Canada wins friendly over Honduras in Montreal
Simpson, McKenna score for Canadians in 2-1 win
The 14-month winless run is over for Canada's national soccer team.
Josh Simpson and Kevin McKenna scored in the first half as Canada ended a string of eight matches without a win with a rain-interrupted 2-1 victory over Honduras in a friendly match Tuesday night at Saputo Stadium.
The victory, which followed a 2-0 loss to Peru on Saturday in Toronto, was Canada's first since a win over El Salvador in July 2009 at the Gold Cup in the United States.
"The public wants to see us play to win and that's what we did," said midfielder Patrice Bernier. "We played well at the Gold Cup last year, but since then we've had a run of losses, so to finish this home camp with a victory is something."
Erick Norales scored for a quick-footed young Honduran side that was without scoring stars like Oscar Suazo and Wilson Palacios.
Simpson missed a second strike when he hit a post from just outside the goal area in the 79th minute, just after torrential rain accompanied by thunder and lightning began pelting the pitch. American referee Mark Geiger stopped the match in the 83rd minute.
After a roughly 30-minute delay, the rain abated somewhat and when play resumed, Canada had the best chance as Simeon Jackson tipped a shot over the bar.
A crowd of 7,535 in the 13,000-seat stadium — the largest turnout for a friendly in Montreal — was solidly behind the home side except for a knot of Honduras supporters in the south grandstand of a stadium in which only the seats on the north side are covered.
That was important for captain Paul Stalteri after playing in front of a mostly pro-Peru crowd in Toronto. And it was the reverse of what happened two years ago when Canada was beaten 2-1 by the Hondurans in Montreal in World Cup qualifying.
"If you go back two years, the boys were disappointed to see the stadium was a sea of blue and white when at home you need a sea of red and white," he said. "If the media criticizes the team for not winning at home well, we need to play in a home atmosphere."
Stalteri set a record with his 83rd national team appearance for Canada, passing former defender Randy Samuel's 82 caps and also had another first — he had never before played in a game interrupted by rain.
For Honduras coach Juan Castillo, it was a disappointing but not surprising result.
"We're trying out new young players," he said through a translator. "There were three key players in Europe that weren't playing, but we wanted to try out new players."
Canada had been outscored 14-1 in its previous seven matches, but managed to strike first in the 29th minute on a wild moment in the Honduran area. Simpson's shot from the left side was blocked by Noel Valladares, who then dove to tip Will Johnson's shot off the bar on the rebound.
Rob Friend went up for the header, but appeared to tip the ball with his right hand to Simpson, who chested the ball into the net. There was no call, and Victoria native Simpson had his first goal in 29 matches for Canada.
Five minutes later, Terry Dunfeld saw the yellow card for taking down Roger Espinoza, and a Mario Martinez free kick from beside the Canadian area was headed in on a vertical leap by Norales.
In the 42nd, Johnson's corner kick from the left side saw McKenna shake off his mark at the far post and place a header inside the near upright.
"They're a good counter-attacking team and I thought we did a good job of countering that," added Stalteri. "And when we conceded, we didn't drop our heads. I'm proud of the boys for that."
Canada, which has slipped to 101st in FIFA world rankings, won on home soil for the first time since beating St. Vincent and the Grenadines 4-1 on June 20, 2008 at Saputo Stadium.
Coach Stephen Hart had Stalteri, normally a right back, on the left side to replace Marcel De Jong, who injured a collarbone against Peru and returned to his club team Augsburg in Germany. Adam Straith played on the right side.
"I've played on the left before, just not in a while," said Stalteri.
After the loss in Toronto, Canada returned Dwayne De Rosario, Julian de Guzman and Nana Attakora to Toronto FC. New players in the starting 11 were defender Dejan Jakovic and midfielders Dunfield and local favourite Bernier.
Honduras dressed only three players from the team that bowed out with two losses and a draw without scoring a goal in the first round of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa — Valladares, defender Maynor Figueroa and midfielder Boniek Garcia.
Valladares was substituted at half time for Ricardo Canales. Friend came out for Issey Nakajima in the 75th minute and Dunfield, who had leg cramps, was replaced by Atiba Hitchinson.
Had the teams been unable to resume playing, the score would have been deemed official because they had played at least 75 minutes.
Canada's next match is a friendly on Oct. 8 against Ukraine in Kyiv.