-year career.
A year ago when he retired, it was in the form of a long Instagram post. But about six weeks later, he decided to come back for one more run. The Buccaneers — with whom he won a Super Bowl two seasons ago — made the playoffs again this season, losing in their playoff opener. And at the time, it begged the question about whether Brady would play again.
Only a couple weeks later, he has given the answer.
Truly grateful on this day. Thank you 🙏🏻❤️ <a href=”https://t.co/j2s2sezvSS”>pic.twitter.com/j2s2sezvSS</a>
“I know the process was a pretty big deal last time, so when I woke up this morning, I figured I’d just press record and let you guys know first,” Brady says in the video. “I won’t be long-winded. You only get one super emotional retirement essay and I used mine up last year.
“I really thank you guys so much, to every single one of you for supporting me. My family, my friends, teammates, my competitors. I could go on forever. There’s too many. Thank you guys for allowing me to live my absolute dream. I wouldn’t change a thing. Love you all.”
Brady is the NFL’s career leader in yards passing (89,214) and touchdowns (649). He’s the only player to win more than five Super Bowls and has been MVP of the game five times.
Famously underrated coming into the NFL — he was picked 199th in the 2000 draft by the Patriots, behind six other quarterbacks, three kickers and a punter — Brady certainly wasn’t expected to become synonymous with greatness. He played in one game as a rookie, completing one of three passes for six yards.
The next year, it all changed.
Brady took over as the Patriots’ starter, the team beat the St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl that capped the 2001 season, and he and New England coach Bill Belichick were well on their way to becoming the most successful coach-QB duo in football history.
More Super Bowl wins came after the 2003 and 2004 seasons. The Patriots returned to football’s mountaintop for a fourth time in Brady’s era a decade later to cap the 2014 season, the start of three more titles in a span of five years.
In 2020, he joined the Buccaneers and won his seventh Super Bowl. He spent his last three years with Tampa Bay, getting them to the playoffs in each of those seasons.
3-time NFL MVP
“I think I’ve been on the record dozens of times saying there’s no quarterback I’d rather have than Tom Brady, and I still feel that way,” Belichick said in 2021 — shortly before Tampa Bay, with Brady, came to New England and beat the Patriots in a game dubbed “The Return.” “I was very lucky to have Tom as the quarterback, to coach him, and he was as good as any coach could ever ask for.”
Brady has won three NFL MVP awards, been a first-team All-Pro three times and selected to the Pro Bowl 15 times.
Brady and supermodel Gisele Bundchen finalized their divorce this past fall, during the Bucs’ season. It ended a 13-year marriage between two superstars who respectively reached the pinnacles of football and fashion.
It was announced last year that when Brady retires from playing, he would join Fox Sports as a television analyst in a 10-year, $375 million US deal.
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