As recently as October 2012, Canada was a team seemingly moving steadily forward in CONCACAF. It was in a tough group in World Cup Qualifying - battling Honduras, Panama, and Cuba (seeded above Canada and Los Canaleros at that moment) to win through to CONCACAF's Hexagonal: the final phase of regional qualifiers for the 2014 Brazil tournament.
It was a closely contested group. Canada dropped points at home - in a 0-0 draw with Honduras - but also didn't concede any goals in the three games played on its own turf. The team traveled to Honduras for the final game of the group needing just a point to be guaranteed a place in the Hex.
It didn't happen. Los Catrachos, in danger of missing out on the final round of qualifying, demolished the visiting Canadians, 8-1. Canada missed out on the Hex - and a shot at a World Cup berth - by an agonizingly narrow margin courtesy of a devastatingly heavy defeat.
Still, as Honduras demonstrated during the Hex that followed, good teams will lose to the home side in San Pedro Sula. It is a tough place to play for a visiting team, and Los Catrachos turned that home advantage into the points that carried it to third place in the Hexagonal and a place at the 2014 World Cup. Meanwhile, Canada imploded.
The loss to Honduras was demoralizing, but perhaps not so much so that it can excuse a national soccer federation effectively taking a year off - but that is what the Canada Soccer Association decided it would do with its men's national team. After a few months of sulking, the CSA appointed Colin Miller interim head coach as a stop-gap replacement for Stephen Hart. Miller was briefly succeeded by Tony Fonseca, then picked up the reins again to lead the team into the 2013 Gold Cup - for which it had qualified automatically. An under-cooked Canada team was bounced out of the tournament in the group stage without scoring a goal.
In August 2013 - about 10 months after the humiliation in Honduras - Canada finally found a head coach to push the team toward preparing for the next World Cup cycle: Benito Floro.
You see the problem? The 8-1 defeat to Honduras was devastating because Canada wasn't that bad a team in 2012. It battled and scrapped to a reasonable shot of at least making the Hex. Only after losing to Honduras did the CSA seem to focus its attention on making sure the men's national team was as thoroughly terrible as it could possibly be. The Canada Men's National Team won no games (of 13 played) in 2013, and just one (of only five played) in 2014.
In 2015, it has a creditable record: five wins, five draws and only two losses to date. But the team was bounced out of the Gold Cup without scoring again in 2015. And those five wins include two over Dominica. The other three opponents to lose to Canada this year are Guatemala, Puerto Rico, and Belize. None of these teams can be reasonably considered as good as Honduras or Mexico: the two teams expected to advance to the next Hexagonal from Canada's group in the current round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
So this match against Honduras is huge for Canada. It is particularly important to win your home games in a four-team group from which the top two will advance: there isn't much opportunity to recover lost points. It is also the opponent that consigned Canada to long and lonely spell in international soccer's wilderness. If there was anything to be gained from experience of 2012, it was squandered during the almost year-long search for a coach to lead the next qualifying campaign. That coach - Benito Floro - now has the enviable task of not only avenging the wounds inflicted in Canadian soccer by Honduras three years ago, but also finding some way to steer the national program away from its self-destructive tendencies, should this campaign end in the same manner as the last.
When these teams met in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, they played to a 0-0 draw in Canada. Floro's first job is to try to better that result.
Reason for optimism can be found in the fact Honduras hasn't been particularly good for quite some time: just three wins in 16 games played so far this year, and that record follows a dismal three-losses-and-out 2014 World Cup. But Los Catrachos have acquired the services of the coach who led Costa Rica to the quarterfinals in Brazil: Jorge Luis Pinto. And the squad contains some exciting young players - Anthony Lozano and Romell Quioto - to add to familiar faces such as Noel Valladares, Jerry Bengtson, Oscar Boniek Garcia, and Maynor Figueroa. At some point, Pinto may fashion Honduras into a good team again. But it doesn't look much like a good team at the moment. Canada's best chance for success lies in its opponent's current low ebb.