Helped by a stunning individual goal from Alphonso Davies, the Canadian men’s national team came from behind to defeat Panama 4-1 at Toronto FC's BMO Field to take another big step toward qualifying for the 2022 World Cup on Wednesday.
Here are three takeaways from the match.
Considering Jonathan David hadn’t been a leading protagonist up to this point in the October window, it was a big positive from a Canadian perspective to see him popping up in dangerous positions.
That was thanks largely to Alphonso Davies playing in a free-roaming role up front. Davies’ pace and technique proved to be a handful for Panama’s defense that enabled David to drift across the pitch before executing a run into open space.
After three glorious chances went astray, Canada and Panama were pushing for the crucial winner. Both sides switched formations as a result, but it was Davies who came out on top with as magnificent a solo effort as anyone will witness.
“I saw the defenders, they were a little bit confused,” Davies said, replaying the goal in his mind during postgame media availability. “I started picking up pace and after that, I just committed to it. I knew that [Harold Cummings] is a bigger body than me, so I knew he was going to come in with his body, so I just tried to slow down to avoid the contact to just try to keep the ball in. When I did that, it was a two-versus-one ... I beat [Fidel Escobar] and in my mind, I was like 'just shoot the ball.'"
"It was pretty cool,” Canada goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau said of the goal. “Great run, he believes he can get there, the ball was on the line, took it and showed his quality. I've witnessed a lot of good goals, but that was a great moment for the country to make the stadium explode and then from there, everyone believed.”
Even some of Canada’s biggest celebrities were taken aback.
“He’s just got a text from Drake,” Canada coach John Herdman revealed. “I think hopefully tonight he gets to tick that off his bucket list. That’s the type of performance that lad has had.”
Then, perhaps feeling left out, David’s hard work throughout the game eventually paid off as he finally found the back of the net.
It was a worthy finish after he had worked tirelessly throughout the game, and latched onto a few decent chances. A player of his quality was bound to thrive again, so this could be the start of a red-hot run of form for the Lille striker.
Not so coincidentally, David’s performance coincided with him starting alongside a strike partner in Davies. His best displays for club and country arrive when he’s playing off another forward and it's a formula Canada would be wise to stick with for the rest of the Octagonal.
Make no mistake, though, this was Davies’ night and when the Canadians needed him most, he rose to the occasion.
Herdman was noticeably excited at the prospect of a fresh Buchanan for Wednesday’s match and it’s easy to see why. The New England Revolution forward was a menace on the right flank, taking on Panamanian defenders and usually coming away with a dangerous chance.
Just like Jonathan David, Buchanan’s efforts paid off with a calm finish off a header via a majestic cross from Richie Laryea. Buchanan also added an assist for David’s goal.
Canada’s attack is lethal enough when David and Davies are clicking. Add an in-form Buchanan, and that's as potent a three-headed monster as any in Concacaf.
Not for the first time, Canada were plagued by a slow start out of the gates against Panama.
Despite a decent start, the visitors penetrated the Canadian left flank before Rolando Blackburn tapped in the opener via a cut-back after just five minutes.
It marks the fourth time in the Octagonal phase of World Cup Qualifying that Canada have conceded first, all of which have come in the opening half.
To Canada’s credit, they've recovered six points from losing positions after coughing up the initial goal in each of those four games. However, if Les Rouges are putting themselves behind the 8-ball at home, that won’t serve them well in more hostile atmospheres later in the cycle.