By Gavin Day
THE CANADIAN PRESS
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador _ Canada’s men’s soccer team may still be looking for their first victory in Central America in more than a decade but they’re leaving El Salvador feeling like they’ve put in a good month’s work.
The Canadians sit in second place in their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying group after a scoreless draw against El Salvador on Tuesday night at the Estadio Cuscatlan.
The result concludes a successful start to the semifinal round of qualifying in the CONCACAF region where Canada won last Friday against Honduras at Vancouver’s BC Place before salvaging a point in a very hostile environment in El Salvador.
“If you had asked me before for four points after two games I would have taken it,” said defender Adam Straith, noting he felt that Canada easily could have picked up three points has certain things gone their way.
“The results have been positive, the performances were positive. We wanted to get the Canadian fan base more positive about the team. I think we did that with a good performance in Vancouver. Now with a decent away performance here I think we’ve achieved what we set out to.”
El Salvador pressed Canada early and had the first corner kick of the game in the fifth minute.
Cyle Larin, who scored the winning goal in the 1-0 win over Honduras, had Canada’s first scoring chance in the eighth minute.
Larin chested a throw-in from the left side before turning and firing but his volley was off the target.
Canada’s two trips to Central America in the last World Cup qualifying cycle were losses. They lost 2-0 to Panama in September 2012 and that infamous 8-1 result in Honduras the following month.
They haven’t won in this part of the world since 2004.
Captain Julian de Guzman believes this result shows that Canada is no pushover playing in these tough conditions.
“For a lot of these guys, this is new for them. They’ve never experienced anything like this before. It’s an eye-opener,” said deGuzman, who moved ahead of former defender Paul Stalteri with his Canadian record-setting 85th appearance.
Denis Pineda had some early success operating down the left flank for El Salvador. He had the better of Karl Ouimette a few times and that led to El Salvador’s best chance of the first half.
In the 35th minute, Pineda beat Ouimette before carrying the ball into the middle towards goal. It ended up being played through on the right to Dustin Corea, who was through on goal but Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan raced off his line to cut down the angle and deflect the shot wide of the goal.
“I’m not happy with the chances our opponent created against us so we can say that we need to continue fighting a lot because we need to fix simple mistakes,” said head coach Benito Floro, who was pleased with his team overall.
“I consider it a good result and a good performance because we need to detect every time what is necessary to continue improving.”
Canada came back with a few chances late and had one opportunity go off the crossbar in the final five minutes.
In the 42nd minute, Larin rose for a cross that challenged El Salvador goalkeeper Henry Hernandez. It was a clean challenge with Larin getting his head to the ball first but it rattled off the crossbar and out.
With one of the last kicks of the first half, midfielder Will Johnson had a long range shot miss just high.
In a much more subdued second half with fewer chances, Corea had an opportunity to bring the home fans to their feet in the 54th minute when he cut in from the right ride and unleashed a fierce, curling left-footed effort from just outside the Canadian penalty area that Borjan got his hands to, forcing the ball out for a corner.