HIGHLIGHTS: Canada blanks Cuba in CONCACAF Nations League – Canadian Premier League

HIGHLIGHTS: Canada blanks Cuba in CONCACAF Nations League - Canadian Premier League
HIGHLIGHTS: Canada blanks Cuba in CONCACAF Nations League
8h ago Canada finds goals hard to come by in CONCACAF Nations League rematch with Cuba Canada dominated play but needed an Alphonso Davies goal for a 1-0 win over Cuba in CONCACAF Nations League A play Tuesday, just three days after running roughshod over the Cubans in Toronto. The Canadian Press

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands — Canada survived heat, a hard pitch and a physical Cuba side in a 1-0 win in CONCACAF Nations League A play Tuesday, just three days after running roughshod over the Cubans in Toronto.

While Canada controlled Tuesday’s game, the Cubans were more disciplined in defence — sitting deep with two lines of four and content with the occasional counter-attack by forward Maykel Reyes, who had a stint with Mexico’s Cruz Azul in 2018.

Despite losing centre back Doneil Henry to a second yellow card in the 55th minute, the Canadian men had 82 per cent possession at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex and completed 696 passes to the Cubans 93.

They are trying to crack the top six in the region to make the so-called Hex round of World Cup qualifying, the most direct route out of the CONCACAF — which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean — to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“It was a tough game. The surface was not the best but I think we fought hard,” said Davies. “Were happy to get the three points.”

El Nuevo Herald, a Florida newspaper, reported that three of Cuba’s starters Saturday — defender Alejandro Portal, midfielder Andy Baquero and forward and captain Yordan Santa Cruz — had defected after the game.

Davies, who had a fine game despite absorbing plenty of punishment from the Cubans, scored with a powerful left-footed blast from just inside the penalty box after a Cuban turnover at midfield. It was the Bayern Munich teenagers fourth goal in 15 national team appearances.

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands — Canada dominated play but needed an Alphonso Davies goal for a 1-0 win over Cuba in CONCACAF Nations League A play Tuesday, just three days after running roughshod over the Cubans in Toronto.

“He wouldnt be at Bayern if he didnt have that quality,” said goalkeeper Milan Borjan, who captained Canada for the first time. “The kid is just amazing. Hes a wunderkind.”

Playing at a neutral site, a revamped Canadian roster found itself dealing with a Cuban side that was decidedly more stubborn and physical despite reportedly losing players to defection on the trip to Canada.

Playing at a neutral site, a revamped Canadian roster found itself dealing with a Cuban side that was decidedly more stubborn and physical despite reportedly losing players to defection on the trip to Canada.

The Cubans chopped down Canadians as needed and Guatemalan referee Mario Escobar content to let them play.

Canada, ranked 78th in the world, thumped No. 179 Cuba 6-0 on Saturday at BMO Field with captain Junior Hoilett recording a hat trick and Jonathan David, Jonathan Osorio and Henry also scoring.

Canada, ranked 78th in the world, thumped No. 179 Cuba 6-0 on Saturday at BMO Field with captain Junior Hoilett recording a hat trick and Jonathan David, Jonathan Osorio and Henry also scoring.

Herdman rang in the changes with only goalkeeper Milan Borjan, defenders Henry and Richie Laryea, midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye and forwards Davies and David remaining in the starting 11.

“We knew on this pitch and (with) the conditions, the goals werent going to be as flowing,” said Canada coach John Herdman.

The Canadian men currently stand eighth in CONCACAF, behind Mexico (No. 12 in the world), the U.S. (22), Costa Rica (44), Jamaica (52), Honduras (67), El Salvador (68) and Panama (74).

“But I was really happy with how the players responded,” he added. “I think we controlled the game, even down to 10 men.”

Davies scored in the ninth minute for Canada, which was reduced to 10 men in the 55th minute when centre back Doneil Henry was sent off for a second yellow card, seemingly for dissent.

Tuesdays game was shifted to the Cayman Islands capital when the stadium in Havana did not pass CONCACAF scrutiny.

The Canadians wanted a penalty for handball in the 46th minute but didn’t get it. Coach John Herdman introduced Osorio in the 52nd minute in a bid to help open up the Cubans.

While Canada controlled Tuesdays game, the Cubans were more disciplined in defence — sitting deep with two lines of four and content with the occasional counter-attack by forward Maykel Reyes, who had a stint with Mexicos Cruz Azul in 2018.

Canada had 72 per cent possession in the first half but only put one shot on target. The Cubans had one first-half scoring chance but the ball hit the side of the goal.

Canada had 72 per cent possession in the first half but only put one shot on target. The Cubans had one first-half scoring chance but the ball hit the side of the goal.

