By Darnel Harris
When the new qualifying process for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar was announced, Canadian fans groaned. From June 2020, the Top 6 teams in our region will compete to grab three of the four spots available for Qatar. The last spot? The other twenty-eight nations will spend two years battling over the chance to play two make or break games against a team from another part of the world to qualify.
Earlier this summer Canada was tenth and moving into the Top 6 in the rankings seemed unlikely. What were the chances we would beat the Americans for the first time in three decades, and the countries ahead of us suffered poor results? A few months later, a historic victory on the shores of Lake Ontario brought the impossible within arm’s reach.
Canada clashed with the Americans on a windy, fall evening at BMO Field in a rough battle that saw Canada earn three yellow cards, and the Americans two. Toronto FC and USA Captain Michael Bradley roamed in the middle of the park as usual, playing the white, red and blue striped villain in front of the same fans who hung a supersized banner from the rafters in his honour for his service with Toronto FC just weeks ago.
In the first half, Canada’s teenage superstars Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David harassed the American defense but missed key chances to score, as their team outplayed the Americans across the pitch. In the second half the Americans started brightly, and striker Christian Pulisic lashed a close range shot which Milan Borjan was forced to save swiftly. Just four minutes later, Canada found the breakthrough, with Alphonso Davies avoiding two defenders and the keeper to bring the crowd to their feet.
After the goal, Canada continued to apply pressure for the next thirty minutes, led by the fresh legs of Junior Hoilett and Lucas Cavallini, who replaced Davies and David up front. As the clock ticked closer to full time and a historic Canadian victory, the sea of red-clad supporters shook the stands, screaming for every touch of the ball and save by the Canadian keeper.
As the final minutes of second half injury time flashed and the crowd roared, Canada surged forward and Cavallini buried a brisk diagonal drive to end any hope of an American revival. As the final whistle blew, all the fans were on their feet and waving banners as the Canadian men fanned out across the field, soaking in the moment.
As the Canadian team prepared in the supporters end to bang the TFC Victory Drum and leap with joy, Michael Bradley glanced over and headed into the tunnel with his team as chants of “Canada! Canada!” filled the chilly night.