Concacaf Gold Cup -- Group B Matchday #2 Final Score: Canada 4-1 Haiti Goalscorers: Eustáquio (5'), Larin (51', 74'), Hoilett (79'); Lambèse (56')

Match in a minute or less

In the end, it was a comfortable victory for the Canadian men's national team, who all-but-ensured their advancement to the Gold Cup quarter-finals with a 4-1 victory over Haiti. An early free-kick screamer from Stephen Eustáquio put them in front, and they held off some pressure for the rest of the first half before Cyle Larin added a second goal just after halftime. Haiti pulled one back with some well-worked play after Canada failed to clear the ball, but a pair of penalties (and a Haitian red card) made sure Les Rouges came out with three points and a strong +6 goal differential. Larin also made some history on the night, with his two goals setting a CanMNT record for the most goals scored in a calendar year (10 total).

Three Observations

Crépeau, defence tested by shaky moments, Haitian tactical adjustment Canada began the game well, pressing forward for several phases and putting the Haitian side on their heels. They came out of the opening moments with a goal, courtesy of an exceptional Stephen Eustáquio free kick in fifth minute, and early on it looked like Canada may be in for a comfortable night. That turned out not to be the case, though; Canada played a good deal of the second half (particularly the last 20 minutes or so) on the back foot, as they struggled on several occasions to clear balls to safety. Goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau faced easily the toughest test of his seven national team appearances, called into action on quite a few occasions. He deserves particular laurels for his three exceptional reaction saves, as well as for distributing the ball well (he finished with a 95.7% pass accuracy rating, unusually high for a 'keeper). Stephen Vitória, after the match, said Canada weren't happy with their performance, and Sam Piette added that those last 15-20 minutes of the first frame were their toughest moment of the contest with so much Haitian pressure, but ultimately they got the job done (with a little help from their goalkeeper). John Herdman pointed out that Haiti adjusted a little after the first 15 minutes or so; they were very aggressive in the wide areas, stifling Tajon Buchanan and completely neutralizing Alistair Johnston on opposite wings by slipping one of their own high fullbacks into the defensive line when Canada were in possession. As a result, Lucas Cavallini and Cyle Larin weren't quite able to find space with the overloads they'd been looking for, and Haiti often came out with possession. Haiti are an extremely difficult side to play against, which is something Canada knows all too well after seeing them three times within the past six weeks. John Herdman quipped postmatch that he was happy he wouldn't have to see them again for a while, thankful to have seen the back of a side that has really tested Canada physically. "We won the first half of the first half and I think Haiti had a really solid second part of the first half," Herdman said. "They just brought an intensity when they went a goal down. The tactical adjustments were just ensuring that we were able to get that extra player around Tajon Buchanan to free him up with those combos." Canadian depth overruns tiring Haitians This contest was always going to be a tough ask for Haiti, who were down eight players due to a COVID-19 outbreak within their camp and thus could only field a matchday squad of 14 -- three on the bench. So, they perhaps deserve plenty of credit for staying in the game as long as they did. John Herdman's substitutions in the second half might have made the difference, in the end. A triple substitution at the 63rd minute allowed him to bring on Sam Piette, Richie Laryea, and Junior Hoilett -- all three of whom had a major impact on the final half hour. Laryea was a menace with his pace matched up against the clearly-wilting Haitian starters on the right flank, and he drew the penalty for Canada's third goal by clearly beating the exhausted defender to the ball. Piette, too, was important to shutting things down in midfield; Jonathan Osorio, whom he replaced, looked to run out of steam a little, and bringing Piette's energetic style into the middle made it much harder for Haiti to get a foothold. "It's always a grind against them," Herdman said of the Haitians. "Our boys showed again, just that resilience to keep pushing through, they'll have moments, they'll come in those waves, and if we can match the intensity our quality will come through." Depth is a massive strength for this Canadian squad -- and it was throughout the first two World Cup qualifying rounds, particularly against this Haiti team, with a number of key contributions off the bench. That Piette, Laryea, and Hoilett (who could certainly be tapped to start in any game) were able to come off the bench and make their impact felt in such a short time will help Canada down the stretch in this tournament, particularly in the later stages of must-win games.

Young talent continues to seize opportunities​

Last time out against Martinique, Tajon Buchanan took full ownership of the spotlight, putting in a man-of-the-match performance playing in an Alphonso Davies-esque role at left wingback. He shone in the same role again in this match, with a few critical runs along the far byline into the Haitian penalty area that really put his talent on full display. This tournament has been billed as a possible coming out party for Buchanan, given that he's sure to play many of the most important minutes in Davies' absence, and so far he's delivered -- it's very clear why clubs in Europe are monitoring the New England Revolution youngster. This time, though, Buchanan shared some of that attention with Ayo Akinola, who made his senior debut for Canada after committing to play for the country earlier this month. He came in as a substitute in the 77th minute, and just seconds later he was sprinting onto a through-ball into the box and drew a penalty for Canada's fourth goal. Akinola has made a name for himself at Toronto FC with his ability to cause problems for defenders, combining deft close control with athleticism, and that's pretty much exactly what he showed right from his introduction. "Really happy with Ayo coming in," Herdman said of Akinola's debut. "I was just gutted that the player pulled him down, it was disappointing because I was hoping he was gonna score in that moment. He did really good work to create that opportunity; you just see the quality in his timing and the touch he took to set himself up... I think we've seen flashes of what he can bring to this team and just adding to the quality of this Gold Cup group." Player of the Match

Stephen Eustáquio, Canada Spectacular free-kick goal aside, Eustáquio was Canada's most commanding presence in this match. He was almost impossible to knock off the ball, and he was superb with threading crisp, dangerous passes through the Haitian lines. A yellow card late in the game means he'll miss Sunday's group stage finale against the United States, but expect him to be pulling the midfield strings again in the quarter-final. What’s next? Canada will now move on to a likely Group B decider this Sunday, July 18 against the United States (5:00 pm ET). All matches are available on OneSoccer.

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