Larin scores twice to help Canada beat COVID-depleted Haiti in Gold Cup

John Herdman talked about the toughness of Haiti and Canada’s well-rounded offence in a win at the Gold Cup. (Courtesy: Canada Soccer/One Soccer)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Canada coach John Herdman is happy to see the back of Haiti. But now the degree of difficulty increases for Canada at the Gold Cup.

The Canadian men dispatched a COVID-depleted but determined Haiti side 4-1 Thursday, all but securing a berth in the CONCACAF championship quarterfinals. The U.S. defeated Martinique 6-1 later Thursday, ensuring both North American teams advance to the knockout round ahead of their match Sunday to decide who finishes atop Group B.

It marks the first time in 15 trips to the tournament that Canada has qualified for the next round with one match remaining.

Cyle Larin scored twice, giving Canada some breathing room and a 3-1 lead from the penalty spot in the 74th minute after video review confirmed substitute Richie Laryea had indeed been taken down. It was Larin's 18th goal for Canada and his fifth in his last four games. The Besiktas forward now has 10 goals in eight matches for Canada in 2021 -- a single-year Canadian scoring record.

Stephen Eustaquio and Junior Hoilett, with a 79th minute penalty, also scored for Canada. Stephane Lambese replied for Haiti.

Herdman liked his team's resilience on the night but acknowledged the performance had been "loose" at times.

"The guys started to look like they were fatiguing a bit ? It wasn't as crisp, it wasn't as sharp as I'd expect," he said.

"While I thought there was some good individual performances, collectively there was a lot of a areas where we can keep growing in," he added.

Dealing with COVID-19, Haiti dressed just 14 players including three substitutes, one of whom was the reserve goalkeeper. The Haitians had dressed 17 Sunday in its 1-0 loss to the U.S. after five players and one assistant coach returned positive test results.

Coach Jean-Jacques Pierre said Wednesday that two more players were unavailable. But it turned out to be three.

"It's been very stressful," said Derrick Etienne Jr., a midfielder with the Columbus Crew. "Testing every day in the morning, to be here. Losing guys."

Etienne then reeled off the names of teammates sidelined by COVID.

"So many guys," he said. "We haven't been able to train ? It's part of the world we live in now. I'm not going to make any excuses about it. Canada's a good team. We had our chances. We didn't capitalize on them and they capitalized on their chances All the best to them."

Those missing for Haiti included leading scorers Frantzdy Pierrot and Duckens Nazon. Canada, meanwhile, had a well-stocked bench with 10 substitutes.

Still as Herdman had predicted, the Haitians proved to be a handful. They came on late in the first half after going down a goal and scored themselves after falling 2-0 behind early in the second half.

"It's football and with Haiti, they're never going away," said Herdman. "They always find a way through their athleticism and their spirit just to keep fighting. They're a hard team. I'm just pleased we don't have to play them again for another few years."

The 70th-ranked Canadian men defeated No. 83 Haiti 4-0 on aggregate when they met in a two-legged CONCACAF World Cup qualifying series last month.

Eustaquio opened the scoring in the fifth minute Thursday, curling a free kick over a four-man Haiti wall and past six-foot-five goalkeeper Brian Silvestre, a product of the Vancouver Whitecaps residency program who now plays for the USL's Miami FC. Lucas Cavallini won the free kick, taken down by defender Dutherson Clerveaux outside the penalty box.

"Top-level" was Herdman's assessment of the set-piece strike.

It was the first direct free-kick goal for the Canadian men since Marcel de Jong's left-footed strike against Jamaica on Sept. 9, 2014.

Eustaquio, who plays for FC Pacos de Ferreira in Portugal, opened his scoring account for Canada in Sunday's 4-1 win over Martinique.

Larin made it 2-0 in the 51st minute, knocking home a shot from in-close after a Tajon Buchanan cross came to him after bouncing off a defender.

Haiti had a gilt-edged chance two minutes later when Steven Vitoria lost the ball to substitute Ronaldo Damus, leaving him all alone in front of goal. Goalkeeper Max Crepeau forced him to the side and Damus' shot was off target.

Haiti finally breached the Canadian defence in the 56th minute with Lambese roofing a shot after some good interplay in the Canada penalty box.

Forwards Tyler Pasher of the Houston Dynamo and Ayo Akinola of Toronto FC came on in the late stages to earn their first caps for Canada. Akinola, taken down by Francois Dulysse soon after taking the field, won the late penalty that Hoilett converted.

Canada improved its record in 2021 to 8-0-0, outscoring its opposition 39-3. It will face its toughest test to date Sunday against the 20th-ranked Americans.

All of Canada's group matches are at Children's Mercy Park, which suffered a power outage briefly Thursday.

Canada is now 10-2-2 all-time against Haiti, with one of the losses a 3-2 defeat in the 2019 Gold Cup quarterfinals -- a game that saw the Canadians blow a 2-0 lead.

Canada went into the Haiti match with six players on a yellow card -- Eustaquio, Cavallini, Kaye, Vitoria, Liam Fraser, and Alistair Johnston. All but Fraser started Thursday, knowing a second yellow would mean missing the U.S. match.

Costa Rican referee Juan Gabriel Calderon kept his yellow card in his pocket for the most part but Eustaquio was cautioned in the 82nd minute and will miss Sunday's match.

Eustaquio's caution seemed premeditated, as he was booked for time-wasting as he delayed taking a free kick. While he misses the final group game, he clears his disciplinary record ahead of the knockout round.

"We did our analysis, made some decisions. And I think the guys were really professional about how they managed themselves in a game that is so physical against Haiti," said Herdman.

Herdman made just two changes to his starting 11 with Doneil Henry and Cavallini, who both came off the bench against Martinique, slotting in for Laryea and Hoilett.

Herdman recorded his 20th win at international "A" level as Canada coach, joining Stephen Hart (20) and Bob Lenarduzzi (21).

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