Gold Cup overlay - Octavio Zambrano
USA Today Sports

Hoilett's goal kickstarts Canada, but missed chances cost them in loss

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- When Romario Williams struck early in the second half with a world class finish, Canada looked like the lights had gone out and they were headed to a multiple goal defeat.

But while it ended up being a fruitless comeback in the second half, Junior Hoilett’s goal just past the hour mark proved quite the catalyst as Canada nearly pulled off the improbable, before ultimately losing 2-1 to Jamaica in the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal on Thursday.

As Jamaican defenders backed off, Hoilett had the time to line up his shot, pick his spot and unleash the lovely curling effort past Jamaica and Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake.

“He has a very good shot and he is a good dribbler,” said head coach Octavio Zambrano of Hoilett, who hadn’t really done too much through the first half but was very influential in the second.

“So I was pleased to see him to what we needed at that moment. That goal was result of changes where he could hit that ball.”

To that point, Canada had plenty of possession. Jamaica had scored early and had no problem sitting very deep with numbers behind the ball. Canada were unable break through but the moment of brilliance reinvigorated the young Canadian squad that wants to create a new era for the Canadian men’s program.

After conceding the second, Zambrano introduced Manjrekar James for Steven Vitoria in a defender swap and went to a back three, pushing Michael Petrasso up from his defensive position, leading to other chances up top.

Hoilett had another opportunity denied spectacularly by Blake and midfielder Russell Teibert swung in a cross to forward Lucas Cavallini that was headed over the bar. It was a collected effort in the second half, to offset and attempt to overcome a series of near-misses for Canada in the first half.

“I think we always had the run of play, to be honest,” said Teibert of the performance. “I think we keep pushing, we keep trying to put the ball into the back of the net. We could quite easily be up instead of down two goals. I don’t know how many chances they did have but they capitalized on both of their chances that they did have.”

Canada have had a history of rueing missed chances and that happened again on Thursday. Especially late on, Jamaica were almost inviting Canada to try and break them down.

The opportunities were there for the team to take and to go out of the competition in that manner leaves a bad taste given that there were encouraging signs for Canada throughout the competition.

“We came up short and I thought we deserved it more,” said Zambrano.

“We tried to penetrate and we couldn’t, time and again. It’s just the way the game goes, sometimes. We gave our best effort and we just came up short.”