Canada coach defends West Ham youngster Doneil Henry from criticism

West Ham Upton Park

The 22-year-old's display at right-back in Friday night's 3-0 World Cup qualifying defeat to Mexico was roundly panned.

Speaking to Goal.com, Canada national team head coach Benito Floro has moved to defend West Ham’s United Doneil Henry after the 22-year-old centre-back’s display in Friday night’s World Cup qualifier against Mexico received widespread criticism.

Henry, who has been capped 16 times by Canada since 2012, started Friday’s match in Vancouver in his less-than-favourable right-back role and struggled from there on as the hosts slipped to a 3-0 defeat on the night.

After a goalless opening 30 minutes, Javier Hernandez opened the scoring with a strong header before Hirving Lozano doubled Mexico’s lead eight minutes later, running with the ball through Canada’s half before slotting home.

Jesus Manuel Corona later completed the scoring 18 minutes from time to leave Les Rouges with a lot to mull over ahead of a hugely daunting rematch at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca this coming Tuesday.

Whether Henry keeps his place for the game remains to be seen at this stage, but plenty of Canucks fans are now calling for his benching after seeing him torn apart in the first meeting.

The former Toronto FC youngster has barely played any first-team football over the past 15 minutes due to injuries and his lack of recent action was all too apparent, as he failed to keep up with the pace of the game on the flank and offered almost nothing going forward.

Nevertheless, Floro was quick to back the under-fire defender in the wake of the loss, insisting that he remains the team’s best right-back option over the likes of Nikolas Ledgerwood and Karl Ouimette.

“I consider Doneil to be one of the best fullbacks we can have,” he told Goal.com. “We have a lot of centre-backs, but we don’t have enough full-backs, so we need to start including Henry in the line-up as a full-back because we need him in this position, for the present and for the future.”

Henry originally joined West Ham from Cypriot side Apollon Limassol in January 2015 but has since seen a succession of injuries curtail his progress at the club.

The 6ft 2in stopper was loaned out to Blackburn Rovers two months after his arrival in east London but injured his hamstring on his third appearance for Championship club and missed the rest of the 2014-15 campaign.

He managed to recover in time to make his Hammers debut in August’s 2-1 Europa League qualifying defeat at Romania’s FC Astra Giurgiu but subsequently underwent hernia surgery in October which ruled him out for six weeks.

After resuming full training, he re-joined Blackburn in late-November for a second loan stint but saw further fitness issue limit him to just one substitute appearance before returning to Upton Park in the New Year.

He has since featured five times for the Under-21s but whether he will get another first-team run-out for Slaven Bilic’s side before the end of the campaign remains to be seen.

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