PUEBLA, Mexico – One of the long-standing issues with Canadian soccer teams has been the distinct lack of players who can shoulder the offensive load and score on a regular basis.
That may not be the case for much longer.
Though it's still early in his career, Vancouver Whitecaps FC striker Caleb Clarke is showing signs that Canada may finally have someone that can step in as an offensive leader.
On his first – and Canada’s second – goal in their 5-1 CONCACAF U-20 Championship win over Nicaragua, Clarke timed his near-post run to perfection before getting his right foot on Ben Fisk’s corner in the first half. He provided a similar finish in the second when he managed to redirect John Dollery’s cross from the right.
HIGHLIGHTS: 'Caps lead Canada to 5-1 win
While Clarke got the finish, the fact that he benefitted from great service was not lost on the tall forward.
“Fantastic crosses by [Fisk] and [Dollery],” Clarke told the media after the game on his way to the team bus. “They were great crosses on a silver platter and all I had to do was pass them in.”
While the service is a good sign in its own right, it's comforting for the Canadians that there’s someone who can convert the chances he’s given. As was evidenced on his first goal, Clarke also possesses a great ability to time his runs, which nearly got him a third goal in the game.
On that play, Clarke hit a curling left-footed effort and the Nicaraguan goalkeeper managed to get a piece of before his struck the crossbar. To those who provide him with chances, his skills just make their job that much easier.
“It’s a great thing,” said Dollery. “You know that you can put the ball in the front or the back and you know he’s going to make the correct run. Someone like Caleb, he’s always going to put the ball in the back of the net if he’s got the right chance.”
At the U-20 level, Clarke has already shown his goalscoring prowess, though it will be a different task altogether at the senior level. But at just 19 years of age and still very much a work in progress for both club and country, Clarke knows the best way to succeed is just to keep doing what he's doing.
“If I can keep on giving goals to whatever Canadian team I’m playing on," Clarke said, "that would be great for me and that would be great for team.”