The teams combined to start 11 MLS players, and an additional four subbed on, with many contributing significantly to both teams' quests to challenge Mexico in Thursday's semifinal.
Though MLS players made their presence felt, it was a player currently without a club team, Canada forward Junior Hoilett, who brought the offensive heat and the opening goal in the 18th minute. Hoilett was the beneficiary of a beautiful long-distance pass from Eustaquio, and with Ticos goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado caught out, Hoilett successfully deposited a chip shot to get Canada on the scoreboard.
Less than three minutes later, New England Revolution attacker Tajon Buchanan volleyed an attempt that Alvarado parried away from goal and the starlet's growing highlight reel. A couple of minutes before the halftime whistle, LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye made an attempt on goal that looked more Karate Kid than soccer, though his unorthodox attempt nearly delivered.
While developments were generally positive for Canada during the first half, captain Steven Vitoria took himself out of the semifinal with Mexico through yellow card accumulation with a 31st-minute booking. Vancouver Whitecaps FC forward Lucas Cavallini joined him in the 38th minute, and his one-game timeout will take a striker out of a thinning corps, with Canada having already lost both Cyle Larin and Ayo Akinola to injury.
Canada kept up the pressure after the break, with Buchanan assisting Cavallini on an early attempt, and then trying to make his own magic happen, with Ronald Matarrita providing a strong defensive effort to keep Costa Rica in it. The Ticos tried to generate magic at halftime through three halftime subs, including Columbus Crew winger Luis Diaz and generational talisman Bryan Ruiz. However, Canada kept control of the tempo and most of the ball in the second half. Costa Rica put on yet another MLS player in the 66th minute, with Allan Cruz joining his FC Cincinnati teammate Matarrita in an attempt to level the match.
But Canada kept pressing forward, and Eustaquio earned an insurance goal with a hustle play in the 68th minute. That led to some MLS reinforcements for Les Rouges, with CF Montréal midfielder Samuel Piette and Orlando City SC forward Tesho Akindele both seeing action. Akindele had a great 72nd-minute chance via a Buchanan layoff, but went to the wrong side of the near post on the attempt. The knockout-round injury replacement then had a sliding attempt into the goalmouth toward the end of stoppage time that nearly found its way in.
Cruz had an opportunity to fire the Ticos into the match in the 77th minute, but that's as close as they got to denying a North American semifinal showdown in Houston.
- THE BIG PICTURE: With the win and the chance to face Mexico, Canada’s put the rest of Concacaf on notice that they’re going to be a force in World Cup qualifying. However, the big question is whether they can be a force in the semifinals, with two key pieces of the Canadian lineup out. For Costa Rica, who could only muster four shots to Canada’s 14, there might be newfound concern heading into the push to return to soccer’s biggest tournament next year.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Let’s take another look at that first goal – smart pass, smart finish, quality all the way around.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Eustaquio was crucial in opening the scoring, springing Hoilett for the first goal and then adding one of his own. He also was instrumental in controlling the middle of the park in partnership with Kaye.
- CRC: End of tournament
- CAN: Concacaf Gold Cup semifinals vs. Mexico | Thursday, June 29 | 10 pm ET (FS1, Univision, TUDN)