The controversy in Ottawa this week is distracting Canadian soccer fans from what will mark John Herdman’s competitive debut as manager of the men’s national team. That’s maybe for the best, as the first game is hardly a page turner. The US Virgin Islands haven’t played a game since 2016 and have been outscored 14-0 in the last two games they played.
USVI has won five games in its history, three of which have come against the British Virgin Islands in what I do hope is called the Virgin Derby.
They do not have a single professional on the roster. The highest level any of the players are at would be either Marshall University or the NPSL’s Dallas City.
This is arguably the weakest team Canada has ever faced in its history. It’s no hyperbole to suggest that you could field a stronger side by taking to top players from Toronto’s TSSL. Hell, you might not even need to take the top ones.
The weakness of the match-up is likely why John Herdman is lukewarm about the CONCACAF Nations League. It’s hard to see what Canada gains from playing this game. And, this is not time for the peanut gallery to chime in about how you can’t take anything for granted and any team can upset another, etc. That’s not actually true. The gap is that large. The only question will be how big the victory is.
However, it would be wrong to dismiss the Nations League’s importance based on this game. Even if Canada somehow completely bottles this classification period they still won’t be anywhere close to playing these types of teams again. This is the one and only match up they’ll get with the absolute bottom of CONCACAF. The worse shape Canada will realistically be in next year is in Group B, which will be against the Saint Kitts and Nevis and Guadeloupes of the world.
Best case is a home and home with the US or Mexico next year. That’s a realistic outcome as the top 12 nations will be in league A. Even after 8-1, Canada was still in the top 12.
Most people understand how important it will be to blood the young Canadian players in Central America and the Nations League provides the opportunity to do just that. San Pedro Sula? Bring it. Please.
Beyond Canada, the Nations League will also help countries like the US Virgin Islands by simply giving them games. Once they settle into the bottom group they’ll play competitive games against competition that is suited for them. The hope is that they’ll improve to the point where if there is a next time that Canada has to play them there might actually be a slight chance of the upset.
That’s probably a while away, but it’s nice to see CONCACAF addressing this issue, which has been around for a long time. The truth is they aren’t asking the bigger nations to sacrifice much. The US and Mexico will still have plenty of windows available to book glamor friendlies (and will probably get a competitive game against each other in the Nations League every year). Basically, everyone wins.
So, sit back and enjoy a rare stress free game involving Canada on Sunday. Bet the over.