The Canadian men’s national team clinched another historic result thanks to a 2-1 win over Mexico in their Concacaf World Cup qualifier at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium on Tuesday night.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
From the outset of the match, it was a historic night for Canadian soccer.
It began with the weather, which was tabulated at 16 degrees at kickoff, leading the venue to be dubbed the Estadio "Iceteca," in a light-hearted reference to Mexico's famous Estadio Azteca. The snow and frigid conditions were the main storylines entering the game, so it was expected to dominate the proceedings.
Then, Atiba Hutchinson was named to the starting lineup. As a result, he logged his 90th cap to break the national team’s all-time appearances record for a male player, passing his ex-teammate Julian de Guzman in the process.
The evening ended with Canada’s first victory over Mexico in World Cup qualifying in 45 years. Not since Buzz Parsons secured a 1-0 win at Vancouver’s Empire Stadium back in 1976 has a Canadian side defeated El Tri in a qualifier.
Until, that is, Cyle Larin replicated the feat at Commonwealth Stadium to match another Canadian record. More on that later.
This result, along with road draws in the United States and Mexico, nullifies the disappointing draws with Honduras at home and Jamaica in Kingston. After eight of 14 games in the Octagonal, Canada sit on top of the standings.
It’s been a difficult few weeks for Cyle Larin. Canada’s top scorer in 2021 had to miss the October window due to a late injury and couldn’t recover in time to participate.
Having returned to the pitch for Besiktas a few weeks prior to this November window, Larin then came down with a stomach bug a couple of days before the Costa Rica game. That played a role in him only coming off the bench in that match.
"He was feeling ill the first few days we got here and really had not eaten for two days,” Herdman said of Larin’s condition after Tuesday's win. “He had a lot of travel and this squad is deep, so we were able to rest him out that first game.”
Larin was finally fresh and ready to go on Tuesday. But initially, he appeared a little sluggish. Chalk it up to the cold and not playing a full match on the Commonwealth Stadium turf.
But as Larin has so often done in a Canada shirt this year, he was alert when it mattered. With Alistair Johnston pushing up to recover a loose ball headed for Orbelin Pineda, the Canadian defender fired a half-volley at Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who parried the ball right into Larin’s path for an easy tap-in on the stroke of halftime.
Mere minutes into the second half, Larin doubled his tally and pulled level with Dwayne De Rosario atop the national team’s goal-scoring charts off a marvelous set piece from Stephen Eustaquio. Somehow, the Besiktas forward was all alone when the ball reached his outstretched leg.
"To have Cyle as a point man, someone that could create that link between the lines – and you can see how good he is at holding the ball up and bringing other players in – that was a key part of the decision-making," said Herdman.
This is a regular theme for Atiba Hutchinson. Even at 38 years old, expect the Canadian veteran to deliver a sublime performance for the national team.
Tuesday was more of the same for the captain. The Besiktas midfielder completed 26 of 34 passes, two interceptions and nine recoveries in an all-around solid showing.
There's something poetic in Hutchinson producing an arguable man-of-the-match performance on this night. He has accumulated nearly two decades of service with the national team. Without hesitation, Hutchinson traveled from all corners of the globe to join Canadian camps no matter how bleak the side’s fortunes appeared, and he reveled in representing his country every chance he got.
Now with six games left in the octagonal phase of World Cup qualifying, he’s even closer to realizing his dream, a dream that anyone affiliated with Canadian soccer has long waited for. Qatar 2022 next?