By Giancarlo Aulino
This past week, the Canadian men’s national soccer team was eliminated from the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup after a hard fought 2-1 defeat to Jamaica in the quarter-finals. This was Canada’s first international tournament under new head coach Octavio Zambrano, who replaced former coach Benito Floro after poor results during qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The hiring of Zambrano, 59, back in May along with the earlier hiring of new Director of Development, was Canada Soccer’s effort of ushering in a style of play that would lead to future success for the program from the grassroots level to the professional level and a realistic opportunity of qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Canada was quite successful during the group stage; 4-2 win over French Guiana, 1-1 draw with Costa Rica, and a 0-0 draw with Honduras. The draws with Costa Rica and Honduras were most impressive because both teams had been among the teams participating in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and showed that Canada were able to be competitive with two of CONCACAF’s best teams.
Arguably Canada’s most valuable player during the tournament was 16 year old Alphonso Davies. The Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder played an important role for Canada; scoring 3 goals in the group stage; 2 against French Guiana and 1 against Costa Rica. Davies is among a young group of players including: Cardiff City midfielder Junior Hoilett, Queens Park Rangers midfielder Michael Petrasso, and Orlando City forward Cyle Larin, that Canada Soccer hopes will lead them to future success.
Only time will tell if this young crop of players will be able to help Canada qualify for a World Cup, which hasn’t been done since 1986. With offensive minded players like Davies, Hoilett, and Petrasso in the midfield as well as great forward like Cyle Larin, it looks like Canada will be playing a dynamic, offensive brand of soccer for the next few years, which is a luxury Canada Soccer hasn’t had in recent years.