Canada ousts Puerto Rico from World Cup qualifying
Canada drew Puerto Rico 0-0 in World Cup qualifying play Tuesday night, a result that drew boos from the home crowd and eliminated the 145th-ranked Puerto Ricans from advancing.
Canada (3-0-1) remains in the driving seat in CONCACAF's Group D but, in an unconvincing performance against lesser opposition, showed little of the bite up front that led to a record goal haul in Friday's 7-0 win in St. Lucia.
And Canadian 'keeper Lars Hirschfeld was forced to make a big save off Andres Perez in the 84th minute to preserve the tie.
Canada, ranked 87th in the world, came into the game with three straight qualifying wins, having outscored its modest opposition 14-1 in the second round of qualifying in the CONCACAF region.
The Canadians wrap up the round next month with home-and-away games with No. 123 St. Kitts and Nevis, which hosted No. 185 St. Lucia in a later kickoff Tuesday
Only the winner of the four-country group advances to the next stage of qualifying in North and Central America and the Caribbean.
Puerto Rico (0-1-3) needed a win to stay alive but seemed content to defend in numbers and counter-attack before 12,178 at BMO Field.
After an uninspired first half, the Canadians looked to turn up the heat.
Simeon Jackson forced a reflex save by Puerto Rico goalie Brandon Saldana in the 55th minute as he cut in towards goal.
Saldana was up to the task again in the 65th, denying Josh Simpson from point-blank range after an errant backpass. Jackson then shot high in the 69th.
Saldana smothered the ball ahead of onrushing substitute Tosaint Ricketts in the 81st.
Coach Stephen Hart made three changes from the team that walloped St. Lucia, bringing in Hirschfeld and midfielders Terry Dunfield and Simpson for Kenny Stamatopoulos, Will Johnson and Olivier Occean.
It was 0-0 after a benign first half that saw Canada unable to convert its domination in possession into chances, let alone goals. Too often, the Canadians tried to unlock the Puerto Rican defence with a low percentage pass.
Canada outshot Puerto Rico 6-1 (2-0 in shots on target) in the first half.
The visitors proved hard to break down in the early going, with Perez shielding a four-man backline and four midfielders also ready to defend in front of him.
Canada's first chance came in the fifth minute when Dwayne De Rosario dropped a beautiful pass behind a defender, only to have Iain Hume bang it wide.
A wayward bicycle kick off a corner in the 19th minute was about all Puerto Rico could muster in return. But the visitors looked to support lone striker Hector Ramos when they had the ball.
A foul by Canada saved Saldana's blushes in the 26th minute when he fumbled a corner and the ball trickled towards an anxious teammate on the goal-line.
With Johnson nursing an ankle injury, Canada could only put out a depleted six-man bench and Hart was forced to go to it early, bringing on Occean in the 34th minute for an injured Hume.
Canada was a 3-0 winner in Puerto Rico on Sept. 6.