The Canadians fought valiantly against a superior side, giving the Asian powerhouse a scare in the process.After a nervy and sloppy opening 45 minutes against Japan, Tony Fonseca's mish-mash Canadian side came out a completely different team in the second half of its 2-1 loss on Friday.
Yes, it should have been a much larger scoreline in favour of the Asian side, simply based on a number of defensive howlers and nervous turnovers committed by an unsettled Canuck back line in the opening half.
But whatever Fonseca said to his players at halftime seemed to work, as the Canadians took it to their highly regarded counterparts for large spells during the final 45 minutes. And if it wasn't for that perennial Canada-killer -- finishing, or lack thereof -- perhaps we'd be talking about a hard-fought draw rather than a narrow loss to the Japanese.
Here's three things that stood out during the match:
1. Borjan needs to settle down if he's going to be Canada's No.1
Goalkeeper Milan Borjan had a howler of a first half, consistently fumbling what should have been easy clearances.
It was his botched clearance that led directly to Japan's opening goal, and he followed that up with a number of poor decisions on crosses that proved dangerous for the opposition.
Like the rest of his teammates, Borjan played a calmer second half, but he still managed to get rounded by a Japanese attacker midway through the final period and was only saved by the side netting. His distribution and shot-stopping were good against Japan, as is to be expected given that those are his strengths.
However, the 25-year-old will need to overcome some lapses in decision-making if he is to be the successor to Lars Hirschfeld in Canada's starting XI.
2. Hutchinson is hands down Canada's best player
During that dreaded first half, Atiba Hutchinson looked to be the only player in a white jersey that deserved to be on the same pitch as the classy Japanese. His play both on and off the ball was well above standard compared to his teammates, and he was doing so while playing as an attacking midfielder.
In the second half, Hutchinson continued his great performance, although his teammates were more in step with the 30-year-old and he managed to parlay that into a number of good chances for the Canadians.
If Canada is going to do anything at this summer's Gold Cup, it will be because Hutchinson is leading the line against the rest of CONCACAF.
3. Canada's youth continues its trial by fire
In the aftermath of that 8-1 loss to Honduras last October, Canada has been testing out a lot of new, young talent as the program looks to take the next step and get itself back on a competitive level in CONCACAF.
On Friday, a couple of Canada's next generation players -- Randy Edwini-Bonsu and Kyle Bekker -- both made impressions against the Japanese, but for very different reasons.
Edwini-Bonsu, the young attacker who has been increasingly phased out of Eintracht Braunschweig's plans as the current season has progressed, was a handful for the Japanese defence. He used his pace and explosiveness to get down to the byline and serve in a number of dangerous crosses, and when he wasn't doing that he looked to cut in and take his defenders on.
Despite dwindling playing time in Germany, Edwini-Bonsu doesn't seem to lack for confidence, and his dynamic play versus the Japanese may have earned him a spot on the Gold Cup roster.
On the flip side, Bekker looked way out of his depth against the Asian powerhouse, losing possession frequently and not displaying the cool demeanour on the ball that has so many pencilling him in as the next Canadian MLS star.
To be fair to Bekker, Friday's game was against the toughest opposition he's ever seen, and in only his third full national team cap. Barely out of college, Bekker is still learning to be a full-time professional player, let alone an international-calibre midfielder, but if he wants to play in the Gold Cup this summer he'll need to shake off this poor performance, and fast.