Concacaf's best? Canada strikers Larin, David fuel Nations League dream


TORONTO – There’s a sense of consistency for the Canadian men’s national team as they approach their first Concacaf Nations League semifinals, a next step guaranteed by Tuesday’s 4-1 rout of Honduras at BMO Field.

While much of the CanMNT is transitioning from the 2022 FIFA World Cup cycle toward the co-hosted 2026 edition, two locked-in strikers aren’t going anywhere, anytime soon. And as Jonathan David and Cyle Larin elevate their stocks in top-five European leagues, the situation is only improving for Canada’s attack.

Amidst a loan move to LaLiga’s Real Valladolid, Larin brought his stellar Spanish form into the Canadian camp, scoring three goals across League A (Group C) wins over Curaçao and Honduras, bringing him up to eight goals in 10 games for club and country. David, who scored Canada’s third goal against Los Catrachos and the first in last Saturday's 2-0 victory, is a star for Lille in Ligue 1 who's lifting the partnership even higher.

“They keep getting better and better every time they put on the jersey and represent Canada,” said Atiba Hutchinson, the program’s captain and most-capped player. “Their link and their connections together get stronger. You can see they're having fun playing off of each other.”

Goalscoring forces

Whether playing alongside each other, as David and Larin did in the most recent Canadian camp in a 3-5-2 formation, or alone up front in a 4-5-1, they continue to find ways to mutually succeed at the national team level.

Through a combined 100 caps, the duo has 52 goals and 16 assists. They have proven to be the region’s most consistent strikers, leading Canada’s attack in front of talented wingers and former MLS stars Alphonso Davies (Vancouver) and Tajon Buchanan (New England). 

While Larin had rough patches that, at times, saw him outside the Canadian roster since making his senior debut in 2014, the former Orlando City SC striker has found his way back to consistent scoring as he’s matured. A shift away from Belgium’s Club Brugge, at least temporarily, has done wonders for him.

With a brace against Honduras, Larin established himself as the Canadian men’s all-time leading goalscorer in all competitions with 28 goals, passing John Catliff’s previous mark of 26. 

For David, his rise and success with Lille and Canada are surrounded by transfer noise and constant links to the game's pinnacle destinations, such as FC Barcelona and the English Premier League. Publicly, he’s stated his desire to play in the EPL, while transfer specialist Fabrizio Romano linked him to the Catalan giants on Sunday. 

“It's great to see them doing what they're doing for their clubs and when they can come and do the same for this national team, it's amazing,” added Hutchinson. “These are the type of profiles that we've needed to be playing for [Canada].”

Trophy next?

As the duo continues improving, they fit the lofty goals of a still burgeoning CanMNT. Despite a historic World Cup appearance in 2022, Canada’s goals are trophies and continental excellence, and the heights the attackers could reach play an integral factor in the team’s chances of claiming silverware in the near future.

For now, it starts with the CNL semifinals in June in Las Vegas, followed by the Concacaf Gold Cup less than two weeks later. With possibly a big summer move looming for David and the potential of Larin’s continued form, that ceiling has never seemed higher. 

“I think this group believes they can win, and why not?” said head coach John Herdman. “And I think the Cyle Larin we're seeing now is a guy that could help us win a Nations League Final.”

Hiebert’s rapid rise 

St. Louis CITY SC defender Kyle Hiebert made his Canadian debut on Tuesday, coming on as a substitute just past the hour mark and taking up the middle of Canada’s back three. While he needed to settle in at some moments, the MLS rookie proved he could play at the senior international level. 

Playing alongside former Nashville SC and CF Montréal defender Alistair Johnston, Hiebert continued his stellar rise, seeing him sign as a college free agent, play in MLS NEXT Pro and move into a starting MLS role for 2023’s expansion club. 

“He looked a little bit nervous coming in to start, but who wouldn’t? When he settled in, he knew his role, and he was killing the channels for us,” Herdman said of the 25-year-old. “He's brought maximum intensity and he's actually got quite a big personality as well behind the scenes these days.”

Although Hiebert’s national team call came in relief of an injury to CF Montréal defender Kamal Miller, it gave him the experience to build on through the rest of the MLS season and move forward with Les Rouges

“I always had belief in the St. Louis team, and I knew that, hopefully, this opportunity would come with Canada,” Hiebert said. “It was just amazing to be able to experience that today.”