Coach John Herdman couldn’t be happier about the state of Canadian soccer.
“Our Canadian football system is starting to produce players,” Herdman said. “That’s exciting, seeing those youngsters coming through.”
Canada got three goals each from 19-year-old Jonathan David and Lucas Cavallini, and breezed to a 7-0 win over Cuba on Sunday in the first game of a CONCACAF Gold Cup doubleheader at Bank of America Stadium.
Junior Hoilett also scored for Canada, which finished pool play with a 2-1 record to advance to the quarter-finals as runner-up behind Mexico who topped Group A.
“I believe in the young guys,” said Herdman, who also included another 19-year-old Alphonso Davies and others in talking about Canada’s soccer youth movement.
Cuba finished group play a disappointing 0-3, losing by a combined score of 17-0.
Canada took control early as David scored on a point blank shot off a crossing pass from Hoilett just three minutes into the game. It was David’s seventh goal in seven international games for Canada, although he wasn’t done.
Cavallini stretched the lead to 2-0 at the 21 minute mark when he scored after Hoilett centered a pass that deflected off Cuba midfield Jorge Kindelan and the post. Cavallini stuck out his right foot and nudge the ball into the net — the first of three straight first half goals for the 26-year-old.
He added two more goals in the final three minutes of the first half to give Canada a commanding 4-0 lead at the break. David assisted on one goal and Davies on the other.
After one goal Cavallini stuck his left thumb in his mouth, held out four fingers with his right hand and then patted his chest before kissing his hands and pointing to the sky.
Cuba coach Idalberto Medero said Cavallini and David were difficult for his team to defend.
“They are very fast and very quick with the ball and without it,” Medero said. “They know how to move without the ball and play very well together. They play very well with the modern day football, which is very fast.”
Ironically the one shot Cavallini couldn’t make might have been the easiest attempt.
Leading 5-0, Cavallini had a penalty kick. But he paused as he approached the ball, then fired left of the wide open net, holding his head in disbelief.
It was one of the few mistakes Cavallini and Canada made all day, outshooting Cuba 22-10.
Herdman said he liked that his players brought the energy on a hot afternoon where temperatures were nearing 90 degrees and took Cuba out of the game.
“If we never brought that energy Cuba could have gotten that little injection and made it tough for us,” Herdman said. “But there was clarity from all of the players. [Cavallini] and Johnny were given some great opportunities.”
Mexico tops Group A
Seven-time Gold Cup champions Mexico avoided a scare to secure top spot in Group A with a 3-2 win over Martinique on Sunday.
The win saw Mexico go through the group phase with a 3-0 record, setting them up for a June 29 quarter-final in Houston against Costa Rica or Haiti, who play each other on Monday.
Following Canada’s thrashing of Cuba, Mexico needed at least a point to secure top spot and they took the lead just before the half-hour mark through Uriel Antuna, who raced down the right before cutting in and firing home inside the near post.
Martinique, who had already been eliminated from the playoffs picture, equalized in the 56th minute through an exquisite free kick from Kevin Parsemain, who curled the ball around the wall and into the top-right corner.
Mexico went back in front five minutes later when Raul Jimenez tucked away Rodolfo Pizarro’s cross and it was 3-1 in the 72nd minute, Jimenez the provider this time, a smart touch through a pair of defenders for Fernando Navarro to rush in and score inside the far left post.
Martinique pulled one back when Jordy Delem headed home in the 84th minute, a goal that ratcheted up the tension and ultimately saw a frustrated Mexico coach Gerardo Martino issued a yellow card.