The Canadian men’s soccer team dealt with the chaos their coach predicted could happen and came away with a 2-1 away victory over Jamaica Saturday in a CONCACAF Nations League quarterfinal match at Independence Park in Kingston.
Stephen Eustaquio broke a 1-1 draw with a goal late in the second half to give the men their first victory in Jamaica in 35 years.
“We wanted to come out of here with a result,” said interim coach Mauro Biello. “So, the first phase, mission accomplished for us.
“It was a competitive game. We knew coming in here it would be a very difficult with the quality of players on their team.”
Jonathan David scored the other goal for Canada. Shamar Nicholson tied the game for Jamaica in the 56th minute on a disputed goal.
Biello told a news conference prior to the game that “how we manage the chaos” would be a factor in determining the match’s outcome.
The game was initially scheduled for Friday night but was postponed until Saturday due to heavy rain. It was 28 C at kickoff at 10:30 a.m. local time with humidity around 78 per cent. The pitch appeared heavy and sticky, affecting the way the ball moved.
Canada, ranked 45th in the world, didn’t fold when the No. 55 Reggae Boyz tied the game on a questionable goal.
“Credit Canada to fight through it,” said Biello, the former assistant coach who earned his first victory since being put in charge after John Herdman left to take over Toronto FC. “It was very difficult, hard conditions. Very hot.
“It was really good character from the group.”
The second match in the two-match, aggregate series will be Tuesday at Toronto’s BMO Field.
The winner of the series moves on to the CONCACAF Nations League finals next March, as well as securing their ticket to Copa America as guest teams at the South American championship.
Fullback Richie Laryea set up the winning goal, showing his speed with a nice run down the side. He passed the ball back into the box and Eustaquio made no mistake.
Forward Cyle Larin did the work on David’s goal in first-half extra time. Larin took a long ball into the Jamaican zone, made a pretty spin to get away from two defenders, then sent a pass across the front of the net that David tapped home for his 26th international goal.
Nicholson tied the game when he got behind a surprised Canadian defence on a quick pass from Daniel Johnson and beat goalkeeper Milan Borjan. The offside flag went up but the goal was ruled good after video review.
Canadian players argued the whistle had not blown to start play but referee Tori Penso let the play stand.
“They took a quick free kick and were able to catch us,” said Biello.
“Sometimes in those moments you have to be a little more focused. Credit to the team to fight through it and come back and score a great second goal.”
Canada’s record playing in Jamaica improved to 2-6-5.