Canada suffers early blow as crucial match against El Tri comes to life

Canada coach Benito Floro, whose team took home a dominating 3-0 win over Mexico on Friday, said the players showered in ski goggles and romped in the snow in their hotel rooms during the warm-up days leading up to the match.

Edmonton-born Canadian midfielder Milan Borjan was part of the team that finished second in the CONCACAF Hexagonal standings but will not advance to the World Cup final round if Costa Rica defeats Panama in a qualifying match on Sunday.

Marcel de Jong and Mark-Anthony Kaye scored the goals against Mexico which came the day after Steve Caldwell and Victor Cabrera were sentenced to six months in prison for giving Canadians citizenship in exchange for bribes.

Rene Higuita, a former coach for Jamaica, is a suspect, and his trial date is unknown.

It’s the first time since 2006 that Canada advanced past the round of six in CONCACAF qualifying. The United States, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago made the Final Round.

In a match overshadowed by the charges that led to a verdict of conspiracy against Caldwell and Cabrera, Canada beat the Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder in its opening group game at Saputo Stadium.

The game would have lost its luster if Higuita had not gone to jail and U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard had not misplayed a ball in the air at the end of regulation time that allowed De Jong to score the tiebreaker in the first extra session.

Despite the cheers of a healthy crowd that saw the home team race to a 3-0 lead in the first 45 minutes, Canada was not out of the woods yet.

The thought began to creep into some minds that El Tri may pull off the upset and that whatever hockey Canada does in the Olympics may never live up to the men’s game.

But such ideas soon became crazy as Borjan put his shot on goal before Higuita could make a save and Kaye fired in the rebound to make it 2-0.

Borjan took part in the match, but was not a starter and was active only in extra time.

“It was a challenge from my team that I would respect,” Borjan said. “At the end it was good for me to be on the field. I kept pace and I was tired in the end but it was OK.”

When de Jong stepped up to score his goal, fans tossed team T-shirts on the field.

De Jong scored with a shot that deflected in off Higuita.

“It was just a case of lucky to score a goal in this moment,” de Jong said. “It’s great for the Canadian team and the people back home.

“I was having a difficult time scoring but in the end it goes in and it’s a great feeling.”

In the second game, the U.S. can put the World Cup-final round one win away from being crowned champions of the region when it takes on Panama on Sunday in Seattle. Panama beat the United States 1-0 on Oct. 10 and has gone unbeaten in six matches.

Costa Rica is 11 points behind the United States and eight behind Panama. The top three teams in the 10-team CONCACAF group, plus the country with the best winning percentage among the eight playoff nations, qualify for the World Cup.

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