The Canadian men’s national team began Concacaf Nations League qualifying with a historic 8-0 victory over the U.S. Virgin Islands on Sunday.
A resounding win was expected, although there were some intriguing developments in the game, including head coach John Herdman’s tactics and a potential selection headache for future matches.
Here are three thoughts from Canada’s emphatic win…
Herdman has embarrassment of attacking riches
Many of Canada’s attackers entered this match in top form.
Jonathan David has six goals in eight appearances for Gent in Belgium, Cyle Larin is a regular starter at Besiktas, while Lucas Cavallini continues to impress at Puebla in Liga MX. Then there’s Junior Hoilett, Alphonso Davies and Liam Millar on the wings
David, Cavallini, Hoilett, Davies and Millar all started against the U.S. Virgin Islands and were involved in multiple goals.
However, given that they lined up in a 2-5-3 formation (no, that’s not a typo), it’s going to be difficult to fit in all of these attacking weapons in the future.
Head coach John Herdman has stuck to the 4-3-3 since he took over in January. He now has four centre forwards to choose from in Larin, David, Cavallini and Tosaint Ricketts. There’s also Davies, Millar, Hoilett to balance on the wings. The likes of Raheem Edwards and Kris Twardek – who didn’t make this squad – can also play out wide.
At least a couple of these players will be disappointed in the future because not everyone will be able to start. But Canada has rarely boasted this level of attacking depth. Herdman will certainly encourage competition and be content with any potential selection headache.
Too many attackers? Use them all
When Canada’s teamsheet was unveiled, it listed just two out-and-out defenders in Derek Cornelius and Doneil Henry. Some speculated if Davies would fill in at left-back with Junior Hoilett on the right.
It turned out that John Herdman literally lined up his side in a 2-5-3. There were moments when Davies and Hoilett slid across to cover the flanks when defending, although considering the vast gap in quality, Canada spent the majority of the match in the attacking third.
Herdman has deployed similar systems in the past with the Canadian women’s team, so it’s not unusual for him. The goal difference tiebreaker will also be a huge factor in these qualifiers, so running up the score isn’t exactly optional.
Youngsters capitalize on opportunities
John Herdman handed full competitive debuts to Derek Cornelius, Liam Millar and Jonathan David on Sunday. With Alphonso Davies in the lineup as well, it marked the first time Canada named three teenagers in a starting 11.
Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, Liam Millar… this marks the st time EVER that Canada has featured teenagers in their starting XI for a competitive match.
— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) September 9, 2018
Cornelius was seldom tested, but he still completed the full 90 minutes and solidified a clean sheet for Canada. David had a brace, while Millar picked up three assists. Alphonso Davies also connected with Cyle Larin for a pair of goals in the second half.
With so much competition in the final third, it was imperative that Canada’s young players took advantage of their minutes. Should the Canadians reach the 2019 Gold Cup, these four qualifiers and subsequent friendlies could solidify a permanent place in the team for the tournament next summer.
For now, this will serve as valuable experience for the Canadian youngsters in the future.