2017 Gold Cup
By Matthew Gourlie
It was a familiar tale with a fresh spin for Canada Friday night.
Canada exited the Gold Cup with a 2-1 loss to Jamaica in a quarter-final in Glendale, Ariz. Defensive miscues and missed chances cost Canada dearly, but unlike in many disappointing losses of years past, the young Canadians played well, held the ball and created more chances than their opponents.
“We have ability all over the park. You can see how we controlled the game. We played great football. It’s just the beginning. There is more to come,” said Canadian goal-scorer Junior Hoilett after the match. “The new manager came in just a couple of months ago and he planted a signature for the group and we’ll grow from there.”
They may have earned some style points, but that will cold comfort as Octavio Zambrano and his players raised the bar with some adventurous play in the group stage and then fell at the first hurdle in the knockout phase.
The Jamaicans looked well-organized in drawing 0-0 against Mexico, but are well below full strength. With Mexico sending a full second string side, it is a wide-open Gold Cup that allows teams outside the perennial winners a chance to dream about crashing the party.
While Canada set out to attack, the Jamaican game plan was simple and obvious: they sat back and used their pace on the counter. And once Shaun Francis smashed a Darren Mattock pass into the top corner six minutes in, there was no reason for the Reggae Boyz to show any undue endeavour or risk.
Romario Williams scored five minutes into the second half to double Jamaica’s lead to 2-0.
Cyle Larin was a late addition to the roster for the knockout round after serving a three-match team suspension and he got the start up top ahead of Lucas Cavallini. Larin missed an open header on the edge of the six-yard box in the first half and didn’t last an hour before being replaced by Cavallini.
Hoilett scored in the 61st minute with a great strike, but Jamaican keeper Andre Blake bested him with an incredible save to reach another Hoilett strike that seemed destined for the top corner.
“It wasn’t easy. Canada is a very good team. We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game, but all of the guys stick together and fight and it’s a great feeling to be moving on,” Blake said.
Canada had nearly 66 per cent of the ball, completed 86 per cent of their passes and took 19 shots. In fact they completed nearly double the number of Jamaican shots: 492-255.
And for all of that, they are still exiting the tournament.
“We gave it our all. We gave it 100 per cent. We have no regrets. We left it all on the pitch. It just wasn’t our day,” Hoilett said. “We had a terrific group here. We stuck together and there’s plenty more to come.”
Canada’s Alphonso Davies looked his age for the first time all tournament as the Jamaicans were able to close him down quickly and swarm him into turnovers. Still, the 16-year-old leaves the tournament with three goals and an enhanced reputation.
There were plenty of signs for Zambrano’s side moving forward.
Sam Piette and Scott Arfield both had fantastic tournaments and solidified a place in the midfield. Michael Petrasso was an unexpected find at right back and offers a possible long-term solution to Canada’s trouble spot. On the other side Sam Adekugbe had some strong minutes at left back.
Jamaica advances to play Mexico in the semifinal.
Jamaica 2 Canada 1
Goals: Francis 6, Williams 50; Hoilett 61.
Jamaica: Blake; Powell, Lowe, Taylor, Lawrence; Gordon, Lambert (Binns 89), Watson, Francis (Burke 67); Mattocks, Williams (Richie 81).
Canada: Borjan; Petrasso, Jakovic, Vitoria (James 56), de Jong; Arfield, Piette, Teibert; Hoilett, Larin (Cavallini 56), Davies (Jackson-Hamel 82).
Cautions: Jam: Lambert; Can: Vitoria
MOTM: Andre Blake.
R: Ricardo Montero, Costa Rica.
A: 37,404 University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.