TORONTO – It could have been so much more, and for Canada’s sake, they had better hope qualifying for the Hexagonal doesn’t go down to goal differential.
Playing against a Cuban team that only had 11 players after a number of them reportedly left the team, Canada got one early then scored a couple more late to win Friday’s World Cup qualifier at BMO Field 3-0 in a game the hosts dominated.
Tosaint Ricketts scored 14 minutes in and it looked like the floodgates would open from there. But Canada frustratingly couldn’t convert a plethora of chances before Will Johnson’s header in the 72nd minute and David Edgar’s right-footed volley in the 78th made the offensive dominance go down easier after Canada outshot the visitors by a whopping 37-6 margin.
Cuban goalkeeper Odelín Molina made some fine saves – nine by the time the final whistle sounded – but it shouldn’t have even mattered. As early as the fourth minute, Canada asked questions of the patchwork Cuban backline.
Atiba Hutchinson crossed in from the right early, but Simeon Jackson couldn’t poke home from close range and Molina made the save on Occean’s follow-up. It became a pattern that repeated itself as Canada put shot after shot on goal, many of which were right at the veteran Cuban ‘keeper.
The Canadians took their foot off the gas a bit as the half progressed but ended it with a flurry as Ricketts headed over, Occean had a header saved and Hutchinson saw his shot palmed over in quick succession.
Cuba’s Roberto Linares was red-carded in the 71st minute on a reckless tackle on Andre Hainault, but Canada gave it right back after Johnson scored to ice the win. As the RSL man went to retrieve the ball, Occean tussled with Molina in the net and was shown red by official Javier Santos.
That means the Québécois striker will miss Canada’s crucial Group C finale in Honduras on Oct. 16 in which Les Rouges will almost certainly need at least a point to reach the CONCACAF Hexagonal for the first time in 16 years.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Atiba Hutchinson||Total class from PSV man, both string-puller for Canadians and had several chances of his own.|
|2||Ante Jazic||Chivas USA man assisted on both goals and was a constant overlapping threat on the left flank.|
|3||Odelín Molina||On a night when "desperation" was the word for in-turmoil Cuba, 38-year-old made nine big saves.|