Goalkeeper Milan Borjan helps Canada earn scoreless tie in Panama

PANAMA CITY, Panama _ Goalkeeper Milan Borjan made several big saves Tuesday to help Canada tie Panama 0-0 in an international soccer friendly.

The Canadian men offered little in terms of attack other than a late surge that saw play in the Panama end. But a draw in the hostile confines of Central America represents progress for a Canadian side building for the future.

Panama was reduced to 10 men after Anibal Godoy was sent off for a second yellow in the 74th minute.

Canada currently languishes at a career-low No. 122. It stands 16th in CONCACAF, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean. Panama ranks 56th in the world and fourth in CONCACAF.

Canada’s best ranking was No. 40, achieved in December 1996. Its average ranking is 76 since the ratings began in August 1993.

On the plus side, Canada has only lost once this year (1-1-3) and that was a 1-0 defeat at the hands of third-ranked Colombia last month. Canada beat Jamaica 3-1 in Toronto in September to snap a 16-game winless slide that started prior to head coach Benito Floro and included a 10-game 959-minute scoring drought.

The other 2014 games were 1-1 ties with Bulgaria and Moldova.

Floro started a veteran midfield at Estadio Rommel Fernandez that included 31-year-old Atiba Hutchinson, 33-year-old Julian de Guzman, 35-year-old Patrice Bernier and 36-year-old Dwayne de Rosario.

Tosaint Ricketts started up front and was a lonely figure for much of the night, firing wide in second-half stoppage time.

The starting 11 included five MLS players: defender Karl W. Ouimette and midfielders Bernier and Issey Nakajima-Farran of the Montreal Impact and De Rosario and defender Doneil Henry of Toronto FC. Henry is actually owned by Cypriot club Apollon Limassol but remains on loan with Toronto in one of MLS’s murkier moves.

There were few decent chances in a choppy first half that saw American ref Christopher Penso call a lot of fouls. Gabriel Gomez, in his 100th appearance, shot high twice early on for Panama, who came on as the half progressed.

But Panama came close in the 31st minute. Borjan, who plays for Bulgarian side Ludogorets Razgrad, had to make a fine acrobatic save on a Godoy shot from outside the penalty box after he latched onto a clearing header.

Canada had problems keeping the ball under Panama pressure with Hutchinson receiving plenty of attention every time he got the ball.

Borjan had to make a pair of stops on a free kick in the 49th minute, although the offside flag went up on the play. He did it again in the 57th minute, pawing away a header from Luis Tejada on a free kick.

De Rosario, in his 79th appearance for his country, shot high and wide several times in the second half in rare Canadian attacks on goal.

Floro injected some youth in the midfield in the 6st minute, sending on 21-year-old Russell Teibert of the Vancouver Whitecaps and 22-year-old Jonathan Osorio of Toronto FC.

Striker Marcus Haber of England’s Crewe Alexandra and Toronto FC midfielder Kyle Bekker also saw action off the bench.

The wave of youth seemed to spark the visitors with several Canadian corners late in the game.

Still Panama goalie Jose Calderon had a quiet evening, although he did have to stop a long-range De Rosario free kick in the 75th minute that came straight at him.

Canada is 1-5-4 under Floro, having defeated Jamaica, lost to Colombia, Mauritania, Australia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia, and tied Panama, Mauritania, Bulgaria and Moldova.

Floro, whose coaching resume includes a stint at Real Madrid from 1992 to 1994 as well as teams in Spain, Ecuador, Japan, Mexico and Morocco, has downplayed results saying his emphasis right now continues to be teaching and getting the tactics and style of play right.

Canada lost 2-0 in Panama in World Cup qualifying in September 2012 just four days after beating the Panamanians 1-0 at Toronto’s BMO Field on a 77th-minute De Rosario goal.

Canada and Panama tied 0-0 at Denver in the 2013 Gold Cup, the last game before Floro took charge.

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