It wasn’t the prettiest of games, but Canada found a way to grind out a 3-0 win over hosts Puerto Rico at the Estadio Juan Ramón Loubriel on Tuesday night, vaulting Stephen Hart’s side to six points through their first two games in Group D of CONCACAF’s second qualifying round for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Iain Hume struck late in the first half, while substitutes Simeon Jackson and Tosaint Ricketts each scored at the end of the second half for the Canucks, who remain in first place with a two-point lead in the group.
Unlike in their opening match against St. Lucia, the Canadians started the game at a decidedly slow pace, choosing to stroke the ball around methodically and let their hosts do the chasing. The Puerto Ricans seemed prepared for Canada’s tactical choice, however, and applied enough pressure to grab a few half-chances throughout the opening half hour.
The Canucks stepped up the pace a bit to end the opening 45, but it wasn’t until three minutes before the halftime whistle when Canada opened the scoring. After a nice spell of possession, the Canadians found themselves in numbers within the Puerto Rico goalmouth. A scramble ensued, and the ball fell to a wide open Hume at the penalty spot, who made no mistake in smashing it hard and low to Puerto Rican goalkeeper Eric Reyes’ left side.
The match once again slowed to a crawl in the opening stages of the second half, with the visitors content to retain the lion’s share of possession without much in the way of offensive forays. Canada tempted their hosts to open the game up, and only when the Puerto Ricans obliged did either side get forward with any purpose.
With just more than 20 minutes remaining, Jackson nearly doubled Canada’s lead, ringing a fierce 20-yard shot off the base of the Puerto Rican post. The hosts responded by immediately launching a counter-attack and just narrowly missing Lars Hirschfeld’s post with a headed effort by substitute Tyler Wilson.
The end-to-end play continued, but some poor finishing on both sides kept the score low. Jackson finally nabbed the insurance marker five minutes from the fulltime whistle, slotting home a rebound from inside the Puerto Rico six-yard box after a Dwayne De Rosario free kick was saved by Reyes.
Defeated, the Puerto Ricans let a poor clearance fall directly to an awaiting Ricketts in time added on, and the 24-year-old striker pounced, giving Canada their third and final goal of the night.
The Canadians now regroup and head back to their clubs, with the next qualifying match away to St. Lucia on Friday, October 7. Canada then face Puerto Rico at Toronto’s BMO Field on Tuesday, October 11.
CAN -- Iain Hume, 42’
CAN -- Simeon Jackson, 85’
CAN -- Tosaint Ricketts, 90+3’
CAN -- David Edgar, 20’ (caution; reckless foul)
CAN -- Terry Dunfield, 52’ (caution; reckless foul)
Eric Reyes, John Krause, Scott Horta, Richard Martínez, Alexis Rivera, Scott Jones, Noah Delgado, Andrés Pérez (Jorge Rodríguez, 82’), Cristian Arrieta (Héctor Ramos, 46’), Andrés Cabrero, Chris Megaloudis (Tyler Wilson, 57’)
Subs not used: Gabriel González, Petter Villegas, Isaac Nieves, Juan Vélez, Álvaro Betancourt
Lars Hirschfeld; Mike Klukowski, Kevin McKenna, Andre Hainault, David Edgar; Terry Dunfield (Simeon Jackson, 62’), Julian de Guzman, Will Johnson; Josh Simpson (Tosaint Ricketts, 83’), Dwayne De Rosario, Iain Hume
Subs not used: Milan Borjan, Jaime Peters, Jonathan Beaulieu-Borgault, Ante Jazic, Atiba Hutchinson, Marcus Haber
Referee: Enrico Wijngaarde (SUR)
Assistant Referees: Ramon Louisville (SUR), Egbert Paesch (ARU)
4th Official: Rudolph Angela (ARU)
Weather: Partly cloudy and 84 degrees