Canada won their Group A opener on Saturday night at BMO Field 6-0 over Cuba, taking the first step in what they hope will end with a spot in the fabled Hex when World Cup Qualification comes around. Kaye, a key cog with the runaway MLS league leaders, didn't miss a beat in delivering the kind of performance that has won him acclaim throughout 2019.
“He was excellent,” said Canada head coach John Herdman post-match. “Just his leadership. He trains how he plays, trains like it’s an international match and he brings a standard. He came into the camp with confidence, was elevated into the leadership group. He wanted a voice in the team and he’s driven the performances.”
Junior Hoilett, who wore the captain’s armband and scored a hat-trick on the night, hailed the 24-year-old as being, “on top form this season.”
“To come back from a major injury, to shine the way he is, to make the All-Star team: he’s representing Canada magnificently and he still has a lot more to give,” said the Cardiff City FC attacker. “A great footballer, a great professional, and a great teammate.”
Having been plugged into a variety of roles for his national team, Kaye was back in the middle of the park on the night, where he prefers to be.
“At the end of the day it’s a soccer game, but I love playing my natural position, I feel like I can influence the team more,” said Kaye. “If the coach needs me to play a different position, you need to man up and do it, that’s part of being a pro.”
“I was very grateful to have that opportunity now,” he continued. “Me and John had sent a plan for this year that after the Gold Cup I would have a real opportunity to play there. It’s up to me to keep performing and make it my own.”
Kaye has emerged as one of LAFC's most dependable players in 2019 after a fractured ankle cut short a promising first year in MLS. He's brought that dependability with him to the national team.
“He holds people accountable and the players like it, they like having someone that is going to demand it be played to the right foot with the right texture because he gets that in his club,” said Herdman. “At the end he came over to apologize for being sloppy those last ten minutes. That’s the type of guy he is, striving for perfection because he wants it so bad for this team to move to that next level.”
It is by playing in such environments that Kaye thinks the Canadian side will reach that next level: “The more Canadians we can get into clubs that are playing attractive football and really competing for something then that changes everything.”
“You look at Alphonso, he comes back from Bayern [Munich] with a whole lot of confidence,” Kaye continued. “Confidence is a key thing that sometimes coaches can instill in players, but also it’s club environment too. I’m very fortunate to be at LAFC. We’re creating history too – it’s very similar to Canada, it’s a new generation and you try and make something of it.”