Concacaf Gold Cup -- Group B Final Score: Canada 4-1 Martinique Goalscorers: Cyle Larin ('16), Jonathan Osorio (20'), Stephen Eustáquio (26'), Theo Corbeanu (89') Concacaf Gold Cup: Group B

Match in a minute or less

The Canadian men's national team put three points on the board Sunday in their opening match of the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup, dispatching Martinique with a 4-1 scoreline that was, by the end, fairly comfortable. Although Martinique found the net early with a stunning 10th-minute goal, Canada managed to pull themselves out of a hole, with first-half markers from Cyle Larin, Jonathan Osorio, and Stephen Eustásquio putting them confidently in front. In the second half, Canada did well to see things out, bringing a number of players off the bench to try and maintain the team-wide energy level. Ultimately, it paid off with a well-worked goal in the 89th minute that Theo Corbeanu finished off, as the Canadians took control of a relatively uneventful second half en route to their convincing victory to begin the tournament.

Three Observations

Tajon Buchanan earning his place​

Martinique genuinely struggled to contain Tajon Buchanan on Sunday night, as the 22-year-old played one of his best in a Canadian shirt. He was phenomenally dynamic along the left side, and Martinique had real trouble dealing with his pace and skill on the ball. He was a huge part of Jonathan Osorio's goal, delivering a sublime cross after dictating much of Canada's play with the ball prior to finally helping his side pull away. Buchanan was such an important piece of the Canada attack that he'll likely continue to make squad selection more difficult for John Herdman going forward. Buchanan's recent performances in a red shirt have given plenty of evidence for him to contend for Canada's starting XI once the full squad is there; it wouldn't be surprising to see Buchanan become one of the attacking players Herdman leans on at this Gold Cup tournament. "He was enjoying himself, that's for sure," Herdman told reporters postmatch, describing how Buchanan had previously combined with Alphonso Davies in training prior to the latter acquiring an injury recently. "Tajon's bringing that excitement to the crowd and to the fans back home. Every team needs a player like that, every fanbase loves that type of player that will play carefree, they want to go after their fullbacks. A very mature performance, we put him in at wingback tonight and he hasn't played wingback too many times in his career, and he really showed for me that maturity." Canada dominates in the air It's unlikely that Canada's identity going forward will involve beating teams with set-pieces and scrappy goals from the box. Still, winning balls in the air hasn't necessarily been a strength for the current generation of this Canadian team -- in part because their talent and pace going forward has often allowed them to score without needing to rely on that area of the game. Still, there's no denying the importance of set-pieces in international football -- even discounting the massive significance of goals that come from finishing crosses. Canada certainly had an eye on playing up the wings against Martinique, with Junior Hoilett and Buchanan in particular looking constantly to play that cross in toward a striker. Perhaps that won't exactly be a huge focus in future in Alphonso Davies is able to cut inside as the winger, but nonetheless, a presence in the air is always crucial in this competition. With a back three of Kamal Miller, Steven Vitória, and Alistair Johnston -- the latter of which has done extraordinarily well at centre-back for Canada despite playing most of his club minutes at fullback -- Canada were extremely difficult to break down with crosses or long balls, which are often the hallmark of an upset. Ultimately, that's a part of the game that will come into play much more significantly against the likes of the United States and Mexico, and Canada's demonstration that they can compete with teams in the air is a very good sign. Slow start but good response from Canada The Canadians ultimately came out with the win -- the bare minimum result for a tournament match against Martinique -- and they were, by some considerable margin, the better side, as they would expect to be. Nonetheless, this wasn't necessarily a perfect night for Canada, who didn't exactly control proceedings for the whole 90 minutes. Martinique's 10th-minute goal woke them up, which prompted three quick Canada goals in the first half -- a deluge that one might've expected from the beginning of a matchup like this. Canada did well to score their goals, and full credit is due to Martinique for their defensive shape and willingness to go at Canada in a game where they were massive underdogs. But nonetheless, the Canadian side might not be thrilled with their ability to truly threaten the Martinique goal. Still, Canada gaffer John Herdman was fairly pleased with his side's ability to respond to adversity, as were his players. "I really liked the reaction of our team after that goal," Jonathan Osorio said postgame. "It showed good character in our team to not panic." Herdman himself added that he was very happy by the end of it: "It gave us a chance to respond, and that's exactly what they did, they were unfazed. We needed those sort of tests, I congratulated them in the dressing room at halftime saying it was a wonderful response to that moment." Player of the Match

Tajon Buchanan, Canada In a game where Canada were tested more than they perhaps expected to be, Buchanan was full value for his attacking initiative against Martinique. He entered the game as a player expected to perform, and he did; Buchanan was happy to take control of the Canadian attack, showing his pace and creative vision to provide scoring opportunities for Canada -- especially for that extraordinary third goal. What’s next? Canada continue their Gold Cup campaign on Thursday, July 15 with a contest against Haiti (7:30 pm ET). All matches are available on OneSoccer.

Continue reading...