Tosaint Ricketts has played in all the obscure far-flung soccer destinations: Finland, France, Romania, Israel, Lithuania … even Toronto. He’s been there, done that and seen it all in his decades-long career.
But there was one thing he’d never witnessed before in his 32 years on this Earth: Canada beating the U.S. in a senior team match.
Tuesday’s 2-0 win over the U.S. in Toronto marked the first victory over our southern neighbours since a 2-0 triumph at B.C. Place Stadium in 1985. Canada had gone 0-9-8 in between.
“It was amazing. To see the guys, go out there in front of the home crowd and put on a performance like they did …, it was inspiring,” said Ricketts. “Canada was by far the better team. They showed not only they were better, but had more desire. To make that history and break that losing trend to USA, and get that one-up on them, it’s amazing. I was so excited to see it.
“This win … was definitely special. It’s big for Canadian supporters, it’s big for the game, it’s big for the youth … it’s huge all around. I’m just happy to see the growth.”
Alphonso Davies scored the winner at BMO Field on Tuesday — where Canada is now 10-0-5 since 2011, with seven straight shutouts and just one goal against in its last 14 matches — while Lucas Cavallini added a 91st-minute injury-time dagger.
The result sparked mass celebrations north of the 49th parallel and set off paroxysms of rage below it, with the American media eviscerating their team’s performance and bloviating their stunned incredulity over losing to, well, Canada.
“I don’t think people, for many years, have thought very highly of Canada as a (soccer) country,” Toronto FC fullback Richie Laryea said before the game. “We’ve come a long way; this national team has come a very long way, so this is a big, very big, game for us, a chance for us to earn some respect.”
The game was part of Nations League play — a tournament featuring all CONCACAF teams — and was dismissed as uncompetitive and lacking in challenge for the U.S. side. But now they’re six points behind Canada in Group A and, if they lose the return leg in their round-robin play — a month away in Orlando, Fla. — they won’t even make it out of the group. Cavallini’s goal is now a huge factor in that Nov. 15 game as well.
While the U.S. has been stumbling its way through its fixtures since even before failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Canada has been on the rise — this summer’s Gold Cup debacle against Haiti, where they coughed up a 2-0 lead, notwithstanding.
So the result might not be, as the majority of American media outlets portrayed, as miraculous or disastrous as it seemed.
“One, it means a lot. It’s a great work and great result for the country,” said Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos, whose contribution to Canadian soccer is well-documented. “Two, it’s a little bit normal in my opinion, due to the moment where we are as a Canadian generation of players, and where the United States are. So I don’t think it’s a big surprise. I wasn’t surprised at all. When you go line by line … I think we’re as good or better.
“For me, when I analyze teams, I don’t analyze the history — I analyze how good they are today. And today, Canada cannot play the United States with any kind of symptoms of inferiority, because they’re not. I think for me, it was a normal result.”
A normal result, perhaps. But it’s massive beyond the ending of their skid against the Americans, or Nations League aspirations, which pale in comparison with the bigger prize.
Canada will now jump above El Salvador in the FIFA rankings, to somewhere in the low 70s globally, but most important will become the sixth-ranked team in CONCACAF. That means, for the first time since 1998, they would qualify for the Hex, the six-team World Cup qualifying tournament. The top three teams at the Hex make the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The fourth-place finisher has to await the winner of a convoluted 28-team playoff to see who has the right to face a team from another confederation to make Qatar.
A win or a tie against the U.S. in Orlando would clinch a spot in the Hex. A loss would mean El Salvador, Curaçao or Panama — the latter two ranked just behind Canada globally heading into the game — could still catch the Reds. The U.S. plays Cuba again Nov. 19.
“Yeah, we made history tonight but our job is not done,” said Davies. “We play them again next month. Our focus is … (to) repeat what we did tonight in November.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019