In the moments ahead of their first final in 23 years, several veteran members of Canada’s men’s national soccer team appeared to have watering eyes as the national anthems blared through Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Sunday.
Canada fell 2-0 to the United States in the final of the CONCACAF Nations League, the second edition of a tournament which replaced international friendlies in the region and put another trophy in the mix for men’s national teams — giving Canada a better shot at regional glory.
The U.S. opened the scoring 11 minutes into the game, when Chris Richards eluded a defender in the 18-yard box before heading Gio Reyna’s corner kick past Canada’s Milan Borjan. The Americans added to their lead in the 34th minute as Reyna set up Folarin Balogun for his first international goal after choosing to represent the U.S. over England.
On one side, Canada’s men’s team is youthful, brimming with world-class talent, with more exciting youngsters on the way up.
But Sunday proved a generational shift for Canada, as Atiba Hutchinson, the team’s 40-year-old talismanic captain, hung up his cleats after a national team career that spanned two decades and 104 appearances.
Coming off their first World Cup appearance in 36 years in Qatar, the chance to play for a trophy for the first time since winning the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup was invaluable for a shifting Canadian group, as the likes of 21-year-old Ismaël Koné and Alphonso Davies, 22, continue to lead the team into the next generation.
Canada reached the final of the competition with a 2-0 victory over Panama on Thursday, where Ottawa’s Jonathan David and Edmonton’s Alphonso Davies both scored. Meanwhile, the U.S. knocked off Mexico 3-0 in a feisty semifinal featuring four red cards.
With the loss, head coach John Herdman and the Canadian team look towards the CONCACAF Gold Cup, kicking off June 27, where they will play in a group alongside Guatemala, Cuba, and a team yet to qualify.