Canada's Marco Bustos (left) scored one goal in the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship. (Photo: Mexsport)
MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – With the possible exception of either half in its opener against Haiti, Canada’s best forty-five minute stretch of the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship came in its last match.
On Wednesday, the Canadians held a 2-1 lead over Honduras at the break by competing the way that they expected heading into the competition.
Although the Central Americans rallied for a 3-2 win thanks to Bryan Rochez’s 83rd minute goal, Canada departed Jamaica on an encouraging note.
“At least the boys responded in the right manner today,” said head coach Rob Gale afterwards. “They dug in and gave all they have and I think even with the late goal, a little bit of fatigue set in. But that was a more Canadian performance and more of what I know about these boys. I couldn’t fault the effort and the work rate.”
Canada was targeting a place in the FIFA U-20 World Cup for the first time since it was the host in 2007. Pre-tournament results, including victories over the United States and the Russia U21s, gave credence to that pursuit.
A 3-1 win over the Haitians was followed by four straight losses, resulting in a fifth-place Group B finish.
Despite the disappointment of not realizing the overall objective, midfielder Marco Bustos was pleased that his team showed what it was capable of in its finale.
“That was the Canada we’ve been all three years we’ve been together in the first half,” said Bustos, who scored the game’s first goal in the 19th minute. “We’re just going through a tough stage right now and it’s hard to put into words, but that 45 minutes was clear glimpse of what we are.”
Midfielder Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare plays for 2014/15 CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinalist Impact de Montreal and was the captain against Honduras. His performance was a refined one, demonstrating firm commitment in the tackle and, when required, a deft touch to launch the offense or maintain possession. The 19-year-old expressed mixed feelings about Canada’s performance.
“I don’t know if the first half was the kind of play we would have liked to see throughout the tournament,” remarked Gagnon-Lapare. “But from the intensity level, the concentration, and the engagement from the players, it was probably one of our best performances. It was either this or the second half against Haiti, but it was better today.”
He perhaps encapsulated Canada’s experience best, finishing with: “We’ve learned in this tournament that you have to compete for every ball; every duel and every minute there’s nothing to take for granted. We have to keep our focus all 90 minutes.”
It was a difficult lesson to absorb, but the future reply will be even more telling.