Jonathan David - Daniel Herelle - Canada - Martinique
USA Today Sports

Canada's latest teen phenom Jonathan David starts Gold Cup with bang

PASADENA, Calif. -- Jonathan David was primed for a breakout performance in this year's Concacaf Gold Cup, as his coach and teammates have made clear, and he certainly lived up to hype in Saturday's tournament opener at the Rose Bowl.

The 19-year-old striker netted the first two goals, both of them the kind of strikes expected from finishers, to start Canada on a 4-0 romp over Martinique that was as emphatic as the score suggests.

That gives him six goals in five international matches, and the Canucks believe it's the start of something big.

“I've said it from the beginning, from the first time I've seen him play,” Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio said after the game. “He is my favorite player. And when he's in front of the goal, it's automatic. It's in the back of the net.”

David, who scored 14 goals in his first campaign with Belgian club Gent, gave Canada a 33rd-minute lead after swiped the ball when Daniel Herelle let an off-target pass from goalkeeper Loic Chauvet get away from him, finishing with aplomb. He then doubled the advantage eight minutes into the second half, sprinting behind Martinique's backline to take a ball over the top from Montreal Impact midfielder Samuel Piette and slotting past Chauvet.

He did so with the requisite calm desired from a frontman, impressive given his age and experience.

“I don't think you coach that ability. That's something innate,” Canada head coach John Herdman said during his postgame media session. “He's playing at a very good level in Belgium, he's gone there young, and he's broken into the first team, and that's no easy feat. ... 

“He's breaking out. He's such a humble kid, he'll handle it. He can enjoy the tournament and be a kid and show you what else he's got in that locker, because I think there's a bit more to come.”

David, who was born in Brooklyn and moved to Ottawa from his parents' native Haiti when he was 6, netted two goals in his Canada debut -- an 8-0 romp over US Virgin Islands in a CONCACAF Nations League qualifier last September -- and scored four in four games in that competition. Now he has two more, and with bigger stakes.

“It's unbelievable,” he said. “I'm grateful. I just try to work everyday to get better and score the opportunities that I have. ... I'm a calm person as it is, and that helps me on the pitch. So when I have an opportunity, I just try to focus, look at the goalkeeper, and see where I can place it. That's what I try to do.”

Herdman likes David's flexibility -- he can play wide as well as up top -- -- and thinks “his tactical IQ is so high.”

“I think he's been a little under the radar,” Herdman said. “He's been one of our most consistent players. Every Nations League game, he seems to bang a goal in. He's had a very good season at his club. And I think any of the questions [about] can he handle the big moments for the national team, that was a big moment for him [today].

“He's like an iceman. He's able to slow it right down in the box, wait for the keeper to [commit], and pick his moments. That's a special quality in a striker.”