We deserved to win.
There is no ambiguity. There is no “if only”. Yes, our finishing was wasteful, but it was also extraordinarily unlucky, with McKenna, Johnson, Simpson, and Hutchinson missing by those fractions of an inch that no human being can control. Finishing is often a matter of fortune as much as talent, and today fortune was not with us.
Javier Aguirre, meanwhile, refereed the match and is now a first-ballot Benito Archundia Hall-of-Famer. Supporters greeted his appointment as match official with horror after he turned the Mexico – Panama group match into one of the most ridiculous games ever witnessed on a pitch, and our scepticism turned out to be justified. I don’t think he was on the take. This wasn’t a fix, this was just utter ineptitude of the sort that shakes nations. A cynic would point out that Aguirre is Salvadoran and had an axe to grind against Canada, but I doubt that was the issue.
We saw it between Mexico and Panama, and we saw it again. Aguirre is just an idiot.
The penalty was bogus, of course. Yes, Stalteri and Martinez were hand-jostling, with each getting a piece of each other for intervals. Stalteri was no more guilty than Martinez was and, frankly, Martinez wasn’t guilty at all: such jockeying is an accepted part of the game, appeared many more times in the match whenever Canada slung a cross or a corner into the Honduran area, and is legal. The ball did not strike Stalteri’s hand, either. it was a ridiculous decision and one that Aguirre, who was forty to fifty yards behind the play on account of poor positioning or poor conditioning, was in no position to call.
I was a defender for almost every match of my footballing career, so I may have a bit of a bias here. But, frankly, if I got a call like the one Stalteri took, I would not have ended up with just a yellow card. I would have blacked out and come to thirty minutes later surrounded by shocked teammates and with my hands covered in blood. They would use up all the ink in the universe to write out the number of games I should be suspended for.
Aguirre was the story. He was not biased towards Honduras, he was just an idiot. Canada got a foul out of a flagrant dive by Will Johnson that probably got him an honourary Honduran passport. Being scumbags with greased boots, the Hondurans dived much more and were rewarded for their dishonestly accordingly. Moreover, late in the match, a Honduran whose name eludes me dove spectacularly even for a Honduran. He rolled around on the ground and cried and clutched every one of his limbs. Play went on, with Honduras initially on the attack before giving the ball up. Canada went the other way. This took about a minute and a half, before Aguirre whistled the play dead.
There’s no provision for a referee to do that! It was the most bizarre decision since an MLS referee decided that the away team needed a water break. Canada had uncontested possession and was starting a build up, and suddenly tweet, this Honduran needs his mommy. A drop ball was then awarded – in short, Canada was stripped of possession because of an uncalled dive over a minute before. You’re not going to believe this, but a dash of the magic spray and the Honduran turned out to be absolutely fine.
At least with the penalty, there’s an entry in the Laws of the Game saying “if there’s a foul or hand ball in the box, it’s a penalty”. That decision by Aguirre was a complete non-sequitur.
Canada bossed Honduras by at least as much as they slapped Jamaica around in Carson. But in Carson we had the American referee Terry Vaughn, and in Philadelphia we had this jackass. And that’s your game.