CONCACAF: Canada wins over Jamaica in quarterfinal

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KINGSTON, Jamaica –

The Canadian men’s soccer team dealt with the chaos their coach predicted could happen and came away with a 2-1 away win over Jamaica Saturday in a CONCACAF Nations League quarterfinal match at Independence Park in Kingston.

Stephen Eustaquio broke a 1-1 draw with a goal late in the second half to give the men their first win in Jamaica in 35 years.

“We wanted to come out of here with a result,” said interim coach Mauro Biello. “So, the first phase, mission accomplished for us.

“It was a competitive game. We knew coming in here it would be a very difficult with the quality of players on their team.”

Jonathan David scored the other goal for Canada. Shamar Nicholson tied the game for Jamaica in the 56th minute on a disputed goal.

Biello told a news conference prior to the game that “how we manage the chaos” would be a factor in determining the match’s outcome.

The game was originally scheduled for Friday night but was postponed until Saturday due to heavy rain. It was 28 C at kickoff at 10:30 a.m. local time with humidity around 78 per cent. The pitch appeared heavy and sticky, affecting the way the ball moved.

Canada, ranked 45th in the world, didn’t fold when the No. 55 Reggae Boyz tied the game on a questionable goal.

“Credit Canada to fight through it,” said Biello, the former assistant coach who earned his first victory since being put in charge after John Herdman left to take over Toronto FC. “It was very difficult, hard conditions. Very hot.

“It was really good character from the group.”

The second game in the two-match, aggregate series will be Tuesday at Toronto’s BMO Field.

The winner of the series moves on to the CONCACAF Nations League finals next March, as well as securing their ticket to Copa America as guest teams at the South American championship.

Fullback Richie Laryea set up the winning goal, showing his speed with a nice run down the side. He passed the ball back into the box and Eustaquio made no mistake.

Forward Cyle Larin did the work on David’s goal in first-half extra time. Larin took a long ball into the Jamaican zone, made a pretty spin to get away from two defenders, then sent a pass across the front of the net that David tapped home for his 26th international goal.

Nicholson tied the game when he got behind a surprised Canadian defence on a quick pass from Daniel Johnson and beat goalkeeper Milan Borjan. The offside flag went up but the goal was ruled good after video review.

Canadian players argued the whistle had not blown to start play but referee Mary Penso let the play stand.

“They took a quick free kick and were able to catch us,” said Biello.

“Sometimes in those moments you have to be a little more focused. Credit to the team to fight through it and come back and score a great second goal.”

Canada’s record playing in Jamaica improved to 2-6-5.

Biello said the experience Canada gained during the gruelling qualification process before the 2022 World Cup helped the team deal with the anxiety created by the long wait Friday night before the game was postponed, then refocusing for a morning match.

“You asked for their experience to come through in these moments,” he said. “That’s what we saw from the team. It’s not easy here and we’re very happy to have got the win here.”

Canada had a couple of early scoring chances in the match.

In the eighth minute, David sneaked behind the Jamaican defence and fired a shot that goaltender Andre Blake stopped. Late in the half, Larin had a good chance from distance, blasting a ball that a diving Blake got a hand on.

Jamaica’s Leon Bailey had two good looks in the first half. In the 15th minute, he fired a ball that just missed the far corner of the net. Later, he hit the crossbar off a corner kick from Bobby De Cordova-Reid.

The Jamaican side suffered a blow when forward Michail Antonio, who plays for West Ham United, left the match early in the first half with an injury.

Canada, Mexico, the U.S. and Costa Rica were given byes into the final eight of the competition, based on the March 2023 CONCACAF rankings.

Panama, Jamaica, Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago advanced through a qualifying round in the September and October international windows.

The quarterfinal losers have a chance to join them, via a single-match elimination play-in in March that will decide the two remaining slots for CONCACAF entries.

Canada now has a quick turnaround before the home game in Toronto.

“They are very good players on that team,” Biello said about Jamaica. “We know they can change the play at any moment.

“We know we have to get the job done, play our way on our home field. We are halfway there.”

NOTES: The Canadian men’s last win in Jamaica was a 4-0 decision on April 5, 1988…In their last meeting in March 2022, Canada defeated Jamaica 4-0 at BMO field, clinching a World Cup qualification…Canada’s 23-man roster for the game had 19 players who were part of the World Cup team…Canada Soccer says over 35,000 tickets have been sold for the Dec. 5 women’s match against Australia in Vancouver which will be Christine Sinclair’s final game in international competition.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2023.

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