Canada took a major step towards World Cup 2022 qualification with an impressive 2-0 victory over the United States in Hamilton Sunday.
Canada still sits atop the Concacaf World Cup qualifying table, four points clear of both USA and Mexico, with only four matches remaining.
And while Canada coach John Herdman won’t say it outright, Sunday’s win makes World Cup qualification seem probable for a team that hasn’t reached the tournament proper since its only appearance in 1986.
“I think taking over the team (in 2018) the very first meeting was clear that this team had to qualify for a World Cup,” said Herdman following Sunday’s win. “That spirit you see, we all want to get to Qatar.
“I genuinely believe these men know that they’ve got an opportunity to leave a football legacy for this country moving forward.”
Canada’s Larin strikes early, sets record
Canada wasted little time in providing their fans something to cheer about, scoring the opening goal in only the sixth minute.
Kamal Miller won a ball at midfield, sending a header to Jonathan Osorio. Osorio flicked a pass towards Cyle Larin who quickly sent the ball on to striking partner Jonathan David. David immediately returned the favour with a return pass to Larin, who had by then beaten his defender.
The Besiktas forward then dispatched a powerful drive past US keep Matt Turner to claim his 23rd international goal, a Canadian men’s record.
Following the goal, the United States enjoyed more possession than the hosts, while Canada were willing to defend and wait for counter-attack opportunities.
The only other serious effort on goal of the half came in the 43rd minute when US midfielder Weston McKennie connected well with a corner kick to send a header towards the Canadian net. But Canadian keeper Milan Borjan defiantly stretched to save and push the ball to safety to preserve the lead.
“The first goal was key,” said Herdman. “Once you score that first goal you’ve got control. You can take control of where you want to play the game and how you want to play the game.
“So we were able to adapt and allow them a bit more pitch control and areas. And to make sure we were resilient.”
Canada soaks up pressure, earns deserved win
The second half began with a similar pattern as the first half – United States possession broken up by occasional Canadian counter-attacks.
Again, there were half chances to score for both sides. But neither produced anything clear cut for the first 25 minutes of the half.
Borjan comfortably saved a Brenden Aaronson effort in the 59th minute.
Two minutes later Tajon Buchanan attacked the US penalty area from this left wing after a delightful long ball by Jonathan David. But the Club Brugge winger was unable to capitalize and saw his tame effort go wide.
Cyle Larin had a tremendous chance to double his and Canada’s goal count in the 70th minute. United States keeper Matt Turner spilled a Jonathan David shot. But Larin was unable to put his follow-up effort past Turner who deserved credit for his recovery.
The United States resumed it’s attack but was unable to break the Canadian defence.
And in the 95th Canadian Sam Adekugbe secured the three points with an excellent individual goal. Kamal Miller sent a long hopeful ball towards the left back who cleverly controlled the ball to send himself in on goal where he slotted past Turner from outside the box.
“We’ve shown we can see games out,” said Herdman. “You know our transitional threat. It’s a massive part of the identity of this team. And we were able to rely on that at the end.”
Up next for Canada
Canada next travels back to Central America to face El Salvador in San Salvador to wrap up this window of matches Wednesday.
Canada wraps up its qualifying campaign in March with matches against Costa Rica, Jamaica and Panama.
“The first thing we said when we brought the boys together at the end of the game is, ‘it’s not done.’” said Herdman. “It starts again, tomorrow. We’re not there yet.”
“I won’t let these boys off the hook. They’ll get a little time to enjoy the moment. And then we’re back at it.”
CONCACAF World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifying final round
P=progressed to inter-continental playoff
Updated March 30 2022