TORONTO – Well, how about that?
Renowned for its offensive futility, the Canadian men’s soccer team shrugged off the shackles in earning a 3-1 win over Jamaica on Tuesday night in an international friendly before 12,162 fans at BMO Field.
David Edgar, Marcel De Jong and Tosaint Ricketts scored for Canada, who earned its first win in eight games (1-3-4) since Spanish coach Benito Floro took over the reins last summer. The win also ended the Reds’ 16-game winless streak, its previous victory coming on Oct. 12, 2012 (when Stephen Hart was in charge) in a World Cup qualifier against Cuba, also the last time they played at home and the last time they scored three times in a match.
Ricketts called this win “massive.”
“We’ve been working really hard, trying to implement Benito’s tactics and ideology. We really brought it today,” the Canadian forward said.
In 2013, Canada netted just one goal in 13 games, and had only three goals in its previous 15 outings overall. Before Tuesday, the Reds had been outscored 9-2 since Floro took over, with Atiba Hutchinson’s goal from the penalty spot against Bulgaria in May ending a 959-minute scoring drought.
So Tuesday’s offensive outburst was more than welcomed, offering a glimmer of hope for Floro as he continues to rebuild a Canadian program reeling from that infamous 8-1 loss to Honduras two years ago.
Coaching his first game on Canadian soil, Floro saw his team move the ball well at times. Patrice Bernier, Julian de Guzman and Hutchinson worked well in unison in midfield, Randy Edwini-Bonsu offered pace down the left flank, and De Jong delivered several dangerous crosses as part of Canadian attack that asked questions of Jamaica’s defence.
“We created a lot of chances on goal. Our facility to score goals is [normally] not high, so the attack was good tonight,” Floro said.
There were a few defensive breakdowns, though, with the Jamaicans using their speed on the counter to stretch the Canadian back line.
“The problem was we lost three throw-ins. I’ve explained to my players that throw-ins are the most dangerous move in the game, both offensively and defensively. We lost three of them, and consequently Jamaica went on three dangerous counter-attacks,” Floro explained.
Asked in the post-match press conference about the progress Canada has made during his tenure, Floro answered the team is at “40 percent” of where he eventually wants it to be.
A sloppy start to the match, marred by errant passes and heavy touches by both nations, gave way to two moments of pure inspiration. In the 30th minute, Kemar Lawrence fired a gorgeous 25-yard free kick over the wall that nestled underneath the crossbar and past Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan.
Canada levelled the score a minute later on another perfectly-executed set piece. Bernier played a corner kick out to the top of the box to Edgar who struck a sweet half volley through trafficked and by Andre Blake in the Jamaican net.
“I have a knack for scoring at here I guess,” quipped Edgar, whose only previous goal for Canada came in that win against Cuba at BMO Field in 2012.
Early in the second half Jamar Loza snuck in past the defence and had a clear path towards goal, only to send his header of a lovely cross from Lawrence wide of the far post. Borjan then palmed away Loza’s hard, low drive from in close before scrambling to his feet to stop the rebound. Alvas Powell also squandered a golden opportunity from inside the box after receiving a lovely through-ball.
Jamaica was in the ascendency, but it was the Canadians who took the lead in the 68th minute. From almost the same spot Lawrence scored, De Jong delivered a beautiful free kick into the top corner that Blake had no chance of stopping.
Borjan came up big moments later, sticking out a leg to deny Loza who broke in alone down the right side. It proved a costly miss for Jamaica: a minute later Ricketts scored from inside the six-yard box after Blake bobbled Simeon Jackson’s long-range shot.
NOTES: Patrice Bernier earned his 50th cap, becoming the 23rd player to reach that milestone for Canada… Midfielder Nik Ledgerwood, who plays for German club Energie Cottbus, was ruled out for Canada through injury… Jamaica was missing Vancouver Whitecaps forward Darren Mattocks (ankle injury)… These two teams previously met in a friendly in Kingston, Jamaica on Jan. 31, 2010, won 1-0 by the hosts. Before that, Canada defeated Jamaica 1-0 in the group stage of the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Canada leads the all-time series against Jamaica with eight wins, four losses and four draws…Canada’s next friendly is Nov. 18 against Panama in Panama City…