|Honduras' Roger Espinoza (left) and Canada's Julian De Guzman battle for the ball during the first half of last night's World Cup qualifier at BMO Field. (Ernest Doroszuk/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - Before entering the third round of World Cup qualifying, Canada would have been thrilled with four points from its first two matches.
But after escaping Cuba with three points last week and bossing the Hondurans to a scoreless finish at BMO Field Tuesday night, the Reds missed a big opportunity to put significant distance between themselves and the rest of Group C.
"I think we should have come away with (three points) from the game," Canada head coach Stephen Hart said. "We didn't lose the game, which is important "¦ I think you have to get 12 points the way this group is shaping up."
With Panama on six points following a predictable win over Cuba, two points dropped at home means Canada faces a near must-win against the Panamanians at BMO Field in September if it hopes to avoid the daunting task of stealing points in Central America.
"I'm a little frustrated," Dwayne De Rosario said. "I thought the way we played was excellent. No one made any big mistakes and we created some great chances against a very tough team and the main thing is just putting the ball in the back of the net right now."
After failing to convert a pair of sure-bet chances last week in Havana, De Rosario provided Canada with its best opportunity on the half-hour mark after collecting a pass from Will Johnson with acres of space on the left. All alone with a single Honduran defender, De Rosario cut towards the centre of the box before putting his open look over the bar from 10 metres.
Despite looking out of sync throughout the opening half, the Hondurans had the game's best chance in the 40th minute when they produced a 4-on-3 against the run of play. Roger Espinoza picked out Oscar Garcia on the right edge of the penalty area before Antony Lozano skied his close-range effort off Garcia's cross over the goal to keep things level at the half.
It was the last quality chance the visitors would produce.
"I thought they'd be a little more adventurous," Hart said of Honduras, a side playing well below the standard it set at the 2010 World Cup. "Most of their chances were from way outside "¦ I didn't think they created as much as they would have liked.
Shouts for a penalty rained down from the 16,132 pro-Canadian crowd in the 52nd minute when Andre Hainault looked to have been pulled down on a corner, but Surinamese referee Enrico Wijngaarde swallowed his whistle.
Hart's decision to move Canada into a 4-1-4-1 system stymied a normally potent Honduran attack, which didn't threaten the Canadian goal for most of the second half. With Julian de Guzman patrolling in front of the back four, the central tandem of Will Johnson and Atiba Hutchinson were instrumental in Canada controlling the proceedings.
"Good performance from the midfield today," Hart said. "De Guzman was fantastic, (Hutchinson) moved the ball well and (Johnson) put in a lot of energy."
The Reds nearly took a deserved lead with 20 minutes remaining when David Edgar rose to meet a corner.
The Canadian right back's header missed just wide at the back post.
The Reds had a pair of chances deep in stoppage time to send the stadium into pandemonium. Kevin McKenna had an open header from a corner sail over the bar and Simeon Jackson missed a free header from two metres out seconds before the final whistle.
"Unfortunate I didn't get a good connection on it," Jackson said of his open look at the death. "We would have been in a better position. It's gone now and I just have to move on."
After dropping points at home to Panama last Friday, Honduras will be satisfied stealing a point on the road before back-to-back dates against the lowly Cubans.
Canada returns to BMO Field on Sept. 7 against Panama in need of maximum points if it hopes to progress to CONCACAF's final round of qualifying for the first time since 1998.