There’s no chance that my 2012 self would believe what just happened. Heck, the 2019 version of me can barely wrap his head around it. And yet here we are, my friends. Here we are. In last week’s column, I jumped in the wayback machine to regale my younger, more handsome self with seemingly unbelievable stories of how much the men’s national team landscape has changed in a mere seven years. Of course, I didn’t go so far as to say we were now living in an age when Canada actually defeats the United States in soccer because, well, that’s something we hadn’t done in decades. Then along came that momentous 2-0 win in CONCACAF Nations League play on Tuesday night. Canada has yearned desperately for a trademark win for as long as any of us can remember; well, this just might have been it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to sit around and wait for the 2026 version of me to arrive in a time machine and tell me just how far this all goes.
Are we in the Hex now?

Given the preposterous qualifying format that CONCACAF has decided to use for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, this U.S. game was basically a make-or-break moment for our chances of making the Hexagonal round, a.k.a. the Hex, a.k.a. the final round of six that we haven’t seen in 20 years. Now, the whole “how the FIFA rankings work” thing has been a blind spot for me for a while now. Winning is good, losing is less good; that much I know. But, the arcane mechanism by which FIFA assigns point values to each result — not so much. So I turned to my extremely knowledgeable and good-looking Twitter following for insight after the big win… and the results were decidedly mixed. According to them, we might now be in CONCACAF’s top six (that’s good), but things don’t really count until June 2020 (that’s bad). A win against the heavily favoured U.S. was worth a good chunk of points (that’s good), but our fate is still largely out of our hands (that’s bad). Ugh. Can I go and get some frogurt now?
What was Liam Fraser thinking?

Normally that question suggests I’m second-guessing a boneheaded, on-field indiscretion, and although Fraser did have a petulant kick-out at Weston McKennie, that’s not what I’m referring to. What I mean here is: just what could have been coursing through the 21-year-old’s mind, thrust into his first national-team cap in such a big situation just minutes into the game? Moreover, could one even articulate what a confidence boost it must have been for him to step right up and play such a decisive part in the outcome? Exhilarating stuff.
Speaking of which, what’s the prognosis for Mark-Anthony Kaye?

By the time you read this, we may know how things look for Kaye, whose early-game exit paved the way for Fraser’s arrival. The hope, of course, is that it was a mild hamstring strain that won’t see him miss a significant chunk of action for club or country, especially given the injury setbacks he’s already had to overcome. Canada meets the U.S. again in just under a month. Kaye is surely part of the plans. But will his hamstring oblige?
Was this Samuel Piette’s defining performance for Canada?

Totally subjective question, but I’m leaning towards “yes”. You are too? Cool, let’s move on.
Has Canada’s full back conundrum been solved?

The national team’s fullback positions have seen their fair share of churn in the past few years. But is it too early to dream that maybe Canada’s prayers have been doubly answered along the defensive line? Kamal Miller, making just his third appearance for the national team, was a revelation at left back, while Richie Laryea — whose career has been revitalized this year with Toronto FC — was tireless along the right in what was also his third Canada cap. To answer my own question: it’s waaaaaaay too early. Slumps happen, injuries happen, competition happens and yeah, both players are still extremely inexperienced by the standard of international football. Even so, on a night when every player in red could stand up and be counted, it was nice to not have to fret about what was happening at fullback.
What to do with Doneil?

Speaking of people who’ve been through the “is he a fullback for Canada?” wringer over the last few years, Doneil Henry was with the team, despite being suspended for the match. Presumably this was so John Herdman could familiarize him with the team’s system, in anticipation of him returning to the fold on Nov. 15. But if that’s the case, who do you take out? Derek Cornelius and Steven Vitoria looked solid together on Tuesday; do you change a good thing for the sake of the pre-existing familiarity that Cornelius and Henry have? Or does Herdman roll with what’s worked?
Was it Davies or David who scored?

As long as some member of TEAM DAVID (which may or may not stick as a collective moniker for Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David, we’ll see) is potting goals, life is good. But am I alone in thinking it may have actually been David, on the follow-up, who got Canada’s first goal? Davies got the shot, but American goalkeeper Zach Steffen may have swatted it off the goal line; it’s nearly impossible to tell with available replays. David was there to a moment later just to make sure Canada had the 1-0 lead. It may not seem like a super big deal, but considering we could see J-Dave break the Canadian scoring record in a few years’ time, it all adds up quickly.
Did John Herdman silence his critics?

Every head coach has both fans and critics, the proportions of which fluctuate based on results. And yeah, Herdman has amassed his share of skeptics in eight years with Canada Soccer for different reasons, among them the curious circumstances surrounding his transition from the women’s national team to the men’s side. But while one result never proves anything, you need to be an especially stubborn brand of skeptic to not give Herdman his due for that victory. Sure, he’s been blessed with a level of talent that previous managers could have only dreamed about. But he also drilled into them a plan solid enough that, when a key contributor went down in the first 10 minutes, a rookie could fill in without the squad missing a beat. Have you ever seen a version of the men’s national team play with such ferocity and purpose for 90 minutes? Or celebrate with one another in the passionate manner that those kids did on Tuesday night? I haven’t — and I’d have to imagine that Herdman’s well-documented emphasis on the psychological side of the game had a little something to do with it. This isn’t a permanent free pass for him, or for any of the players. But above all I wonder, at a moment in time when Canadians are eyeing one another with troubling levels of skepticism, can we not just take a moment to appreciate one of our national teams coming together, fully and completely, to do something magical and just… y’know… smile?

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