Canada lights up Cuba, earns clean sheet to kick off Nations League campaign

In a 6-0 thumping of an outgunned Cuba, Canadian teenager Jonathan David somehow managed to outshine hat-trick hero Junior Hoilett with a strike that put him in the record books.

Mark-Anthony Kaye fed David for Canada’s second goal in the CONCACAF Nations League A match Saturday night, triggering a highlight-reel score with a looping pass that was slightly behind the teen.

No problem. David used one foot to flip the ball in front of him, beat a defender and raced into the penalty box where he coolly waited for another defender to slide by him before delaying his shot and slotting the ball through the goalkeeper’s legs.

The 19-year-old took five touches, every one exquisite, on the 21st-minute goal — his 11th in just nine career games for his country.

“He’s a gift,” said Canadian coach John Herdman, a beaming smile on his face. “He’s an absolute gift.”

“Probably my best [goal] at the pro level,” said the even-keeled 19-year-old David, whom Herdman calls The Iceman.

It was David’s eighth goal for Canada in 2019, a record for the men’s team for a single year. Canada Soccer said his game jersey is being sent to the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame.


The KAA Gent forward/attacking midfielder has scored in all seven of his Canadian starts.

Amazingly David is already halfway to Dwayne De Rosario’s men’s national record of 22 goals. De Rosario, who also played attacking midfielder and forward, scored his 22 in 81 games.

The Canadians, ranked 78th in the world, trounced No. 179 Cuba 7-0 at the Gold Cup in the U.S. in June and wasted little time piling on the punishment on Canadian soil.

Canada set a record for most goals in a home match.

Jonathan Osorio and Doneil Henry also scored for Canada, which led 2-0 at the half before an announced crowd of 10,224 at BMO Field.

The two teams play against Tuesday in the Cayman Islands (a stadium in Havana was deemed not to meet CONCACAF standards). Canada will then meet the 22nd-ranked Americans in October and November to determine the League A group winner who will advance to the Nations League final four.

Hoilett ​​​​​opens scoring

Hoilett opened the scoring in the 13th minute, scored his second in the 52nd and completed the hat-trick from the penalty spot in the 82nd after Alphonso Davies was bundled down in the penalty box. He estimated he had some 200 friends and family in the stands — on his dime.

Henry scored his first goal for Canada to make it 5-0 and left the grounds with the game ball in hand.

Canada is looking to rid the sour taste of this summer’s Gold Cup when it blew a 2-0 lead and lost 3-2 to 83rd-ranked Haiti in the quarter-finals. David and Lucas Cavallini both scored hat-tricks in the win over Cuba in group play at the CONCACAF championship.

With Cavallini back home awaiting the birth of his child, coach John Herdman deployed David up front Saturday flanked by fellow teenager Alphonso Davies and the veteran Hoilett.

Kaye and Osorio made for a mobile midfield duo with Samuel Piette shielding the back four of Kamal Miller, Derek Cornelius, Henry and Richie Laryea.

Laryea, who is enjoying a banner season with Toronto FC, earned his first national team cap.

Cuba was on the back foot from the get-go with Canada controlling the game. Canadian pressure prompted a string of Cuban giveaways and Hoilett profited from one, intercepting an errant pass and hammering a swerving shot from outside the box in the corner past a diving Sandy Sanchez.

The 18-year-old Davies had a shot bounce off the crossbar after a reflex save by close range by Sanchez in the 25th minute.

Canadian ‘keeper Milan Borjan was finally called into action in the 41st minute after Cuban forward Maykel Reyes was left all alone in front on a defensive miscue by Henry, who did not realize the Cuban was behind him in the box.

“The save was massive,” said David.

The scoreboard kept ticking in the second half with Canadian players literally queuing up to take shots in some instances.

Despite the lopsided Gold Cup result, Herdman talked up the Cubans in recent days. He maintains the June meeting wasn’t representative of Cuba, which had already been eliminated from the tournament and seen players defect.

Cuban manager Pablo Elier Sanchez, the team’s former conditioning coach, took over from Raul Mederos after the Gold Cup and fielded a squad with an average age of just over 22.

Canada raised its career record against Cuba to 8-2-3 with a 26-9 edge in goals. The Canadians have never lost to Cuba on home soil in five meetings (4-0-1).

Canada was without veteran midfielders Atiba Hutchinson and Scott Arfield because of injury.

The Canadian men currently stand eighth in CONCACAF, behind Mexico (No. 12 in the world), the U.S. (22), Costa Rica (44), Jamaica (52), Honduras (67), El Salvador (68) and Panama (74).

They are trying to crack the top six in the region to make the so-called Hex round of World Cup qualifying, the most direct route out of the CONCACAF — which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean — to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

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CBC | Soccer News