THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO — A half dozen of the Ecuador players were still hollering at the referee when Tosaint Ricketts slyly slotted home his first career goal for Canada.
As debut goals go, Ricketts and Terry Dunfield certainly made their’s memorable Wednesday.
Canada plays USA on Sportsnet ONE and sportsnet.ca in the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Tuesday, June 7.
The two scored for Canada in a 2-2 draw with Ecuador in a friendly Wednesday at BMO Field, the final game for Canada’s men’s soccer team before the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Ricketts, subbed into the game in the 85th minute, scored in injury time on a quick free quick by Julian de Guzman, while an unsuspecting Ecuador side was still clustered around the referee arguing the call.
"(De Guzman) played the ball quickly, I was surprised at first and took a couple of touches and just put it in," Ricketts said. "It’s always good scoring, but the first one for Canada, I can’t describe the feeling right now."
Christian Benitez and Michael Arroyo scored for Ecuador, who could very well have been playing a home game with the thousands of yellow-and-blue-clad Ecuador fans among the crowd of 14.356.
The late goal didn’t sit well the Ecuador fans, who booed the referees off the pitch following the game.
"All we tell the players is look for opportunities when you have free kicks to take a quick free kick and take advantage of disorganization," said Canadian coach Stephen Hart. "It is our right to take a quick free kick and we did. Simple."
"Great goal," added midfielder Josh Simpson. "It feels great to get one of them, especially when they’re complaining like that, that was perfect for me."
Dunfield’s goal, while less controversial, was just as entertaining.
The Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder scored in the 23rd minute from just outside the top of the 18-yard box, taking one touch to settle a pass from Josh Simpson before launching a rocket past Ecuador’s ‘keeper Maximo Banguera into the top of the net.
Dunfield then leapt over the BMO Field barrier and into the outstretched arms of Canadian supporters in the south grandstand. Most of his teammates followed him.
"I’ve been waiting and dreaming of that day for 29 years, so it’s pretty special," Dunfield said. "The fans were going crazy over there and I wanted to go over and celebrate with them. It’s a great feeling having 10 other guys follow you in as well."
Benitez quieted the Canadian crowd with a header off a corner kick in the 62nd minute, sneaking into the six-yard box unmarked. Arroyo scored just two minutes later, dribbling around de Guzman before firing a shot from about 30 yards out into the top right corner past Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan.
Hart was using the game as a chance to tinker with his formation before 76th-ranked Canada kicks off the Gold Cup on Tuesday versus the United States in Detroit. No. 64 Ecuador provided the perfect opponent, the coach said, because of the team’s similarities to opponents they’ll face in the coming weeks.
"Teams from South America, there’s a sort of flexibility in how they play, there’s a lot of interchange of positions and movement, and it causes us trouble," Hart said. "I think it was very healthy for us to play this game."
The coach wasn’t pleased with his team’s performance though, saying players didn’t want to accept the responsibility to keep the ball and make the smart passes.
The play was evenly matched through the first half before the Canadians began to lag in the second, Ecuador’s first goal putting Canada on its heels.
"We were kind of stunned by it and kind of let them get into the game," said Canadian midfielder Dwayne De Rosario. "The quick, smart play on our part, and the no-die attitude got us back in the game."
Both teams had numerous scoring chances in an entertaining affair, and Canada could have been on the scoreboard as early as the fifth minute when defender Dejan Jakovic sprinted onto a corner kick by De Rosario but just missed getting his head on it. Jakovic may be lost for the Gold Cup tournament, Hart said, after suffering a hamstring injury in the first half.
De Rosario was playing his first match at BMO Field since Toronto FC traded their captain and all-time leading scorer to the New York Red Bulls on April 1.
Simeon Jackson, coming off a stunning late-season surge with Norwich City that saw him score nine times in seven games — including the headed goal that propelled his team into the Premier League — nearly scored on an identical shot to Dunfield’s in the 31st minute, forcing Banguera to make a diving save.
The Canadians were frustrated by the poor turnout by Canadian fans, which numbered maybe a quarter of Ecuador’s supporters.
"Going into the locker-room I think every guy was disappointed," De Rosario said. "I think it’s time that we start supporting our local sports right across the board, not only for hockey but for other sports as well, but especially for soccer because we have a great product out there."
Canada was playing just its second match this year — the Canadians beat Belarus 1-0 on March 29 — as they begin their buildup to the team’s ultimate goal, a berth in the 2014 World Cup. World Cup qualifying begins in September. Ecuador, which is gearing up for South America’s Copa America, was coming off a 1-1 draw with Mexico in a friendly on Saturday.
"We have four more days to work on things, work on our relationships, and hopefully we’ll get it right," Hart said.
The Canadians now face a 22nd-ranked U.S. team Tuesday at Ford Field that dispatched them from the Gold Cup four years ago in a disputed semifinal loss. Officials disallowed a tying goal by Atiba Hutchinson in the dying seconds.
Canada will then play Guadeloupe at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on June 11 and No. 67 Panama at newly named Livestrong Stadium in Kansas City on June 14.
Guadeloupe is unranked because it is not a member of FIFA.
.NOTES: Defender Kevin McKenna was making his 50th national team appearance… Ecuador beat Canada 2-0 the previous times the two teams played, in 2002.