The Chicago Fire were on the verge of suffering an embarrassing defeat, but a video assistant referee decision and an expertly-taken penalty helped the Fire earn a point at home.
The Fire drew the Vancouver Whitecaps, 1-1, at SeatGeek Stadium on Friday evening. Yordy Reyna put the Whitecaps up from a very tight angle but Nemanja Nikolic tied the score, firing a strike into the roof of the net.
In the 53rd minute, Fire goalkeeper David Ousted chased down a cross, but quickly realized he was about to handle the ball outside of the 18-yard box. Instead of kicking the ball out of play, Ousted tried to punch it to a teammate. Instead, it fell right to Reyna, who side-footed it just inside the post.
In the 81st minute, former Toronto FC defender and Canadian National Team player Doneil Henry was judged to have handled the ball in the penalty box. A review with VAR led to the decision. Nikolic stepped up to the spot with his team needing a goal and he smashed a strike in for a goal.
Benito Floro is the latest Canadian national team coach to leave the job without a trip to the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
The ex-Real Madrid, Villarreal, and Monterrey coach came close. Very close. Ultimately, though, the 64-year-old Spaniard found his fate the same as Stephen Hart, Dale Mitchell, and Frank Yallop beforehand.
The thing about Floro’s failure, though, is that it feels entirely salvageable. Canada missed the Hex by one point in the toughest group to escape, with Mexico and Honduras. You could argue that if their Pot B groupmate was Panama or Trinidad and Tobago, they’re in the Hex now.
Mostly, what killed Canada is Floro’s insistence on a lone target striker when he really didn’t have that horse in his stable.
Cyle Larin is a fantastic young talent, but didn’t have the facilitators with his national team to be left alone. There’s neither Kaka nor Matias Perez Garcia, as he has in Orlando. There’s Tesho Akindele, another striker, and Tosaint Ricketts.
Larin and Akindele aren’t the only ones who will be sticking around when Canada is, hopefully, staring at the Hex in four years time. Rangers defender Fraser Aird will be 25, and promising fellow Vancouver youngsters Kianz Froese and Marco Bustos will be 24. Doneil Henry, Manjrekar James, Samuel Piette… all could be in frame. Richie Laryea was the No. 7 MLS Draft pick in 2016. Not all will hit, but surely some.
The Vancouver Whitecaps have one of the better Academy set-ups in North America, and both Toronto FC and Montreal aren’t too far behind.
Additionally, the caliber of players who are shining in NCAA Soccer but not finding the right professional home is a shame. Not that college should be be Goal 1A of talented Canadians, but those who wind up there need to take the next step in the right way.
Better post-college advisement of promising players like Kwame Awuah (UConn), Brian Wright (Vermont), Alex Comsia (UNC), Kamal Miller and Sergio Camargo (both Syracuse) should be a priority, too (They also need to sort out their plans for competing in America’s fourth-tier, but youth clubs have power in money).
“The reality of our situation is we do have domestic candidates but we also have to look elsewhere as well — as we have in the past, as we have in the present and as we will in the future. I don’t think we’re excluding anybody and specifically our own.”
The goal “is to build on the good things that have happened.”
What’s the best thing Canada could do? Don’t blow it up, and hire a man who’s done this job before, at this level. I’m not saying you have to land a CONCACAF hero like Miguel Herrera or Bruce Arena, but find a man who can put the right players in the right positions to win, is versatile enough to outfox a peer time-and-again, and go forward.
Either that, or hire a legend from a major European country who can convince anyone with any Canadian blood in him to come home. I’m saying, it’s been done.
A much-changed Sounders led 1-0 at half against a young and undermanned West Ham XI that nevertheless included Mark Noble, Adrian, Winston Reid, Scotty Byram and Andy Carroll, and broke through once the Irons made almost wholesale changes at halftime.
And let’s not forget clubs who’ve kept their manager: Leicester City had been tabbed to hold onto Jamie Vardy and N'Golo Kante but looks set to lose both (at least according to the mill). Vardy is said to have his release clause triggered by Arsenal, while Kante could wind up at Chelsea. However, Bein Sports reports that the Frenchman has decided to wait until after the Euro.
West Ham United could reunite manager Slaven Bilic with 33-year-old Canadian midfielder Atiba Hutchinson. The 75-times capped Canadian has been in Europe since 2003, and played under Bilic at the player’s current club: Besiktas.
Pep Guardiola has reportedly removed one player from his wish list and added another. Paul Pogba is reportedly no longer on the mind of the new Manchester City boss, though Arsenal outside back Hector Bellerin. The idea isn’t new, but it sounds just as silly as it did the first time it came up.
The Liverpool Echo quotes Gianluca Di Marzio as saying the Reds are looking into Ajax winger Anwar El Ghazi. He was tipped for a Premier League move around the January window, and the 21-year-old Dutchman scored 11 goals in the Eredivisie this season.
Canada has selected its 23-man roster for the match against the United States, and it features a host of MLS players as expected with the February 2nd friendly falling outside a FIFA international break.
Cyle Larin and Tesho Akindele, who combined for 22 goals last MLS season, headline the attack for Canada, but there are a number of new faces on the roster as well. Goalkeepers Tyson Farago and Callum Irving are gunning for their first caps along with center-back Steven Vitoria and midfielder Jamar Dixon.
22-year-old Irving, recently graduated from the University of Kentucky this year where he won Conference USA Player of the Year twice and earned First-Team All American honors this past season, has been a member of the Canadian youth team for a number of years, although he went undrafted in the MLS SuperDraft a week ago. Farago, 24, has also been part of the Canadian youth picture.
Beyond excited and honoured for the opportunity to represent my country! Can't wait to get started! @CanadaSoccerEN 🇨🇦
Vitoria and Dixon are both newcomers to the setup, while teenagers Kianz Froese and Marco Bustos, both 19 years old, join as the youngest members of the squad, although both have already been capped.
GK: Maxime Crepeau, Montreal Impact; Tyson Farago, FC Edmonton; Callum Irving, University of Kentucky.
DF: Nik Ledgerwood, FC Edmonton; Samuel Adekugbe, Vancouver Whitecaps; Doneil Henry, West Ham United; Wandrille Lefevre, Montreal Impact; Steven Vitoria, Benfica; Karl W. Ouimette, New York Red Bulls; Mallan Roberts, FC Edmonton.
Defender-Midfielders: Adam Straith, Fredrikstad FK.
Midfielders: Julian de Guzman, Ottawa Fury FC; Iain Hume, unattached; Will Johnson, Toronto FC; Kyle Bekker, Montreal Impact; Jamar Dixon, FF Jaro; Marco Bustos, Vancouver Whitecaps FC; Issey Nakajima-Farran, Terengganu FA; Kianz Froese, Vancouver Whitecaps; Marcel De Jong, Sporting Kansas City.
Forwards: Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC; Caleb Clarke, unattached; Tesho Akindele, FC Dallas.