Canada beats Aruba to set the stage for crucial World Cup qualifier against Suriname

·4 min read

BRADENTON, Fla. — Lucas Cavallini scored twice and Alphonso Davies, Cyle Larin and Jonathan David added late goals off the bench to help Canada blank Aruba 7-0 in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying play Saturday, setting the stage for a showdown Tuesday against Suriname.

Coach John Herdman elected to rest his big-name players for the Group B decider against Suriname with Davies, David, Larin and Milan Borjan kept out of the starting 11 Saturday.

Bayern Munich's Davies and Lille's David came on in the 66th minute, with Canada up 4-0.

David and Davies combined for Canada's fifth goal in the 78th minute with the 21-year-old David playing provider, sending the ball to the 20-year-old Davies whose hard shot from a tight angle went off a defender en route to the goal. It was Davies' eighth goal in 20 games for Canada.

Besiktas' Larin, who entered in the 72nd minute, finished off a David feed in the 87th for his 13th Canada goal to make it 6-0 after a turnover by Aruba goalkeeper Eric Abdul. David then scored himself two minutes later, dancing through the defence before slotting home a left-footed shot. It was David's 12th goal in 13 games for Canada.

The Canadians started slowly but gradually found their rhythm and scoring touch against an Aruba side, which at No. 205 is 135 places below Canada in the world rankings. And Aruba was swamped when the stars came on late in the game.

Junior Hoilett and Zachary Brault-Guillard also scored for Canada, which led 3-0 at the half at the IMG Academy.

Canada has outscored its opposition 23-1 in its three World Cup qualifiers to date, albeit against teams in the lower echelon of CONCACAF.

The win means Canada (3-0-0) needs only to tie No. 136 Suriname (3-0-0) to win Group B and advance to the second round of qualifying in the region covering North and Central America and the Caribbean. The win over Aruba gave Canada a better goals difference than Suriname, meaning Herdman's team has the edge in the first tiebreaker.

Given that scenario and the short turnaround between matches, Herdman essentially prepared two different teams for the Aruba and Suriname games.

Suriname blanked No. 168 Bermuda 6-0 on Friday in Paramaribo.

Canada's starting 11 came into the match with a total of 110 caps with 48 of those coming from Hoilett and Cavallini. Goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair and fullback/winger Tajon Buchanan both made their senior debuts.

St. Clair was a virtual spectator for much of the match.

Hoilett, who wore the captain's armband on his 31st birthday, went down in the 32nd minute and was replaced by Brault-Guillard, who was part of the 11-man taxi squad Herdman called into camp to bolster his original 24-man roster. Cavallini took over as skipper.

Canada had never played Aruba before at the international 'A' level.

Saturday's match was officially an Aruba home game but was moved to Florida due to pandemic-related travel restrictions. Canada's game against Suriname is a Canadian home match but will be played in Bridgeview, Ill., for the same reasons.

Canada threatened early with centre back Steven Vitoria's header off a corner going just over the crossbar. But Aruba settled down, dropping back on defence to soak up the Canadian attack.

The breakthrough came in the 17th minute with Cavallini's header beating Abdul off a fine cross from Mark-Anthony Kaye.

Three minutes later, Hoilett converted a penalty kick after Marlon Perreira, unable to get out of the way of a Liam Millar shot, was called for handball. Abdul stopped a Millar shot that got through in the 27th minute.

Cavallini made it 3-0 in first-half stoppage time, tapping home a fine low cross from Buchanan. It was his 16th goal in 20 games for Canada, tying him with Alex Bunbury for fifth on the Canadian men's all-time scoring list.

Cavallini, who plays for the Vancouver Whitecaps, has five goals in his last two games for Canada.

Brault-Guillard made it 4-0 in the 49th minute, opening his scoring account for Canada with a highlight-reel goal. The CF Montreal fullback turned a defender in the penalty box and hammered a high shot home.

Abdul was called into action again in the 59th to stop a hard shot from David Wotherspoon.

Canada opened qualifying play in late March, dispatching Bermuda 5-1 and the 194th-ranked Cayman Islands 11-0.

Aruba defeated Cayman Islands 3-1 on Wednesday. Previously it lost 6-0 to Suriname and 5-0 to Bermuda.

The Group B winner will advance to a second-round playoff against the Group E winner, likely No. 83 Haiti or No. 147 Nicaragua, in a home-and-away playoff June 12 and 15 to determine who advances to the eight-team final round of CONCACAF qualifying.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2021

The Canadian Press

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