TORONTO – They were sending numbers forward and looking for ways to finally put the ball in net, all to no avail. In a game where nothing else appeared to be working, it was a couple of veteran moves that helped Canada pick up an all-important win on Friday night.
With time ebbing away and Canada seemingly heading to yet another scoreless draw at home, they were issued a lifeline when Simeon Jackson was fouled in a dangerous spot on the right side of the area. Instead of waiting to set up a play, Atiba Hutchinson saw Panama napping and quickly took his free kick. De Rosario was of the same mind and was in the right spot to volley the cross home.
“I saw nobody else was really looking, so I just tried to take the chance and obviously it worked out,” Hutchinson (above, left) told reporters after the 1-0 victory. “I’m just happy for the team and that we could get a good result like this at home.”
Friday’s goal was a historic one for De Rosario as he moved ahead of Dale Mitchell atop the all-time Canadian goalscoring rank with 20 goals in a Canadian shirt. It wasn’t one of his trademark free kicks or anything of great beauty, but he certainly showed that he can also score a crafty goal when needed.
“I’m just thankful I had the opportunity to be in this position and most importantly to be able to do it in front of my home fans,” the D.C. United captain said. “We caught them off guard. They put their head down for that split second. Me and [Hutchinson] kind of had eye contact. He played in a fantastic ball to me.”
Just as the cherry on top in what was a historic night for the star midfielder in his hometown, Canada are in the rarified air of first place in their group and, with seven points midway through the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying, are now within touching distance of reaching the Hexagonal for the first time in 15 years.
“When was Canada last on top of the group, right?” De Rosario asked with a chuckle. “So we’ll just take it as it is right now, but we have a lot of work ahead of us. So we’ll enjoy the win and get back to work on Sunday and Monday and focus on the game on Tuesday against Panama.”