For the second-consecutive match, the Canadian men’s national team picked up a group stage victory at the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup, and although Canada scored four goals, the overall mood in the group isn’t where you’d expect it to be.
John Herdman’s side used three second-half goals to defeat a weakened Haiti side 4-1 at Children’s Mercy Park, staying ahead of the U.S. men’s national team in Group B on goal difference. Canada saw Cyle Larin score two goals, with Junior Hoilett and Stephen Eustaquio adding a goal each, but was pushed to the brink for 90 minutes by Haiti.
“We could definitely play better soccer, that’s for sure,” Canada winger Tajon Buchanan said following the win. “Credit to Haiti for not giving up. I was confident in the team that we would get a result today and now we get ready for the United States on Sunday.”
Canada midfielder Samuel Piette was in a similar mood.
“These are tough opponents and you have to be focused for 90 minutes,” he said. “You have to go through these moments to try and get better. Unfortunately, we conceded today and we aren’t happy with it.
“However, we did get better after halftime and scored a few more goals. We will try and build off of that.”
Unlike Sunday’s 4-1 win over Martinique, Canada scored the opening goal in Kansas City on Thursday but eventually quieted as Haiti dominated the second half of the opening 45 minutes. Maxime Crepeau was called into action three times in the match, denying Leverton Pierre and Alex Junior Christian’s efforts before halftime.
Stephane Lambese’s goal in the 56th minute cut Canada’s lead to 2-1 and forced the Canadians into changes in their squad. The inclusions of Richie Laryea and Ayo Akinola off the bench provided help for Canada down the stretch, as both players drew penalty kick opportunities in the final minutes.
Larin added his second goal of the match and Hoilett also cashed in from the spot to pad the victory. Despite a valiant effort by Haiti, which forced Canada’s backline into some tough situations in their own zone, the Canadians showed their depth in the second half.
“They are top players. [Cyle Larin and Junior Hoilett] and have been with the national team for a while now,” Buchanan said about the veteran goalscorers. “Their job is to score goals and they have done well during the tournament. Credit to the guys for continuing to put in shifts for the team.”
Canada captain Steven Vitoria was also full of praise for the players who came on and helped his side take back control of the match.
“The substitutes definitely helped when they came off the bench and it was a very important decision by our coaching staff,” he said. “We are far more than just 11 guys at the start. Credit to the guys for being ready and we still have more chances to add to it.”
With eight goals in its opening 180 minutes of the Gold Cup, Canada leads the tournament in goals scored in the group stage so far and will next take on the USMNT on July 18 with the top spot in the group up for grabs.
With Haiti now in the rearview mirror, Canada can rest and recover to try and deliver its most impressive performance of the tournament against its toughest opponent yet.
“It was great to see the intensity between the two teams,” Herdman said. “Haiti were never going to go away, they kept fighting and grinding in the match. I’m glad we don’t have to play them for a few years since they are a tough team to break down. It’s always a grind against them, our boys showed resiliency to stay in it. Our quality came through in the end.”
Now, only a draw against the USMNT is needed for Canada to top Group B, but Piette is looking for his side to finish on a high note, with a win over one of the regional giants.
“Our first objective was to finish top of the group and to get three wins and make a good impression,” Piette said. “We’re not going into the U.S. match to tie, we are going to try and win that match and finish in the top spot because that is a goal we set for ourselves.”