Pickering ‘keeper earns win; Brampton boys score four as Canada tops Cuba in Gold Cup


Published July 5, 2023 at 9:30 am


Dayne St. Clair just wanted his chance to shine and save for a couple of penalties – the last in the 89th minute – the Pickering ‘keeper did more than enough to help send Canada through to the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals.

It helped that his teammates converted their own chances, scoring four goals enroute to a 4-2 victory over Cuba and a date with the USA in the quarter-finals on Sunday at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati.

Brampton boys Junior Hoilett, Jonathan Osorio, Jayden Nelson and Liam Millar took care of the scoring in the match – huge goals considering the Canadians went into the game knowing they would need those goals if they hoped to advance out of the group.

A thrilling 3-2 Guatemala win over Guadeloupe in the other group match of the day meant a win was all Canada needed, but it also meant second place in the group and a match with the Americans – a repeat of the Nations League final from a couple of weeks ago.

Guatemala will face Jamaica in another quarter-final.

Canada earned back-to-back draws to open the tournament; 2-2 draw against Guadeloupe in the opener in Toronto last Tuesday and a 0-0 tie against Guatemala in Houston on Saturday.

Starting goalkeeper Milan Borjan picked up an injury in the Nations League final and played through it for those first two Gold Cup games but the decision was made for him to go back to Europe to rehab and give St. Clair his third start wearing the maple leaf.

The Minnesota United starter and MLS All-Star wasn’t too busy, having to deal with just five shots sent his direction (Canada had 14), with Canada enjoying a 62 per cent possession advantage. But both sides had five corners and the Cubans are a much improved team from the eleven who lost 7-0 to Canada in their last Gold Cup meeting in 2019.

Mistakes did the Cubans in, however, starting with a Junior Hoilett penalty on a Cuba handball; a giveaway that led to an Osorio tap-in (on a perfect pass from Lucas Cavallini); a mess in front of the Cuban goal that resulted in Nelson’s goal, and Miller’s first goal for his country on a Hoilett corner that Cuba’s third-string goalkeeper did not track well.

Canada had their sloppy moments too, with a giveaway in midfield leading to St. Clair tripping up Luis Paradela in the box and the resulting penalty in first half injury time.

With about seven players missing from the Canada squad who played in the Nations League the Americans will be heavy favourites Sunday on home soil, a place Canada hasn’t won for 66 years.

But coach John Herdman is still a believer. “We’ve got a hungry group of players that are desperate to get that first win since 1957.”

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