The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar is only getting closer and seven Toronto FC players were called up for the penultimate round of qualifiers in 2021.
Jonathan Osorio, Richie Laryea, Jacob Shaffelburg and loanee Liam Fraser had a window to remember, but Yeferson Soteldo, Eriq Zavaleta and Kemar Lawrence will know their nations still have an uphill task ahead of them as the business end of qualifying approaches.
With almost 400 days until the tournament, let’s dive into how TFC’s internationals from Canada, Jamaica, El Salvador and Venezuela fared in October.
Canada - Jonathan Osorio, Richie Laryea, Jacob Shaffelburg, Liam Fraser
It is safe to say that Canadian soccer fans are still in awe of what their national team produced over the October window.
Headlined by an unforgettable 4-1 victory over Panama at a packed BMO Field, as well as that momentous 1-1 draw with Mexico at the Estadio Azteca, Les Rouges are firmly on the right path to qualify for their first World Cup since 1986.
Starting off with that game in Mexico City, Jonathan Osorio was the man of the moment as his equalizer earned Canada a point in what was forecasted as Les Rouges’ most difficult game of the Octagon.
Osorio’s goal was not only his 55th career strike for club and country, but also the first CanMNT goal at the Azteca since Gerry Gray found the net there in 1980.
Toronto’s very own then started the next two games against Jamaica and Panama, playing the full 90 in Kingston and 64 minutes of that enthralling night at BMO Field.
Richie Laryea also starred this month as he started and played the full game against Mexico. TFC and Canada’s No. 22 was suspended for the next match against Jamaica due to yellow card accumulation, but he returned to the starting XI against Panama and provided a stunning assist for Tajon Buchanan to make it 3-1.
The fact that Laryea has played each and every minute of the games he has been available highlights just how valuable he is to John Herdman and this program.
As for Jacob Shaffelburg and Liam Fraser, the pair were limited to substitute appearances in Canada’s three October matches. Fraser put in a shift off the bench against Mexico before coming on for the final minute of the goalless draw with Jamaica.
Shaffelburg was also a late substitute against the Reggae Boyz, but the Port Williams native then played 10 minutes in Canada’s thrilling win over Panama.
Les Rouges sit third in the Octagon with almost 50% of their fixtures played. Things are very much moving in the right direction for Herdman and his squad.
Jamaica - Kemar Lawrence
Jamaica will have enjoyed the October international break far more than their September one.
Despite a 2-0 defeat to the United States in their first game of the month, the Reggae Boyz picked up four points from their next two matches following a goalless draw with Canada and a comfortable 2-0 win on the road against Honduras.
Now in sixth and five points behind the automatic qualification spots, Jamaica know there’s still work to be done if they are to genuinely challenge for a place at the World Cup.
Kemar Lawrence started and played the full 90 in each of his side’s three matches, most notably coming up against club teammates Osorio and Shaffelburg during the 0-0 draw in Kingston.
El Salvador - Eriq Zavaleta
La Selecta started the month off on the right foot with a 1-0 victory against Panama, but two consecutive defeats followed to Costa Rica and Mexico, losing 2-1 and 2-0 respectively.
Sadly for Zavaleta, the defender did not play in any of his country’s matches due to a concussion which kept him out of Toronto FC’s final two games before the international break.
El Salvador is second from bottom in the table, level on points with Jamaica, yet behind on goal difference.
Venezuela - Yeferson Soteldo
Following three more games in October, Venezuela still remains bottom of CONMEBOL’s traditional 10-nation tournament.
Their October camp could not have gotten off to a better start as La Vinotinto took the lead against Brazil. Yeferson Soteldo had an instant impact, picking up the assist for the goal scored in the 11th minute by Dynamo Kyiv striker Eric Ramírez.
In spite of holding onto their one goal lead for an hour, three goals in the final 20 minutes from Marquinhos, Gabriel Barbosa and Antony sealed a 3-1 win for the five-time World Cup winners.
Venezuela may have lost, but in their next game against Ecuador, CONMEBOL’s basement boys came from 1-0 down to record a 2-1 win, their second victory of the qualifiers.
Yet, La Vinotinto were brought right back down to Earth in their final October clash as they suffered a humbling 3-0 away defeat to Chile.
Soteldo may have grabbed an assist against Brazil, but TFC’s No. 30 did not play against both Ecuador and Chile due to a supposed internal disciplinary issue.
With six qualifiers left to play and Venezuela sitting nine points adrift of the automatic qualification spots, their World Cup hopes continue to get slimmer and slimmer as the international breaks pass.
International Goal Contributions in October:
- Jonathan Osorio: 1 goal (v. Mexico)
- Richie Laryea: 1 assist (v. Panama)
- Yeferson Soteldo: 1 assist (v. Brazil)