NEWS
11/12/2015 13:28 EST | Updated 11/12/2016 00:12 EST

'It hurt us a lot': Canada gets another shot at Honduras in World Cup qualifying

VANCOUVER — More than three years on, the stench of the loss still lingers.

The Canadian men's soccer team travelled to Honduras in October 2012 needing only a draw to make the final round of qualifying for the World Cup in Brazil, but instead suffered an embarrassing 8-1 beating that crushed their hopes of making the tournament for the first time since the country's only appearance in 1986.

"It's something that I know a lot of us have been thinking about," midfielder Atiba Hutchinson said this week. "It hurt us a lot."

Canada has an opportunity to avenge that defeat when it opens the penultimate CONCACAF qualifying round for the 2018 World Cup against Honduras on Friday, the first match between the nations since the horror show in San Pedro Sula.

"It's a new team, a different situation," said midfielder Julian de Guzman, who like Hutchinson was on the field for the Honduran debacle. "It's also another way of forgetting that result."

But while the stunning rout got most of the attention, what really sealed Canada's fate at this stage last time around were dropped points at home in a 0-0 tie with Honduras in Toronto. Had the Canadians won that game, the outcome four months later at Estadio Olimpico Metropolitan would have been meaningless.

It's a lesson the players learned the hard way.

"Home games are very crucial for us," said de Guzman. "The last World Cup cycle, that's what killed us."

Will Johnson added that although winning in Vancouver ahead of a road game against El Salvador on Tuesday is vital, Canada is more capable of getting road results under head coach Benito Floro, who replaced Stephen Hart after the last failed qualifying campaign.

"You want to get the points in the bag as early as possible," said the midfielder. "History says (Friday) is a 'must-win' compared to how Canadian teams have done, but we've also started to turn the corner a little bit and feel confident competing on the road. So it's an 'almost must-win.'"

Part of that quiet swagger comes from a renewed attack that includes David (Junior) Hoilett — who only recently committed to play for Canada — and Major League Soccer rookie of the year Cyle Larin.

Scoring has been the biggest issue in recent qualifying campaigns and it's hoped that Hoilett, an attacking winger who plays for Queens Park Rangers in England's second tier, and Larin, a striker coming off a record-setting 17-goal season for Orlando City SC, can find the mark.

"It gives us a different dynamic, especially with Junior coming into the team," said Hutchinson. "He brings a lot going forward. He's the type of player that likes to get the ball and go at players and create chances."

Among the 12 countries left standing in the qualifying region that covers North and Central America and the Caribbean, Canada is ranked 102nd by FIFA and is in one of three four-team groups along with No. 24 Mexico, No. 94 El Salvador and No. 95 Honduras. The two best teams in each round-robin pool advance to the final round of qualifying, with the top three getting places at the World Cup, while the fourth has to face an Asian country in a two-game playoff.

After the games on Friday and Tuesday, Canada plays Mexico home and away in March before visiting Honduras and hosting El Salvador in September.

Johnson, Hutchinson and de Guzman are among only seven players on the current Canadian roster who experienced the heartache in Honduras three years ago, and they're eager to move forward with a positive result on Friday to give this World Cup push a big boost.

"We are a new team," said Johnson. "We have a new identity and we're ready to hopefully compete on a more even basis with teams like Honduras and other teams that consistently make World Cups."

Notes: Canada is 6-7-9 with Floro in charge, a record that includes aggregate qualifying wins over Belize (4-1) and Dominica (6-0). ... Canada is 6-10-5 all-time against Honduras, but just 1-5-3 since a 2-1 win 15 years ago in Winnipeg.

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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press