Atiba Hutchinson (pictured) made his Canada debut in 2003 and has earned 77 caps. (Photo courtesy of Canada Soccer)
VANCOUVER, Canada -- For the fifth consecutive qualifying cycle, Canada will be forced to watch as six fellow CONCACAF nations battle in the Hexagonal for spots in the World Cup.
The Russia 2018 road came to an end on Tuesday, with the Canadians picking up a 3-1 win over visiting El Salvador at BC Place. That result wasn’t enough, however, to prevent them from falling one point short of advancing to the final round as Honduras picked up a 0-0 draw at Mexico.
As is always the case at this stage, the attention turns to a program’s next direction and which players will remain on future rosters.
“I’ve stayed involved in the game because of the national team. This was my main push,” emphasized midfielder Julian de Guzman, adding he’ll finish out the season with Ottawa Fury FC, but has played his final game for Canada. “I’ve kind of prepared for this moment, but at the same time, I don’t want to believe it because it’s been a wonderful journey, but also a very difficult struggle and battle trying to put Canada on the map.”
An emotional Atiba Hutchinson, who will enjoy UEFA Champions League football this season with Turkey’s Besiktas, didn’t know if he had played his last game for Canada.
There was abundant youth in the side and players like Manjrekar James, Samuel Piette, and Cyle Larin have plenty of games ahead of them.
The first opportunity for Canada to get rolling once again comes in next year’s CONCACF Gold Cup. Although the tournament may be the furthest thing from the minds of the players now, it will be on them quickly.
“It’s heading in the right direction,” said forward Tosaint Ricketts. “It may not be evident from the outside, but on the inside you can see there’s been a lot of growth. The guys have grown and matured, but it’s tough. You always have to keep going.”
Canada will be going to the Gold Cup. The identities of those going along for the rise remain to be seen.