TORONTO, Ont.—In the lead up to last night’s game, no stat was brought up more than the 34 years since Canada’s last victory over the United States men’s national team. So when Lucas Cavallini volleyed home a 90th minute strike to put Canada up 2-0 over their rivals to the south, and all but guaranteed victory, BMO Field released all of those years of pent up disappointment.
The crowd of 17,126 let out a delirious roar that sounded much louder than a group of that many should be capable. Cavallini ran behind the net, kissed the Canada Soccer badge on his shirt and was promptly mobbed by the rest of the Canada team. On the bench, John Herdman leapt into the arms of his coaching staff.
It was a moment when, for the first time in decades, everyone around Canada Soccer started to fully believe. There would be no last minute let down this time, nobody could snatch this victory away.
As a result, with a home World Cup on the horizon and a fully operational domestic professional league already in place, it was a moment that could change Canadian soccer forever. The team, the fans, can start to dream because this group has proven that they can make those dreams come true.
Last night was proof that with Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David, Canada are a threat to just about every team in the world. Davies, playing without fear and limitations, was a sight to behold as he outran, outmaneuvered and outsmarted US defenders all match.
But for as good as Davies was, the performance from Canada was far more than just one star player. Herdman’s somewhat surprising tactic of going with a box midfield four paid off in a huge way allowing Canada defensive coverage, while also providing the impetus to quickly spring attacks when the team got the ball back.
His insistence on sticking to that formation when star man Mark-Anthony Kaye was injured early was proven right. In his first ever senior match for Canada, Liam Fraser showed the incredible poise beyond his years that Toronto FC fans have come to know.
Teammate Jonathan Osorio, once again proving he plays his best games when they matter most, was tremendous. As were Scott Arfield and Samuel Piette, who almost certainly played the best games of their respective international careers.
Behind them, what was widely considered the weakest link in the Canadian team, their backline, stood tall. Steven Vitoria, in some ways the forgotten man in Canadian soccer circles despite regularly starting in the Portuguese top division, shepherded a young and experienced backline.
Gone were the defensive lapses, the miscommunications, the miscues that have held Canada back of late. The United States’ one real chance was calmly parried away by Milan Borjan who kept a level head throughout, and helped his teammates do the same.
Evidently, a performance like this comes with raised expectations. John Herdman called last night just “one little drop in the ocean of what [he’s] hoping for this team”. They still have to prove they can win meaningful games on the road in Central America, for example. It will take many more nights like last for this team to realize it’s potential.
But belief is a powerful thing, and there is no doubt now that this group has that. So even if this result is just a drop in the ocean, it’s ripple effect will likely be felt for years to come.