Final Score: Curaçao 0-2 Canada Goalscorers: David 23', Larin 43' 2022-23 Concacaf Nations League -- Group C
Match in a minute or lessThe Canadian men's national team is a point away from topping Group C, and qualifying for the Concacaf Nations League knockout stage for the first time, after a 2-0 victory over Curaçao in Willemstad on Saturday. The win also books Canada a spot in this summer's Concacaf Gold Cup. Jonathan David opened the scoring with his 23rd goal for the Canadian men's national team, coincidentally coming in the match's 23rd minute. In the 37th minute, things got worse for the hosts as Jurien Gaari was sent off for a second yellow card. Canada quickly doubled their advantage, as a clever layoff from David was brilliantly finished by Cyle Larin, who scored his 26th goal for his country. Canada wraps up Group C action against Honduras on Tuesday, March 28 at BMO Field. A win or a draw would see them fend off second-place Honduras and emerge as group winners. Canada has not lost a match in Toronto in 13 years.
Canada pick up comfortable away victory in CuraçaoIt took Canada about 20 minutes to find its rhythm, too adjust to a bouncy surface in hot conditions at Ergilio Hato Stadium. But when Les Rogues got going, they showed the kind of dominance that has made them a top team in Concacaf over the past few years. Quick and clever ball movement, coupled with a willingness to win it back quickly when it was lost, contributed to a long spell of possession and pressure that ultimately led to the opening goal in the 23rd minute. Richie Laryea played the decisive ball through to David, whose one-touch finish was that of a man in form. David found another Canadian striker who has been scoring for fun for club, Larin, late in the second half, whose quality finish across his body extended the lead to 2-0. That goal, combined with the red card to Gaari in the 37th minute, all but sealed the result. Canada ultimately held 63 per cent of possession, had 84 per cent pass accuracy, and allowed just a single shot on target, one which was easily collected by goalkeeper Milan Borjan. While Canada was not able to build on that lead in the second half, the damage had already been done. It was at least a little disappointing to see Canada slightly wasteful in front of goal in the second half when they perhaps could have made more of a statement in this match With the result looking secure, Canada also elected to remove Alphonso Davies, David, Larin and Eustáquo. Considering how many tricky Concacaf ties Canada has played over the year, it was a good luxury to have and a demonstration of just how much the Canadians were in the driver's seat. All should be well rested for Tuesday's match against Honduras. It was also a positive sign to see Tajon Buchanan check into the game late, as there were some concerns about his fitness heading into this window.
Canada's right side impresses in Johnston's absenceWhile almost every other player on the Canadian men's national team has shifted in and out of the lineup for various reasons over the past few years, the one constant has been Alistair Johnston. However, after being sent off against Honduras back in June, Johnston was suspended for Saturday's match, forcing Canada to adjust its strategy on the right side of the pitch. Putting in Laryea at right fullback was a straightforward decision. But right centre-back was a little bit more of a question mark. Canada elected to start Scott Kennedy, who it should be noted is a left-footed player, missed the 2022 World Cup through injury and has played only sparingly since returning in 2023 for club Jahn Regensburg in the German 2. Bundesliga. Despite playing on his off side, and wearing a large mask as a result of a facial injury -- one that was struck by a ball in the first half -- Kennedy was solid. He was dominant in tackles, winning the ball back well throughout the pitch, showed a good turn of pace to thwart Curaçao's dangerman Juninho Bacuna and did a good job of getting the ball to Laryea in good areas throughout the match. Once he got the ball out wide, Laryea was lethal. He delivered several exceptional balls into the box and was a handful down the left wing. One of those passes connected with David for Canada's opening goal, but if the team was at its best Laryea likely would have added even more to the four assists he has now tallied for the national team. The Canadian backline will be forced to make another shift against Honduras at BMO Field on Tuesday, as after being booked in the second half, Steven Vitoria will miss that match due to yellow card accumulation. That will be a tricky proposition for John Herdman, as the 36-year-old Vitoria has been a pillar at the back for Canada as well as a critical leader and organizer. With regular Kamal Miller also missing this camp due to injury, this will a big opportunity for another central defender to step up and be a leader at the back. While he wasn't able to contribute on the pitch in Willemstad, Johnston still made an impact. The affable fullback could be seen mingling with Canadian supporters who made the trip to Curaçao during half-time, a gesture of goodwill that continues to show the 24-year-old's incredible character.
Canada's star players put in hard yards necessary to pick up away Concacaf resultCanada's victory was so comfortable largely in part due to the continued commitment from their star players to put in the hard yards that lead to three points. Stephen Eustáquio, fresh off playing in the UEFA Champions League with Porto, could be seen consistently tracking back throughout the match. Those efforts broke up several promising Curaçao attacks before they could hurt Canada. Up front, look no further than the efforts of David and Larin. David remains a world-class presser of the ball, and this was one of the best examples we have seen in a Canadian uniform of him and Larin working in sync to put opposing backlines under pressure. After playing their last three matches against world-class opposition at the sport's biggest stage it could have been easy for Canada to struggle to find motivation for this match. But they dug deep when they needed to, led by some of their highest-profile players. That mentality and commitment is a big part of what continues to make this group special as they begin another World Cup cycle.
CanPL.ca Player of the MatchRichie Laryea, Canada After a reasonably shaky first 20 minutes, Canada needed some sort of moment of inventiveness to break the game open. That came from the foot of Laryea, who played a brilliant low cross through the Curaçao box that David capability finished. Canada never looked back after that.
What’s next?Canada concludes Group C action in the Concacaf Nations League against Honduras needing a win or a draw to top the group. That match takes place on Tuesday, March 28 at BMO Field in Toronto, kicking off at 8:00 p.m. ET.