Canada and El Salvador both failed to take their opportunity of going top of Group B at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup on Wednesday when the two sides played to a 0-0 draw.
Earlier in the day, tournament favourites Costa Rica and Jamaica fought to a 2-2 result and left the door wide open for the two other teams in the group to take advantage. Neither team could find the breakthrough, leaving all four teams tied on points after the first round of games.
Orlando City SC forward Cyle Larin arguably had the chance of the game that he could not convert. In the 36th minute, the 20-year-old found himself in acres of space after the ball fell to him, rounded the Salvadoran goalkeeper Derby Carrillo and with a wide open net, skied the ball wide.
The opportunity for Canada to take the lead came from nothing as El Salvador dominated the tactical side of the game; one bounce off a throw-in and it could have been the Canadians who were in front.
While El Salvador enjoyed a handful more opportunities than their counterparts, Benito Floro’s side went for a much greater psychical approach, trying to grind their way to victory.
The physicality could be seen in the early going with a considerable amount of bodies hitting the deck.
Nelson Bonilla was twice stretchered off the pitch after a coming together that saw him get cleated in the face. After drawing blood, he was substituted out just 10 minutes into the game.
Bonilla’s replacement, Irving Herrera, came straight in and instantly became his team’s most threatening player on the ball. Herrera on more than one occasion isolated himself one-on-one with the Canadian defenders and fired several shots on net.
His best look on net came in the 25th minute when he found a pocket of space on the left side of Canada’s penalty area and fired a hard and low shot, only to be turned aside by Kenny Stamatopoulos.
Herrera continued to be the central figure in all El Salvador’s attacks; pressing hard and pinning Canada’s back line into their own half.
El Salvador pressed all game, but most notably came closest at the stroke of halftime. Richie Menjivar had a great individual run down the right flank, surpassing two Canadian defenders before cutting it back to Herrera at the top of the penalty area who had his shot blocked.
The pinball-like sequence continued when the ball hung in mid-air where Stamatopoulos misjudged it with a poor punching effort. Somehow, the Canadians escaped the play scratch free and held on to their clean sheet.
Heavy legs began to show in the latter stages of the second half after both sides exchanged efforts on net. The best chance came when Tosaint Ricketts attempted an overhead rolled with 10 minutes to go that came off the crossbar and into Carrillo’s arms.
Both teams will now travel to humid Houston Saturday at BBVA Compass Stadium. The co-host Canadians will entertain Jamaica while El Salvador try and salvage a result against Costa Rica.