El Salvador has been eliminated from World Cup qualifying after its loss to Mexico in the last round of games, but Canada still has hope of making it to the final and decisive round of CONCACAF qualifying for Russia 2018. Slender hope, but hope nonetheless.
Last week's loss to Honduras took qualification out of Canada's hands. It must beat El Salvador in this game, but it also needs a few things to go right in the match between Mexico and Honduras. First, it needs Mexico to win that game. Second, it needs a little help overturning the tiebreakers advantage currently held by Los Catrachos over Canada.
If Canada wins this game and Honduras loses to El Tri (both expected results), then the team placed second in Group A will be decided by tiebreakers. Currently, those tiebreakers favor Honduras: five goals better than Canada on goal difference and four goals better on goals scored. But if results were to go Canada's way, then the goal difference, at least, might swing its way too.
That is Canada's hope of going any further in World Cup qualification: beat El Salvador, see Mexico beat Honduras, and have the five-goal difference between itself and Los Catrachos overturned along the way.
If goal difference between Honduras and Canada is tied (and they are also tied on points, of course), then the second tiebreaker is goals scored. Lagging four goals behind Los Catrachos, the Canadians have a lot of work to win that tiebreaker, but it is why they are well advised to seek to score as many as possible against El Salvador. A 1-0 win won't do, not unless Mexico is thrashing Honduras. (And since the games kick off simultaneously, it will be hard to discern what is happening over in Azteca and frantically try to adjust tactics mid-match.)
If Canada somehow manages to tie Honduras on both points, goal difference and goals scored, then it is in a good place: the next set of tiebreakers are head-to-head results between the two tied teams, and the Canadians have the edge because they have an away goal against Los Catrachos.
The New York Red Bulls' Karl Ouimette (currently on loan to Jacksonville Armada) is unlikely to play in this game. But he is in the squad, and can be expected to be in contention for future internationals if he can find the right club situation to showcase his skills.
Curiously, the El Salvador team might be of greater interest to RBNY fans. The squad includes players from Alianza, one of the Red Bulls' opponents in CONCACAF Champions League. And one of those players, Alexander Larin, gave his country hope of progressing to the Hex with a perfect Panenka penalty against Mexico last week.
The lead didn't last, Mexico powered past El Salvador, but Larin's dead-ball skill continues to attract attention. RBNY fans will recall the goal he scored in CCL to put his team up against the Red Bulls.
El Salvador doesn't seem to be the sort of team Canada can expect to beat 5-0. And any time Larin gets a set-piece opportunity, Canadian fans should be concerned.