Canada cruises to record win in Concacaf Nations League opener

John Herdman spoke post-game after the historic victory over the U.S. Virgin Islands. Courtesy Canada Soccer.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Jonathan David, Lucas Cavallini and Cyle Larin each scored twice Sunday, helping Canada open its CONCACAF Nations League qualifying campaign with a record 8-0 win over the outmatched U.S Virgin Islands.

It marked the Canadian men’s biggest win, surpassing a 7-0 victory in St. Lucia in October 2011. And it marks only the second time a Canadian men’s team has ever scored more than five goals.

As expected it was one-way traffic against a largely amateur U.S. Virgin Islands side ranked 199th in the world compared to No. 79 for Canada.

Jonathan Osorio and Junior Hoilett also scored for Canada, which led 5-0 at the half on a hot late afternoon at the IMG Academy. Teenager Alphonso Davies was more influential as the game wore on, setting up several goals, and was just wide with a shot of his own in stoppage time.

The 18-year-old David, an Ottawa native who plays for KAA Gent in Belgium, became the youngest Canadian to score on his senior debut.

The game marked coach John Herdman’s first competitive match at the Canadian men’s helm. Herdman, who switched from the women’s to the men’s program in January, saw his team defeat New Zealand 1-0 in a March friendly in Spain.

The game was originally slated to be held in the U.S. Virgin Islands but was shifted to the IMG Academy due to lack of a suitable venue in the hurricane-hit string of Caribbean islands.

Glasgow Rangers midfielder Scott Arfield captained Canada. Herdman gave starts to the 17-year-old Davies, 18-year-old Liam Millar and David, and 20-year-old Derek Cornelius.

Osorio opened the scoring in the sixth minute with a glancing header off a Millar cross and set the stage for the second goal two minutes after when, after deftly chesting the ball down, his shot hit the crossbar. Cavallini, a 24-year-old who plays in Mexico for Puebla FC, came flying into head the ball home.

David made it 3-0 in the 32nd minute, rapping in a low cross got a goal in his international debut. David increased the lead five minutes later beating Erik Mozzo after taking through ball from Hoilett.

The U.S. Virgin Islands appealed for a penalty in the 40th minute when James Mack went down but the referee waved play on.

Cavallini made it 5-0 just before halftime, pivoting from close-range to knock in a ball from Arfield after a delightful backheel.

Hoilett kept the scoreboard ticking in the 50th minute, triggering a Canadian break and then finishing it off by tapping in a David cross.

Larin, who replaced Cavallini at halftime, increased the lead to 7-0 in the 60th minute by knocking in a cross from Davies, who beat two defenders to get the ball in the box.

Davies played provider again in the 80th, floating a cross for an unmarked Larin to head in.

The USVI player pool is largely amateur although goalkeeper Mozzo plays for VfL Frohnlach, a fifth-tier German team, and forward Aaron Dennis suits up for Penn FC in the second-tier USL.

The others have day jobs and play in a domestic league. There are students, boat captains, government workers and air conditioning repairmen among others on the team known as the Dashing Eagles.

The Canadian men host No. 177 Dominica on Oct. 16 at Toronto’s BMO Field before playing at No. 135 St. Kitts & Nevis on Nov. 18 and entertaining French Guiana on March 26. French Guiana, while a member of CONCACAF, is not part of FIFA so is unranked.

The four-game qualifying round sets the stage for a three-tier competition complete with promotion and relegation, that kicks off in the fall of 2019 in the confederation covering North and Central America and the Caribbean.

The top six teams out of qualifying will join Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, the U.S., and Trinidad and Tobago in the top-tier League A. Those six countries skipped qualifying by virtue of reaching the final round of CONCACAF qualifying.

The six will also qualify automatically for the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup, which increases to 16 teams from 12, along with the top 10 countries from the CONCACAF Nations League Qualifying.

The CONCACAF Nations League B will feature 16 teams while League C has 13.


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