After a 2-0 victory over Curaçao in their first appearance together since the World Cup, team Canada went on to sweep Honduras in an emphatic 4-1 win Tuesday night.
The Canadian men’s national soccer team now has a better view, with their sights set on hoisting the CONCACAF Nations League trophy, having now clinched a spot in the semi-finals come June.
A mildly cold evening in Toronto saw a turnout of only 13,000 plus deep at BMO Field with the entire top deck of seating blocked off. Considering the last national showing for the men’s team saw a sell-out crowd of nearly 30,000 people, many fans questioned the arrangement, but their attention quickly turned towards the action packed performance their team put on.
Canada’s all-time top goal scorer, Cyle Larin, led the team in scoring and clocked a brace, opening with two goals in just over 10 minutes of play. The LaLiga striker bypassed a hat trick in the first half after missing a penalty kick in the 42nd minute.
Ligue 1 striker for Lille, Jonathan David, found the back of the net at the 49th minute to bring Canada up three goals after receiving a deflected crossover by winger, Tejon Buchanan in the penalty box. Late in the second half, superstar for club (Bayern Munich) and country, Alphonso Davies, spearheaded an attack that led to an eventual penalty kick after his teammate Ismaël Koné shot on goal was intercepted by his opponent’s (Denil Maldonado) arm within the box.
Jorge Benguché headed in his country’s first and only goal for Honduras in the 73rd minute - enough to to put them on the board in the match, but short of advancing in Nations League contention. MLS Midfielder Jonathan Osorio managed to split the Honduran defence in the 86th minute topping off Canada’s goal count to 4 after receiving the ball from his fellow Toronto FC player, Ayo Akinola.
After entering the game later in the second half, team captain Atiba Hutchison - a fixture in Canada Soccer for over 20 years, added to his national record with now 103 caps at 40 years old.
WORLD STAGE POSITIONING
Speaking to the media following what he calls “a real breakout performance” Canada’s head coach John Herdman says, “You’ve got to get into these big events. It’s the first in our history to get to a Nations League final and I think this group believes they can win it.”
Hutchison echoed that view of Canada’s future saying “we want to continue to push the limits and really make this team and this country a footballing nation”
Adamant that securing tier 1 experience in tournaments and matchups is key to not only the young teams development, but also for the position of Canada competing in the next World Cup as a host nation.
“We have to take control of our destiny. If this team is not playing T1 games and T1 matches consistently, we are wasting our time,” Herdman said.
“It’s matches against Brazil, France, Croatia, Netherlands, England, Belgium - those are the games that will set us up for real success… we’ve built a reputation now that teams want to play us.”
BUILDING THE GAME
Canada’s victory over Honduras comes just over a year to the day where Les Rouges swept Jamaica at BMO Field and went on to compete at the World Cup in Qatar – a first for team Canada in over 35 years. Fans celebrating this victory are confident these new international wins are an ominous sign of things to come in the new World Cup campaign. The men have a guaranteed place in the 2026 tournament, which Canada will co-host alongside the United States and Mexico.
“We’re not letting up. We’ve come out strong on the international side, we know what we want and we know what’s ahead of us,” one local spectator said.
THE STATE OF CANADA SOCCER
Despite this being a victorious moment for the men’s national team, the win falls on the backdrop of the biggest labour dispute in Canadian soccer history between the official governing body of the sport - Canada Soccer, and the respective players associations.
The women’s team have been calling for change at the Canada Soccer association along with a mutually agreed upon collective bargaining agreement.
Earlier this month, players from the women’s Olympic Gold-Medal team testified before a committee of MPs. Team captain, Christine Sinclair - who holds the all-time leading record for career goals scored in international play – by a male or female player, told the committee:
“There’s a few simple things that need to be addressed with the CSA in terms of their transparency and their finances.” Referring to their rights alongside the men’s team, she said “It’s about equal treatment, equal opportunities, equal resources… until that happens, we’re going to be at a stalemate.”
The turmoil between the players and the association triggered events including player strikes, threatened legal action against teams if they don’t play and – as Sinclair described, being “insulted” by Canada Soccer’s former President (Nick Bontis) following a meeting outlining players concerns.
"The president of Canada Soccer listened to what I had to say and then later in the meeting referred back to it as, 'What was it Christine was b******g about?'" Sinclair said. Bontis resigned last month, but was named as CONCACAF council vice-president before stepping down.
On Thursday, FIFA Vice-President and CONCACAF President, Victor Montagliani along with Bontis, and Canada Soccer’s chief financial officer, Sean Heffernan will appear before the committee of MPs to be question on their roles in this dispute.
The Canadian Women’s soccer team (ranked sixth overall) will make their seventh World Cup appearance this summer in Australia and New Zealand. Meanwhile, the CONCACAF Nations League that features 41 teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean, will now see Canada’s men’s team alongside the U.S., Mexico and Panama appear in the finals June 15-18 in Las Vegas.
Canada also qualifies for the 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament this summer following the Nations League finals.