First stage complete. The Canadian men’s national team is set to face Haiti in the second round of 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying with the first stage coming Saturday (5pm ET/2pm PT) live on OneSoccer. The second leg will come Tuesday night (9pm ET/6pm PT) with a place in the third and final round of Concacaf qualifying up for grabs. Canada jumped the first proper hurdle of qualifying Tuesday with a 4-0 win over Suriname. John Herdman’s side finished top of Group B with a 4-0-0 record and a staggering +26 goal differential. Haiti famously knocked Canada out of the 2019 Gold Cup at the quarter finals, thus giving us a Summer grudge match. Here’s who’s seen their stock rise or fall following the first stage.
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Stock up: John HerdmanJohn Herdman took several risks with Tuesday’s team selection: handing Scott Kennedy a debut, playing a back three with Kennedy and right fullback Alistair Johnston, and playing as many attackers as seemingly possible. Was it nervy at times? Yes. The first 20-or-so minutes were far from comfortable from a side that was, quite visibility, playing a new shape. But this system allowed Jonathan David – a romping attacker with additional midfield support – and Alphonso Davies – a wingback with attacking license – to take control. This was evident as Suriname tired. Despite the occasion, Herdman was proactive in his tactics. We can’t say many former Canada coaches would take the same chances he did in a must-win game.
Stock up: Scott KennedyCalgary native Scott Kennedy’s first cap for Canada was an impressive one on the left side of a back three with Doneil Henry and Alistair Johnston. Early awkwardness was eventually ironed out and gave way to a confident performance at the back. Pace, physical acumen, and effective attacking play allowed the SSV Jahn Regensburg Bundesliga 2. starter to thrive. His passing range and ability to push up into midfield helped release the wingback Davies and created a nice pathway through Suriname’s congested midfield. While it’s easy to look impressive in attack with Davies’ vertical runs and movement, you can’t say Kennedy didn’t shine in a role that forced the centre-back forward to spearhead passing movement. He also thwarted more than his fair share of balls in behind. There’s always a seat open at Canada’s centre-back table. Kennedy’s rightfully took a spot Tuesday.
Stock down: Suriname… for nowAll the work done by the Suriname footballing infrastructure to build a strong team came up short this time around. This generation of European-with-Dutch-Surinamese heritage players (which totaled 26 caps total among the starting 11 Tuesday) gave many in Concacaf some thought – and transformed Canada’s first stage group from easy to tricky in a matter of months. Was Suriname overhyped? Maybe a bit. The majority of this Suriname team are in their 30s and will age out of the national team following this Summer’s Gold Cup – the country’s first. "The simplicity is, they're a good team in Concacaf," Herdman told reporters before Tuesday’s win. "I don't know how you rank them, where you rank them, but these are a good team. When you've got players in the Bundesliga, players in the Eredivisie... this is the strongest team Canada has faced since the USA, Mexico; it's gonna be a great challenge."
Stock way, way up: Alphonso Davies and Jonathan DavidAlphonso Davies, superstar. Jonathan David, superstar. Say it with us. Words can’t explain what Davies did in the 33rd minute for Canadian soccer fans watching their fourth, fifth, or even sixth World Cup qualifying cycle. Without that decisiveness and speed, Canada doesn’t score in the first half – not from that chance on a 1-v-1. David scored a hat trick and added an assist – which led to Davies’ goal. Without them, Canada likely doesn’t score against Suriname and flops into the second round against Haiti. My colleague Charlie O’Connor Clarke summarizes this well. We live in a different time in Canadian men’s soccer. Alphonso and Jonathan are leading us there. Let’s see how far they can take Canada in Port-au-Prince Saturday night (5pm ET/2pm PT).