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Recap: Historic Canadian 2-0 victory over rival Americans in Hamilton

The Canadian men’s national team put on a show at Tim Hortons Field on Sunday afternoon!

Sean Pollock

An early Cyle Larin goal followed by a very late Sam Adekugbe goal propelled Canada to a historic 2-0 victory over an American side that they have previously defeated only once in eleven matches since 2005.

A few words that come to mind when describing the Canadian Men’s National Team are resilient, committed, clinical, gritty, and most importantly destined for greatness. Coming off a 2-0 victory in Honduras, the Canadian side had a cut and dry scenario in front of them against the United States. A win would give Canada a stranglehold on first place in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying, a draw would more or less make the remaining games must wins for both USA and Canada and a loss would put the USMNT in first place in the group with a chance to control their own destiny.

This Canada USA game was one that players and fans had circled in their calender's since the schedule was released. Canada was always going to be the underdog in this game, even though they were unbeaten through nine games going into this one. There was some hope that Stephen Eustaquio would play in this game, however Eustaquio was unable to suit up, which meant that Canada would have to play in their second consecutive game without both Alphonso Davies and Stephen Eustaquio. Canada absolutely needed every player to buy into the game-plan in order to prevail with a favourable result against their rival neighbours from the south.

A quick start was part of the recipe for success in Canada’s last game against Honduras and it appears that a quick start was part of Sunday afternoon’s game plan as well. A simple goal kick seven minutes into this match resulted in one of the best team build up goals in Canadian soccer history. American goalie Matt Turner kicked the ball out to midfield where Canadian defender Kamal Miller made one of his many terrific decisions on the day. Miller won a header which landed perfectly at the feet of his teammate Jonathan Osorio who delivered a short pass to Cyle Larin into the final third of the pitch. Larin then tapped the ball over to Jonathan David who sent Larin in on goal with just the goalie to beat. Larin made no mistake, blasting it past the outstretched hand of Matt Turner for a 1-0 Canada lead. With this goal Larin became the Canadian Men’s National Team leader in all-time International “A” goals with 23, passing Canadian international legend, Dwayne De Rosario.

Sean Pollock

A flurry of USA chances were created following the Canada goal. At 10’ the Americans had a corner kick which nearly resulted in the tying goal, however the headed chance narrowly missed the and the score remained 1-0. Christian Pulisic, who was essentially shut down by the Canadian defenders this game, had an opportunity to level the game at 19’, but terrific defending from Kamal Miller did not even allow the shot to get through.

At 30’ Kamal Miller made yet another crucial interception which lead to Canada’s best scoring opportunity since their early goal. Canada unfortunately was unable to generate a shot on target from this pressure, however the game was starting to open up a little bit which was ideal for Canada’s counter attack.

The best USA chance of the game came off a corner kick in the 43’. Pulisic delivered his best ball of the afternoon into the box where Weston Mckennie headed the ball almost perfectly towards goal where Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan did what he does best, make tremendous saves. Borjan took away what would have been a sure goal with a ridiculous right hand save where he lunged off his line to deny the Americans from the tying goal. This game went into halftime with the Canadians holding onto a one goal lead.

The game started to get chippy around 54’ where Canadian and American players were visibly frustrated with some of the tackles that were not resulting in fouls or bookings. Players had to be separated multiple times, but that was to be expected with so much on the line in a meaningful game for both countries.

Canada had a chance to finish the game in the 69’ where the American defenders failed to clear the ball out of their half which resulted in Larin having a clear path on goal. Turner made a game saving stop on Larin and he even managed to grab the rebound that fell a few feet in front of him with multiple Canadians around the goal ready to pounce on a loose ball.

The final American chance came in 90’+2 where Pulisic had a free kick within striking range. Borjan was able to deny Pulisic on this chance with a relatively standard save and moments later his team repaid him for all the saves he made on this historic afternoon.

Sam Adekugbe capped off a masterful performance for himself and his team with a dagger in the 90’+5. Kamal Miller, who played his best game in a Canada shirt, cleared the ball to midfield where Adekugbe found himself in a position to dodge a tackle and sprint all the way to the American goal where he scored a classy left footed strike from just outside the 18 yard box. That goal was Adekugbe’s first for his Country and what a special goal it was, putting Canada up 2-0 with no time remaining in the game.

Canada ended up winning this game 2-0, but the result would not have happened if not for the individual efforts all around the pitch. Allistair Johnston deserves massive credit for his defensive excellence in this game. He was able to hold Pulisic in check for the full 90 plus minutes and that has become the standard for him as he continues to shut down the best players on opposing teams. Sam Adekugbe and Kamal Miller, who I have already mentioned several times, left their footprints all over this game. Both of these players were defensively sound throughout the contest and Miller was rewarded for his performance with his late assist while Adekugbe was rewarded with his late goal. Both players also earn a clean sheet, but that of course would not have been possible without the heroics of Milan Borjan. It seems like every Canada game Borjan is outdoing his performance from the game before. Milan Borjan set two CAMNT all-time records today, most international “A” appearances (60) and most shutout wins (18).

This performance by Canada was gritty and the 2-0 victory was well deserved. The Canadian Men’s National Team should be on the radar of every nation around the world, if they weren't already. The win today puts Canada at 22 points through 10 games played, which is still first in the qualifying group. The World Cup in Qatar, which was once a mere dream for Canadian soccer fans, is so close to being a reality. The job is not done yet though. Canada’s next game is on February 2nd in El Salvador.

Sean Pollock

This glorious win on a cold afternoon at Tim Horton’s field will go down in the Canadian soccer record books, and that record book will hopefully be filled with many moments just like this in the near future.