Canada moved one step closer to qualifying for the third round of Concacaf World Cup Qualifying, beating Haiti 1-0 in Port-au-Prince in the first leg of their second-round matchup. A first-half goal from Cyle Larin was the difference, as he swept home a brilliant cross from Jonathan Osorio in the 14th minute. After Saturday's match, head coach John Herdman spoke to the media, from a bus in a security convoy on the way to the airport. "Bear with us, I'm getting thrown around everywhere," the Canada boss joked before taking questions. Here's what was said.
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'We knew if we get the early goal, they would bring a new level of intensity'Canada, battling the lasting demons from their 2019 Gold Cup defeat to Haiti, as well as with the pressures of trying to reach the next round of World Cup Qualifying, had a tough match ahead of them on Saturday. They were also playing in tough conditions -- a hot temperature, and on a suboptimal turf surface. Despite those challenges, they were able to score first and hold onto the lead. "We knew if we could score early, and score first, that we could take control of the game," Herdman said. "The conditions were tough, getting to the stadium and seeing the quality of that field, it wasn't an easy field to play on." "The heat was pretty intense," he added. "All in all, we knew if we get the early goal, they would bring a new level of intensity." Canada doesn't have the best track record for away games in Concacaf, but Saturday evening's win is a step in the right direction for changing that reputation. "They showed that they can grind it out," said Herdman. "We’ve been criticized in the past for not grinding out matches on the road, and this is as tough a place as I've seen, and been. We go back to Chicago with some control on our destiny."
Missed chances prevent a bigger margin of victoryCanada had chances to extend the lead on Saturday but didn't take all of them. A 1-0 win is a good result, but Canada might've been able to put this tie to bed in the first leg. Despite the missed chances, Canada got what they were ultimately looking for -- a win, a goal, and a clean sheet ahead of Tuesday's second leg. "To get out of today with the win, and with an away goal, is crucial," Herdman said. "That was the goal today, to have one foot in the Octagon, and to be in control. Two goals, or three goals, would've been the icing on the cake. "I'm proud that we're in control of the tie, and going back to Chicago with some real clarity on being able to set up a tactical blueprint."
Kaye, Eustáquio impressive again in midfieldThe midfield duo of Mark-Anthony Kaye and Stephen Eustáquio, as well as Jonathan Osorio slightly ahead of them, was impressive all night long. Both when attacking and defending, they were the best two players on the pitch for a lot of the match, whether it was finding holes in the Haiti defense with their passes, or picking off passes in front of their own backline. "When we have moments, you can see the real quality," Herdman said. "You can see that the fatigue started to hit around that 30-minute mark, the two midfielders started to leggy. "I thought they controlled the area of the pitch they needed to control. That ball into the number nine, and the wide forwards that would come underneath the attacking midfielders. Stephen and Mark did a terrific job doing that today." Herdman had very positive reviews for both of them, as well as Samuel Piette, who came off the bench for Osorio in the 82nd minute. The Canada head coach said that Piette was "able to come in and sure up that midfield", and that having a player like that off the bench "makes a big difference."