Milan Borjan soccer

By Jim Wilkie

Special to ISN

VANCOUVER — As bad as the 3-0 loss to Mexico looked at the end Friday night, it could have been far worse if it wasn’t for Milan Borjan.

Photo by Derek Cain Photography (ISN)

The Canadian goalkeeper was marvelous with a number of acrobatic diving saves in the first half to keep his team in the match against the far superior Mexicans in their CONCACAF World Cup qualifier at BC Place.

“It was good, the crowd gave me the power for that,” Borjan said of his performance in front of a Canadian national team record of 54,798 fans. “The teammates, the whole team played well, not just me. There were a couple of balls that they save me, I save them.  You know that’s teamwork.”

Borjan, 28, made nine saves, including seven in a superlative first half when Mexico turned up the pressure on Canada. He made diving saves off Hector Herrera, Andres Guardado and Miguel Layun through the first 30 minutes.

mex can soccer

Photo by Derek Cain Photography (ISN)

But Layun was given too much time on the left side before sending a cross that Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez headed into the left side of the net in the 31st minute.

Eight minutes later Chicharito took advantage of some sloppy play by Canada at midfield, sending Hirving Lozano down the right before he fired a shot to the upper right corner that froze Borjan.

After the game, Borjan remained positive despite another defensive giveaway in front of the box led to Jesus Corona’s 72nd-minute goal that made it 3-0. Mexico took advantage of Canada’s mistakes, and Borjan said his team will work on fixing them before Tuesday’s return match in Mexico City.

“It’s not disappointment, you’ve just got to put your head up and continue,” said Borjan, the clear choice for Man of the Match. “You lose a game, you win a game. It’s the first team that scored three goals on us in the last four years. They have a really good team, but we played really good.”

mex can 1

Photo by Derek Cain Photography (ISN)

It takes a special mindset to be a high-level goalkeeper. Borjan illustrates a strong mental toughness and positivity despite the enormous pressures of the position.

“That was amazing, his performance today,” Canadian defender Marcel de Jong said afterwards. “It’s good for a defence when you know there’s a player behind you like Milan in the goal. If one of the defenders makes a mistake then you know he’s there. It’s a big advantage for us that he’s in the goal and he’s doing well.”

In addition to his positive attitude and confidence, Borjan showed his leadership pulling all the players together for a huddle while the Mexico players were celebrating their first goal. De Jong said Borjan just reminded them it’s not over and to keep fighting.

“I pulled everybody together to get them going and to get them to concentrate not to fall down. That was the main thing to get the whole team together, because we’re a team, we’re one big family, ‘Red Family’ as they say (laughs),” Borjan said.

mexico soccer

Photo by Derek Cain Photography (ISN)

For all of Borjan’s heroics, however, he can’t do anything about scoring goals at the other end. Once again Les Rouges were done in by a lack of finish with Junior Hoilett, Cyle Larin and Atiba Hutchinson failing to capitalize on good opportunities in the first half.

“I think as a team we played a good game, we had a couple of good chances. It’s like always with Canada, a problem we cannot finish the last touch, score a goal,” Borjan said. “But I think we’re going to put our heads up and try and go and win the next game over there.”

team canada soccer

Photo by Derek Cain Photography (ISN)

On the plus side, Canada remains in second in Group A because Honduras and El Salvador played to a 2-2 draw Friday. Now the Canadians turn their focus on preparing for Tuesday night’s match in front of an intimidating pro-Mexico crowd at 100,000 capacity Estadio Azteca that will make BC Place’s record attendance look quaint.

Mexico is 5-0-1 and has outscored Canada 21-2 in six all-time meetings there, but the “Red Family” can count on Borjan to give it a boost.