The Canadian men’s under-23 side got off to a hot start at the 2020 Concacaf Olympic Qualifying tournament Friday, dispatching El Salvador 2-0 in their group stage opener thanks to a first-half brace from New England Revolution winger Tajon Buchanan.
Cavalry FC defender David Norman Jr. made history as the first Canadian Premier League player to represent the Canadian national team in a competitive match when he was brought on at halftime to replace Callum Montgomery. Cavalry teammate Mo Farsi followed close behind, making his Canadian youth debut in the 85th minute.
Next up for Mauro Biello’s side is a date with Haiti (Monday 6 p.m. ET, OneSoccer) who fell 3-0 to Honduras in their group stage opener after a handful of players and coaches were unable to fulfill COVID-19 protocol Friday.
Here’s Canada’s report card from an impressive opening group stage.
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James Pantemis – 8
An afternoon that got busier and busier for Pantemis who wasn’t called to make a proper save until the 30th minute. Not the best distribution on the day, with several defensive-third giveaways requiring saves to calm nerves.
Zachary Brault-Guillard – 7
Good game for “ZBG” who provided good width and used his pace to create up the right side.
Derek Cornelius – 8
Canada’s captain looked poised through the cheap fouls – his 13 senior men’s caps can be thanked for that.
Callum Montgomery – 6
Sturdy game at the back for the Minnesota United centre-back, who departed the game at halftime.
Marcus Godinho – 7
A solid performance from the opening minutes from Godinho, who looked good on the ball up Canada’s left side and disrupted a fair number of attacks.
Michael Baldisimo – 8
Tidy match as Canada’s defensive anchor in the midfield. Good in possession and often pushed play forward with pace – much-needed attacking urgency in Canada’s midfield. Was subbed out due to injury at the 71st minute.
Patrick Metcalfe – 7
A solid performance for the Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder in Canada’s midfield three. Lasted all 90 minutes and managed the workload well, disrupting Salvadoran attacks and completing all 25 passes attempted.
Aidan Daniels – 7
Daniels played as a combo no. 10 and looked good in the role, floating ahead and looking to link up play whenever possible. Nearly scored after ringing a shot off the post in the first half. Was subbed off at 57 minutes.
Tajon Buchanan – 9
The New England Revolution winger was Canada’s best player from the first few minutes on. A beautiful outside run and left-footed finish through the keeper’s legs in the 16th minute was followed by a beautiful outside-the-box blast minutes later. A few key passes and sparkling runs leave us with no choice but to offer man-of-the-match honours.
Charles-Andreas Brym – 7
Brym looked lively at both centre forward and right-wing positions, dropping in and making space. Deserved a goal for his efforts and came close in the second half when a stationary attempt strayed wide.
Ballou Tabla – 7
So-so match for the CF Montreal attacker, which was highlighted by a beautiful diagonal to Buchanan to et up Canada’s first goal. A few giveaways and a clear-cut second-half chance that was sent straight into the chest of the Salvadoran goalkeeper ended his afternoon after 50-odd minutes.
David Norman Jr. – 7
Recent Cavalry FC signing Norman Jr. was deployed at centre-back and performed admirably alongside Cornelius. Didn’t seem to struggle with Canada’s out-of-the-back style either.
Ryan Raposo – 6
The Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder combined well in Canada’s final half-hour, which was mostly comfortable thanks to solid midfield play. Good service off corners, too.
Theo Bair – 7
Another Whitecaps standout finding the pitch, Bair looked promising in the few opportunities he had to create. Handful for defenders.
Lucas Dias – 6
A quiet Canada debut for Dias, who replaced an injured Michael Baldisimo.
Mo Farsi – 6
A second Cavalry FC player to find the pitch, Farsi slotted in at right wing for the final handful of moments.