Canada's Kianz Froese (white jersey) celebrates after scoring against El Salvador in a CONCACAF Under-20 Championship match on January 15, 2015, in Montego Bay, Jamaica. (Photo: Mexsport)
MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – Canada could not have gotten off to a faster start at the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship. Jordan Hamilton struck for two goals before 20 minutes had passed in the opener, giving it a 2-0 lead en route to a 3-1 win over Haiti.
That feel-good victory, however, was followed by two consecutive losses.
A 2-0 setback against Mexico (3-0-0, 9 points), which posted a 9-1 over Cuba, was certainly nothing about which to sound an alarm.
Then, on Thursday, El Salvador’s Romilio Hernandez found the back of the net in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time, tilting Canada (1-0-2, 3 points) to a 3-2 defeat.
With three points from three games, any thoughts of capturing the Group B title -- and the automatic berth to the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup that is earned as a result – have to be adjusted realistically.
The main objective now is to get back on track with a win in the next match against Cuba (0-1-2, 1 point) on Monday at the Montego Sports Complex.
“We have to respond and regroup,” said Canada head coach Rob Gale. “We tried to freshen the pack and keep as many legs as we can.”
This is not the path Canada would have envisioned for its CONCACAF campaign. Wins over the Russia under-21 and United States under-20 teams, plus a 2-2 draw at the England U20s, in preparation matches late last year indicated big things for Gale’s squad.
It is not too late, though, to set things straight.
“We haven’t become a bad team overnight here,” Gale stressed. “We’ll do the right work with our medical team behind the scenes and just make sure we respond in the right way, and stick to what we do very well because when we do that, we are an excellent football team.”
Canada has not played in a U-20 World Cup since hosting it 2007. That is something Gale wants to rectify, but the Cubans come first and Honduras (1-1-1, 4 points) follows three days later.
“We know that we got two very difficult opponents,” finished Gale. “Again, they are very similar and both used to these type of conditions, so we will respond in the right way and make sure we get it right in the next game.”
If Canadians want a return to the global stage, they have no choice but to get it right. Replicating the first 20 minutes of its first match in the competition would be the perfect way to make “another” great start.