|Powered by young players, Canada advances in Gold Cup|
|7-0 wipeout of Cuba good for quarterfinals berth|
|Published Sunday, June 23, 2019 10:41 pm|
|PHOTO | CURTIS WILSON|
|Teenagers Alphonso Davies, left, and Jonathan David are two of Canada's best soccer players. Each earned an assist in Canada's 7-0 Gold Cup win Sunday against Cuba. David also scored a hat trick, as did teammate Lucas Cavallini.
Changing Canadian soccer starts with youth.
Two clean sheets, a place in the Gold Cup quarterfinals against the winner of Group B in Houston on June 29 and 11 goals in the tournament thus far are merely the latest line in the John Herdman chapter. Canada is 7-1 under Herdman, who replaced the fired Octavio Zambrano in January 2018 after leading the women’s team to consecutive Olympic bronze medals.
“All I know is I’ll work harder than most people,” said Herdman, who signed an eight-year deal to coach the national team. “I’ll keep working hard. My staff works hard. We’ve got a vision. Our vision is to see if we can qualify for [the World Cup in] 2022. We’ve got a quadrennial plan. It’s in our mind how we progress this team, the players we can infuse over time. This isn’t just a day-by-day, tournament-by-tournament. We’re looking at 2026. My confederation is committed, which was an eight-year contract. That was the reality when I signed on for the project. As a coach, it’s fickle. If I’m not the right man, I’m not the right man.”
Canada’s 7-0 win against Cuba Sunday at Bank of America Stadium is their largest margin of victory in the tournament’s history. As defender Doneil Henry stated prior to the match, it’s about changing the culture of the game in Canada, and ending the tournament with “respect” in Concacaf.
“We’re connecting this country,” Herdman said. “I’ve been in every MLS club. I’ve been in every province. I’ve worked with every U-15 player in the country. We’re doing things a little bit differently. We’re connecting our country in a way. If I eject out tomorrow, I’ll know I’ve done something a little bit different and I’ve put it down better than I’ve found it.”
Key to Canada’s success is midfielder Alphonso Davies and forward Jonathan David, two of the team’s three players born in 2000. The other is midfielder Noble Okello.
“We’ve got two guys who absolutely love playing for their country,” Herdman said of David and Davies, who each had an assist against Cuba. “They’re humble. Alphonso is playing at left back tonight, and there’s no grumbling. He just gets on with the job, and does a job. That’s the testament of the culture, and the work they’re putting into each other. It also says that our Canadian football system is starting to produce players.”
David scored a hat trick against Cuba, as did 26 year-old forward Lucas Cavallini, the first time teammates have scored a hat trick in a Gold Cup match. The trio leads Canada in active-player Gold Cup goals, with five for David, four for Cavallini and three for Davies.
Davies, who emerged on the international stage in the 2017 Gold Cup, joined Bundesliga’s Bayern Munich earlier this year on the largest transfer fee in MLS history – $13 million – after earning a spot as an MLS All-Star last year with Vancouver. David, who plays for KAA Gent in Belgium, is making his mark in this tournament, while Davies has pulled more strings rather than putting the ball in the back of the net.
“[Davies] will be disappointed he hasn’t scored,” Herdman said. “A young man always wants to come off with a goal to his name, but he puts a hell of a shift in. He’s so honest on the field. Happy with how he performed.”
Said Davies: “There’s many Canadians who have been overseas to Germany. Marcel de Jong [previously FC Augsburg]. Junior Hoilett [previously SC Paderborn and FC St. Pauli]. Me going over there, it’s just me focusing on what I have to do. When I come into camp, I focus on what I have to do with the national team. When I go over there, it’s a different mindset as well. Every time I switch from club to country it’s a different mindset, a different identity of players — a different surrounding.”
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