The Canadians wanted a penalty for handball in the 46th minute but didnt get it. Herdman introduced Osorio in the 52nd minute in a bid to help open up the Cubans.

Canada’s next Nations League game is Oct. 15 against the 22nd-ranked Americans at Toronto’s BMO Field. The Americans will host the Canadians on Nov 15.

With Henry off the field, Herdman brought on centre back Derek Cornelius and removed striker Cycle Larin in the 60th minute. Liam Millar replaced Davies in the 79th minute.

Herdman rang in the changes with only goalkeeper Borjan, defenders Henry and Richie Laryea, midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye and forwards Davies and David remaining in the starting 11.

David Urgelles and Orlendiz Benitez reportedly left before the Toronto game. They were not listed on Saturday’s or Tuesday’s official roster sheets.

Hoilett, who plays for Cardiff City FC, returned home after the Toronto game to deal with a family matter.

Tuesday’s game was shifted to the Truman Bodden Sports Complex in the Cayman Islands capital when the stadium in Havana did not pass CONCACAF scrutiny.

In came defenders Steven Vitoria and Sam Adekugbe, midfielders Will Johnson and David Wotherspoon and Larin up front.

CONCACAF did not immediately respond to a question about possible defections. The Canadian Soccer Association referred questions to CONCACAF.

The 24-year-old Larin started up front with the 19-year-old David on the right flank and 18-year-old Davies on the left.

Cuba made four changes from its starting 11 with goalkeeper Sandy Sanchez dropping to the bench in favour of Nelson Johnston.

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El Nuevo Herald, a Florida newspaper, reported that three of Cubas starters Saturday — defender Alejandro Portal, midfielder Andy Baquero and forward and captain Yordan Santa Cruz — had defected after the game.

David Urgelles and Orlendiz Benitez reportedly left before the Toronto game. They were not listed on Saturdays or Tuesdays official roster sheets.

67 – I know the tragi-comic exploits of Doneil Henry is fast becoming a modern Canadian classic, but in all fairness – Herdman maybe shouldve seen it coming? He was being targeted by the Cuban forwards nearly every attack, and he was on a yellow coming into the second half. Some of us at WTR HQ even suspect the Ref forgot he was on that yellow.

CONCACAF did not immediately respond to a question about possible defections. The Canadian Soccer Association referred questions to CONCACAF.

Toronto FC defender Richie Laryea is also expected to make his second-straight start for Canada after the 24-year-old made his national team debut Saturday night, while forward Jonathan David, who has scored in ALL seven of his starts for the national team, is likely to lead the attacking charge with Hoilett absent.

Canadas next Nations League game is Oct. 15 against the 22nd-ranked Americans at Torontos BMO Field. The Americans will host the Canadians on Nov. 15.

Canada will have to do without their recent captain and hat-trick hero Junior Hoilett, who left Canadas camp earlier this week to return to England for family reasons, according to Canada Soccer. The Canadians will also be without midfielder Russell Teibert and Max Crepeau, who both sustained minor injuries.

The winner of the three-team group advances to the CONCACAF Nations League final four. The top two in the group also automatically qualify for the 2021 Gold Cup.

The Canadian men currently stand eighth in CONCACAF, behind Mexico (No. 12 in the world), the U.S. (22), Costa Rica (44), Jamaica (52), Honduras (67), El Salvador (68) and Panama (74).

37 – CONCACommentators having a full-on casual NPR chat about life, death, taxes, and soccer during the game. Love it when the actual game intrudes and they give it the absolute minimum lip service and return to the debate.

They are trying to crack the top six in the region to make the so-called Hex round of World Cup qualifying, the most direct route out of the CONCACAF — which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean — to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Alphonso Davies is fit for tonight. Finished Saturdays game against Cuba limping. It was nothing more than a cramp. Last 90 minutes for Davies was with Bayern Munich II three weeks ago. 645pm ET prematch @onesoccer #canMNT

El Salvador was beaten 1-0 by the 155th-ranked Dominican Republic on Tuesday and Panama lost 2-0 to No. 174 Bermuda on Sunday — upsets that are good news for the Canadian men.

Its “Mission: Accomplished” for the Canadian mens team through its first two outings in the CONCACAF Nations League.

7:10PM – Tuned into the OneSoccer 24-hour channel for pre-game goodness and an Olli sighting, stayed for the canned National Anthems on a closed channel. CONCACAF Go may be gone, but not my shoddy audio mixing!

