Recap: Canada advances to Nations League Finals with win over Honduras

Mar 29, 2023 - 1:41 PM
Canadian players celebrate Cyle Larin’s brace during a 4-1 victory over Honduras Tuesday evening at BMO Field, March 28, 2023. | Sean Pollock/Waking the Red

TORONTO, Canada – The Canadian men’s national soccer team continued their 23-game undefeated streak at BMO Field Tuesday with the squad picking up a 4-1 win against Honduras and booking their ticket to the Nations League Finals.

After winning against Honduras on home soil in front of 13,626 fans Tuesday night, Canada finishes on top of their group (Group C) in League A and for the first time, will compete in the final four of the CONCACAF Nations League Finals in June later this year.

Head coach John Herdman says the group really came together, fought hard and demonstrated why they belong where they are.

“They wanted it tonight. We knew this was going to be tough ... we’re where we belong now. It’s our turn to start taking those steps to get the finals. We got big games coming up - that Nations League final will be tough. This is what we’ve been living for - we want to go and win trophies.”

Herdman made a few minor changes to the lineup from the starting XI that started on the weekend, bringing in defender Alistair Johnston for the suspended Steven Vitória and starting winger Tajon Buchanan over Richie Laryea.

Ahead of the game, CanMNT captain Atiba Hutchinson was honoured for making 100+ appearances for his country.

Speaking to the press at the end of the game, the 40-year-old Hutchinson said he is not quite done just yet with the national team but hints he is nearing his retirement.

“I just want to finish off on a high note ... this is not my announcement, but I’m just letting you guys know that I’m happy about my career with the national team, and yeah, I’m getting close to the end of it.”

Canada started putting pressure on the Honduras defence early on and remained tight at the back to break apart any attempted counter-attacks. The midfield trio of Ismaël Koné, Stephen Eustáquio and Jonathan Osorio were vital in the build up of play and the advancement moving forward with the ball.

 Sean Pollock/Waking the Red
Ismaël Koné with the ball at his feet during a 4-1 victory over Honduras Tuesday night, March 28, 2023.

Herdman continues to be impressed from his rising midfielder Ismaël Koné by adding, “It was probably one of the best midfield performances since I’ve been here ... that was a real breakout performance for Canada.”

The two sides showed premature actions that this was going to be a scrappy affair with each side offering fouls in the opening minutes of play.

Canada’s first attempt came early on in transition when Jonathan David found Tajon Buchanan out wide who darted past the Honduras defence and into the box, but had his whipped cross kicked away by a Honduran defender.

Canada easily broke through in the 9th minute when Jonathan Osorio played a quick pass to Cyle Larin in the box who found the back of the net for his 27th goal for Canada.

Within two minutes after scoring the first goal, Canada took advantage of their corner kick when Stephen Eustáquio swung in a cross for none other than Cyle Larin to head it into the back of the net to give Canada an early 2-0 lead.

Canada’s back line of Derek Cornelius, Scott Kennedy and Alistair Johnston remained tight at the back and the trio had good chemistry with one another. Honduras had some good chances later on in the half, but their attack was quickly broken up by Kennedy who matched his pace with Honduras forward Anthony Lozano.

Canada persisted on the attack and focused heavily on finding runs from Buchanan and Davies on the wings to supply into the box.

 Sean Pollock/Waking the Red
Canadian players celebrate a goal just before halftime in a 4-1 win against Honduras at BMO Field, March 28, 2023.

Just before halftime, Canada was presented with an opportunity to go up 3-0 after Ismaël Koné’s shot hit the hand of a Honduras defender and Les Rogues were awarded a penalty. Lining up the shot, Jonathan David handed the ball off to Cyle Larin, who was on a hat trick, and has scored in two previous international PK attempts. Larin’s shot missed just wide of the post and Canada failed to capitalize on their chance.

Herdman talked about Canada’s all-time leading goalscorer to the media following the match:

“I think this group believes they can win, and why not? The Cyle Larin that we’re seeing now is a guy that could help us win a Nations League Final.”

Canada went into halftime with a 2-0 lead, while Honduras had yet to register a shot on net.

