Memory of Canada's crushing loss to Honduras in 2012 World Cup qualifier still haunts players

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The Canadian men’s soccer team heads to Honduras to take on Los Catrachos on Thursday in a crucial CONCACAF World Cup qualifying match in San Pedro Sula. 

Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano seats only about 38,000 spectators, and would never be mistaken as one of world soccer’s most luxurious venues. But when filled to capacity, such is the intensity of the crowd that it is a boiling cauldron, making it one of the most intimidating places for visiting teams to play in in the CONCACAF region. 

Canada knows this all too well, having suffered a humiliating 8-1 loss to Honduras in a World Cup qualifier on Oct. 16, 2012 in San Pedro Sula. The Canadian team has since returned to the Metropolitano, and only three members of Canada’s current side — Atiba Hutchinson, Milan Borjan and Lucas Cavallini — were in the squad for that humbling defeat.  

A lot has changed for Canada’s men’s team, and this week’s visit to San Pedro Sula shouldn’t play out like the infamous match from almost a decade ago. For one, Canada currently tops the CONCACAF qualifying table, while Honduras is in last place. But for some who were involved in that game it’s hard to forget, even in retirement. 

Former defender David Edgar, who earned 42 caps from 2011 to 2019, was in Canada’s starting lineup that day and played the full 90 minutes. Currently an assistant coach with Forge FC of the Canadian Premier League, Edgar admits he’s blocked out most of his memories of that humbling loss. 

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“Honestly, the lasting memory I have of that day wasn’t the game itself, but of afterwards and how I felt like going into hiding,” Edgar told CBC Sports. “When we flew back to Canada and landed, after I got home, the highlights of all eight goals were being played on TV, and I remember thinking that was the lowest point for me.

“I was in my hometown as I watched, and it felt like we were being laughed at. It really hurt.”

Ex-midfielder Terry Dunfield, an unused substitute in the match, admitted he’s never really talked about Canada’s embarrassing showing against Honduras because the pain still lingers to this day. 

“It was surreal. It was difficult to watch. You’re on the sidelines and you’re hurting like everybody else on the pitch,” said Dunfield, who played 14 times for Canada from 2010 to 2015. “Every time they scored, all of us on the bench felt the pain. It was like we were taking the hit, too. It hurt. The pain was real. I was gutted for everyone.”

Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. (Associated Press)

Confidence was high

Canada needed only a draw in that match to advance to ‘The Hex,’ the final round of World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF, while Honduras faced a must-win situation. Although the Canadians were missing dangerous attacker Dwayne De Rosario because of injury, confidence was still high within the squad, and the team got off to a promising start with Tosaint Ricketts nearly scoring just after the opening kickoff. 

But the hosts responded by taking the lead in the seventh minute when Canada’s Kevin McKenna and Andre Hainault failed to clear a bouncing ball inside their penalty area. Honduras forward Jerry Bengtson took full advantage, cutting between the pair of defenders before poking it past goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld. 

At that moment of the first goal, it felt like all 40,000 fans came stampeding down the stands towards us. The stadium just went nuts. I had never experienced anything that loud before in my career.– Canadian player Terry Dunfield

Simeon Jackson nearly equalized minutes later, only for his shot to hit the post and goalkeeper Donis Escobar to save Ricketts’ rebound attempt. Again, Canada paid for its wastefulness in the 16th minute as an unmarked Bengston scored a tap-in on rebound at the far post.  

“We had those two great scoring opportunities early on, and we didn’t take them. I remember thinking that was huge because all we needed was a point,” Dunfield said. “But we didn’t have much time to dwell on the missed chances because before you knew it the ball was in the back of our net.

“At that moment of the first goal, it felt like all 40,000 fans came stampeding down the stands towards us. The stadium just went nuts. I had never experienced anything that loud before in my career.”

Edgar recalled: “The first five minutes, things could have gone so differently for us. … Even now, I can’t really put my finger on what happened. It just went from bad to worse.” 

Indeed, it was going to get much worse for the Canadians. Carlo Costly made it 3-0 in the 28th minute on a diving header. Four minutes later, Mario Martinez stroked the ball home to cap off a sweeping attacking sequence to give Honduras a four-goal lead. The game, in essence, was over. 

“We go into the locker room at halftime, and we’re down 4-0. I remember it was very quiet and I kinda piped up, and said, ‘Come on, boys. Let’s go, we got this.’ And I got a few funny looks, like ‘Come on, man. Sit down,’ Dunfield said, chuckling at the memory. “It was clear that it was slipping out of our hands.” 

A Honduras supporter, one of 38,000 fans who can make Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano a difficult venue for visiting teams to play in. (AFP via Getty Images)

Bloodletting continued

The bloodletting continued early in the second half, as Honduras scored two more goals to make it 6-0 after 56 minutes.

“There’s no other way to describe it than to say I wanted the ground to open and swallow me up,” Edgar said. “As each goal goes in, you just think it can’t be real. You want off the field, you just want to wake up because that couldn’t have been real. That’s what went through my mind.”

Second-half substitute Iain Hume broke up Honduras’ bid for a shutout when he scored on a free kick to put Canada on the board. But any consolation the Canadian team looked to take from the game was snuffed out in the final minutes when Bengston and Costly both scored to register hat tricks and complete the rout. It was the men’s team’s second-worst defeat in history, topped only by an 8-0 road loss to Mexico in 1993. 

Canada was officially eliminated from World Cup qualifying, and coach Stephen Hart stepped down the next day. It was an eerily quiet plane ride home afterwards.  

“There wasn’t much said. Nobody knew what to say,” Edgar said. 

“We were like zombies at the airport,” Dunfield said. “We just walked around in a daze. It was like we were all waiting to wake up. That’s the best way I can describe it.” 

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