Three days after hammering Cuba 6-0 at home, Canada had a much tougher time of it on Tuesday, settling for a 1-0 win over the Cubans in a neutral venue encounter in the Cayman Islands. Alphonso Davies scored for Canada, who played most of the second half with 10 men after defender Doneil Henry picked up a second yellow card for dissent.

55 – Oh noes!!! Yellow Card issued to Doneil Henry for dissent. Thats two yellows. That means its a Red Card. Canada down to 10 men and Henry will miss the game against the USA. That SUCKS.

Henrys expulsion and a laboured offensive effort notwithstanding (82 per cent possession, and a 759-115 passing advantage produced just one goal), it was a big three points earned for Canada, who is off to a perfect start in the Nations League.

Two games. Two wins. Two shutouts. Seven goals scored. None conceded. You couldnt have asked for much more from the Reds, who must now prepare for a winner-take-all, home-and-home series against the United States.

With kickoff set for 7:15 p.m. EST, the game will take place at Truman Bodden Sports Complex in the Cayman Islands due to lighting issues in Cubas national sporting field.

Canada currently tops Group A with six points, ahead of pointless Cuba and the U.S. (who have yet to play). The Canadians face the Americans – Oct. 15 in Toronto, Nov. 15 on the road – in a pair of contests that will likely decide who moves on to the Nations League final four. The top team from Group A, along with the winners from the other three round-robin groups, advance to the tournament semifinals next June.

The good news for Canada, however, is that Alphonso Davies is fit to play tonight after the FC Bayern Munich player finished Saturdays contest against Cuba limping.

Canada, 78th in the current FIFA world rankings, had to collect two victories vs. Cuba (ranked 179th) and pile up the goals in order to give itself a fighting chance of winning the group going into its two matches against the U.S (No. 22).

Watch it again: A look back at Canadas dominant performance against Cuba to open 2019/2020 Concacaf Nations League. #CANMNT #CNL pic.twitter.com/6DDNfutmBV

Were the under-dogs. … For us, its a cup final, Herdman told reporters in the post-match press conference.

Herdman credited the Cubans for making life difficult for Canada with their low, defensive block. He also felt the poor condition of the playing surface slowed down his Canadian side and forced them to attack down the wings, and limited their mobility through the middle

The pitch is bubbling, theres a level of frustration on the field, you cant get your rhythm or tempo that theyre used to playing on MLS pitches every week – and then the heat. It all sort of gets the emotion going. Its a real learning moment, Herdman said.

He later added: It took a little bit longer than wed hope to get control of the game, but I dont think we were ever in jeopardy.

Herdman made five line-up changes from last Saturdays home win. Sam Adekugbe started at left fullback (replacing Kamal Miller), Steven Vitoria partnered with Henry in the centre of defence (Derek Cornelius gave way), David Wotherspoon and Will Johnson came into the midfield (for Jonathan Osorio and Samuel Piette), forward Cyle Larin started up top.

Goalkeeper Milan Borjan wore the captains armband for the first time. Cavalry FC goalkeeper Marco Carducci was on the bench for Canada.

Junior Hoilett bagged a hat trick in Canadas win last week, but he returned home after the game for family reasons and was unavailable for Tuesdays contest. The Reds were also without veteran midfielders Atiba Hutchinson and Scott Arfield due to injuries. Cuba was missing starters from last Saturday after three players defected following the match.

It took the Canadians only nine minutes to open the scoring following a midfield turnover by the Cubans, as Davies blasted a shot from inside the box the blew by goalkeeper Nelson Johnston. It was the teenagers fifth goal in 16 appearances for Canada.

Canada dominated the first half with 78 per cent possession, but found it difficult to break down Cuba in the final third of the pitch. Larin snatched at a pair of half chances, and beyond Davies goal, the Cuban goalkeeper was never seriously tested by the Canadian attack.

Henry earned a second caution early in the 55th minute, forcing Canada to play a man down the rest of the way. The Vancouver Whitecaps ejection means hell be suspended for the Canadians home game against the U.S. next month.

In some ways Im happy to go down to 10 men. Im happier for this team to have that level of adversity. We had adversity in the Gold Cup [this summer] and we were criticized for not having the composure and the calm in that moment. I think the team showed that leadership and a step forward tonight that we can manage some tough moments, Herdman offered.

NOTES: Canada leads the all-time series against Cuba with a 9-2-3 record … Tuesdays match was played in George Town, capital of the Cayman Islands, because CONCACAF deemed the stadium in Havana where it was originally slated to be held unsuitable … Prior to this two-game series, Canada and Cuba previously met at this summers Gold Cup when the Reds rolled to a 7-0 win in Charlotte, North Carolina – both Jonathan David and Lucas Cavallini netted hat tricks for Canada…