 Sean Pollock/Waking the Red
Alphonso Davies (left) and Jonathan David (right) race to the sidelines after David gives Canada a 3-0 lead after a brilliant goal in the 50th minute.

Going into the second half, Honduras made two substitutions but were ultimately caught off guard early on by Canada continuing to demonstrate quick passes and maintaining possession.

Canada managed to ultimately get their third goal supplied by Ligue 1’s top goalscorer Jonathan David who struck the ball into the bottom corner for his 24th international goal.

Jonathan David commented on his performance after the match by saying, “It always feels good to score. I’m a striker and it’s my job to score so every time I score, I’m happy.”

 Sean Pollock/Waking the Red
Jonathan David runs with the ball down the field during a game against Honduras at BMO Field, March 28, 2023.

In the 61st minute, Canada made its first four changes with midfielder Stephen Eustáquio, forwards Cyle Larin and Tajon Buchanan, and defender Scott Kennedy all departing the field making way for defenders Richie Laryea and Sam Adekugbe, as well as an international debut for Manitoba-native Kyle Hiebert and 40-year-old Atiba Hutchinson, who received a warm reception from the BMO Field faithful.

Canada’s night got a little easier when CF Montréal forward Romell Quioto came off in the 68th minute for Honduras. The forward was quiet in the attack and continually had his pocket picked by Alistair Johnston the entire evening.

Honduras showed some signs of life later on in the 73rd minute when Jorge Benguché found the back of the net with an excellent header from a set-piece. But that would be all they acquired.

 Sean Pollock/Waking the Red
Deiby Flores (Honduras) and Jonathan Osorio (Canada) compete to win the ball during a CONCACAF Nations League game at BMO Field, March 28, 2023.

Canada made their fifth and final substitution in the 76th minute by bringing on Toronto FC’s Ayo Akinola, who came on for Alphonso Davies.

The only cautions shown during the match came in the 84th minute after a heated exchange between Alistair Johnston and Walter Martínez. Both were handed yellow cards.

The Toronto FC connection of Ayo Akinola and Jonathan Osorio linked up shortly thereafter, following a nice build-up of play from the Canadian attack. Akinola found Osorio in an excellent position to score one of his own in front of his home fans and give Canada a three-goal lead.

Osorio mentioned Canada’s style of attack and possession was the main strategy behind Canada’s dominating performance over Honduras:

“We wanted to start aggressive. We wanted to show them that we’re playing at a high level and it’s tough to keep up with us, especially here at our home field. We’ve been unbeaten here for a long time now and I think a start like that was exactly what we looked for and then from there, we took control of the game.”

Canada continued heavy pressure on the Honduran defence up until the final minutes, but came up unsuccessful to add more to their tally, while Honduras only managed to earn one shot on target the entire match.

 Sean Pollock/Waking the Red
(Left - right) Milan Borjan, Dayne St. Clair, Jonathan Osorio and Sam Adekugbe of CanMNT celebrate post match after a victory over Honduras Tuesday night, March 28, 2023.

John Herdman says the style of play Canada displayed was always in the game plan heading into the game against Honduras.

“We asked them [CanMNT] to play with intensity and put the work rate in. If we put the work rate in, we knew our talent was way stronger than theirs. It was just a matter of time before we scored that first goal.”

Canada completes their 23rd match without a defeat at BMO Field since 2010 and now has seven home wins in a row as well as 15 matches unbeaten on home soil.

 Sean Pollock/Waking the Red
40-year-old Atiba Hutchinson made his 103rd appearance for his country Tuesday night and celebrated by banging the drum after Canada defeats Honduras at BMO Field, March 28, 2023.

Canada now focuses their attention to the Nations League Finals at Allegiant Stadium, just outside Las Vegas where they will play Panama in the second Semi-Final game on June 15th at 7 p.m. EST.

Although he didn’t appear on the scoresheet for Canada on Tuesday, Alphonso Davies remains optimistic about Canada’s expectations heading into the Final Four in June.

“We know it’s a big opportunity. We want to bring something home for our fans and for this country. We set our mind to it and we play like the way we played today, we’re going to come back with silverware from Vegas.”

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