In their quest to qualify for a third consecutive FIFA Under-17 World Cup, Canada got off to a flying start on Saturday night.
Canada defeated Haiti 3-1 in their opening match of the CONCACAF U-17 Championship, with goals from a pair of Vancouver Whitecaps Residency defenders, Matthew Baldisimo and Kadin Chung, and one from Duwayne Ewart.
The game started with back-and-forth action, but it was Haiti that opened the scoring, with Ronaldo Damus blasting one into the back of the net in the 32nd minute.
Head coach Sean Fleming’s Canadian side responded right away, with Ewart being played in on the right side and putting a shot past Haitian goalkeeper Emmanuel Chery in the 34th minute.
Then, in first-half stoppage time, Baldisimo – who wore the captain’s armband for Canada – got his head onto a corner kick and sent his team into the break up 2-1.
In the 74th minute, Chung slid one past Chery to give Canada their final two-goal margin.
Canada face four more matches in group-stage play – against Costa Rica (March 3), Mexico (March 6), Saint Lucia (March 9) and Panama (March 12). All games will take place at the Estadio Olimpico in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, a venue where the Canadian men’s program has plenty of negative history.
Fleming’s squad will be looking to rewrite that history in this competition. A first-place finish in the group would earn them a ticket to the U-17 World Cup in Chile (Oct. 17-Nov. 8), while a second- or third-place finish gets them into a one-game playoff with a World Cup spot on the line.
Coincidentally, Canada opened the CONCACAF U-20 Championship in January with a 3-1 win over Haiti but went on to lose their remaining four matches. It remains to be seen whether this U-17 squad will have taken any lessons from that performance.
Canada’s starting lineup against Haiti consisted of Luciano Trasolini (Whitecaps Residency) in goal; a back line of Baldisimo, Chung, Gabriel Boakye (Toronto FC Academy) and Thomas Micoski (North Toronto Nitros); a midfield of Ewart, Munir Saleh (Whitecaps Residency), Harrison Paton (Fulham U-18 Academy), Jean-Yves Tabla and Tristan Borges (Toronto FC Academy), and striker Daniel Sagno (Whitecaps Residency) up front.