A must-win that's been won. The Canadian men’s national team took a pair of early goals and rode to a 3-0 victory over El Salvador Wednesday at BMO Field in Toronto, Ont. – Canada’s third match in the final round of qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. A result against the lesser-ranked Salvadorian side was an important fixture in the 14-match final round, which Canada currently sits in the middle of with five points and a 1-2-0 record through the opening international window. Early moments of quality from Richie Laryea – leading to a goal from Atiba Hutchinson – and Jonathan David gave a sold-out crowd in Toronto a chance to get behind a team that, if we’re being honest, didn’t exactly have an entirely friendly crowd at home. "We wanted to start at the same attacking intensity that they finished against Honduras," coach John Herdman said, recalling the opening match of the final round of qualifying. "We knew they had a gutsy defense that allowed them to stay in games late. We knew we had hit this team hard and early and we did."
Les Rouges thrived as those early opening sequences calmed nerves. Pressing was a particular highlight, as two-of-three goals came from well-timed tackles and tireless pressing. Wednesday also saw some aggressive play and controversial tackles – something you can expect from Concacaf – but in one of the biggest matches in a generation, it made for quite a spectacle. Winger Tajon Buchanan, specifically, was hard done by with hard challenges and several tackles that, upon review, could have seen a red card banished. Buchanan, who did see a yellow for dissent, carried on as did his teammates. That mental fortitude, just as the three-goal performance, marked another change in this ever-growing Canada national men's soccer team – refusing to melt in the heat of Concacaf… Well, we’ll let Herdman explain. "You are learning that there are dark arts here, in Concacaf. It’s a big part about how they play, with their high-intensity style" Herdman said before drawing on a well-trotted storyline of his team’s close-knit nature. "When one player goes down, all 11 are in – with Canada, there’s never a man alone and you’ll see that. We're enjoying that part of it – being able to show in those moments that we'll always be together. "The players have had experience together that we can adapt in games and no longer get caught in long periods where we're losing momentum."
CANADA 3-0 EL SALVADOR COVERAGE: Match Analysis: CanMNT 3-0 El Salvador -- World Cup Qualifying || Sights & Sounds: Sights & Sounds: CanMNT 3-0 El Salvador – 2022 World Cup qualifying
The win over El Salvador was an important milestone (more on the records later) as Canada closes its opening final World Cup qualifying window answering plenty of questions. Canada’s young, an eye-catching new generation is learning, as Herdman says. "There’s been growth – if you get into the first couple days of training, one thing that’s clear is that foundation of trust," Herdman said. "We have to have that learning in the first 45 minutes against Honduras – to feel the intensity and see teams not back down." Veteran goalkeeper Milan Borjan walked away pleased from Wednesday, adding: "It’s just an amazing feeling that through three games we haven’t lost… To score three goals tonight and draw away to the United States – we’ll take that." Wednesday’s match came on the heels of back-to-back 1-1 draws at home to Honduras and away to the United States in the opening window of Concacaf qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
8th on 88: Atiba Hutchinson legend grows as milestone awaits
Captain Atiba Hutchinson gave the BMO Field crowd something to celebrate at the sixth minute, finishing off a lovely attacking move from Jonathan Osorio and Richie Laryea. It was the 38-year-old Besiktas midfielder’s eighth goal on his 88th cap for Canada – not bad for a midfielder nicknamed after the eight-tentacled "octopus." Fellow goalscorer David credited his veteran teammate following the match, saying: "He's a leader for us, leads by example on the field and off it. I’m very happy to see his goal." Hutchinson is two appearances away from overtaking former teammate and midfield opponent Julian de Guzman for the most all-time appearances for Canada – which could happen as early as October when another three-match international window arrives. Canada is undefeated when Hutchinson scores, with Canada Soccer statisticians revealing after the match the national team has a record of 5-3-0 when the Brampton, Ont. finds the net. Wednesday’s result also saw Herdman become the men’s program’s all-time leader in wins with 22.
Taking stock of WCQ so far + what's next for CanMNT?
Canada’s next international window will come in just under a month when, on Thursday, October 7, John Herdman’s team heads to the Azteca to face Mexico. That opens a three-match window where Canada plays in Jamaica on Oct. 10 before coming home for a tilt with Panama by Oct. 13. Les Rogues closes this opening camp on five points and a 1-2-0 record. "We're happy with where we're at right now, we feel like we're in a good place," Hutchinson said after the match, "But it's early on – we just want to continue to build off of the momentum that we have." Les Rouges’ next home game comes at BMO Field next month against Panama. Wednesday’s match saw a good number of El Salvadorian fans, something that irked Canada’s next generation. "The more wins the more interest that there is and the more followers we’ll get to start backing us," Hutchinson concluded.