Canada snap winless streak, top Honduras 2-1
MONTREAL – Canada made Kevin McKenna’s late first-half strike stand to beat Honduras 2-1 Tuesday at Stade Saputo. The victory snapped an eight-match winless streak for the Canadians in a game delayed by heavy rain and lightning strikes.
The win improved Canada’s all-time record against los Catrachos to 6-9-4 and was their first since beating El Salvador last summer in the group stage of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Josh Simpson also scored for Canada, while Erick Norales replied for Honduras before a marginally pro-Canada crowd of 7,525 at the future home of Montreal’s MLS expansion club.
The nasty weather in the second half forced American referee Mark Geiger to temporarily suspend play in the 83rd minute. When play resumed after a 30-minute delay, Canada held on to record their first home win since a 4-1 result over St. Vincent and the Grenadines in a preliminary round World Cup qualifier in the same stadium in June 2008.
Ironically, Tuesday's result came exactly two years plus a day after a key World Cup qualifier between the two nations that saw Honduras rally in the second half to win 2-1. That result, also at Stade Saputo, helped propel Honduras to the Hexagonal and put the death knell in Canada’s World Cup qualifying hopes.
The measure of revenge was not the only feel-good moment for Canadian soccer, as captain Paul Stalteri earned his 83rd international cap to break defender Randy Samuel’s all-time Canadian mark.
After an uneventful first 30 minutes, both teams had chances towards halftime.
Canada, coming off a disappointing 2-0 loss to Peru last Saturday in Toronto, opened the scoring in the 29th minute on a bizarre sequence that Josh Simpson started and finished.
Honduras goalkeeper Noel Valladares saved Josh Simpson’s initial shot from up the middle. Real Salt Lake midfielder Will Johnson took the rebound and sent a shot that Valladares tipped off the crossbar. Rob Friend jumped to head the ball, but it went off his upper arm to Simpson, who chested the ball into the net.
The goal was Canada’s first since a 1-1 tie with Venezuela on May 29 at Mérida, Venezuela, and the first at home since a 2-2 draw against Mexico in a World Cup qualifier at Edmonton on Oct. 15, 2008.
Norales scuttled any momentum when he leveled for the Catrachos in the 34th minute. The Honduran defender outjumped a defender and got a head onto a Mario Martínez free kick from the right sideline.
McKenna restored Canada’s lead eight minutes later on a set play when he came onto a Johnson corner kick to head it to the far post past Valladares. Simpson, the Man of the Match, almost added insurance when he hit the post in the 80th minute.
Shortly after, the skies opened up sending both teams to their locker rooms.
Honduras, who beat Central American rivals El Salvador on penalties last Saturday in Los Angeles, had Canada’s number of late, winning twice in World Cup qualifying in 2008 and then again in the quarterfinals of the 2009 Gold Cup.
But the Catrachos, with only five players from the 2010 World Cup squad, couldn’t find the equalizer after the break, sending new coach Juan de Dios Castillo to his first loss.
Canada will next face Euro 2012 co-host Ukraine in Kiev on Oct. 8, while Honduras will travel to New Zealand to take on the All Whites on Oct. 10.