HIGHLIGHTS: CanMNT begins 2020 with a win in friendly vs. Barbados

  • Canada 4 (Ricketts 7’, Akindele 34, Osorio 45’, Bair 76’), Barbados 1 (Lashley 35’)

  • Reds win first of back-to-back games vs. Barbados

  • Carducci, Didic and Borges didn’t see any action

The Canadian men’s team is off to a flying start in 2020.

Playing in its first game of the year on Tuesday night, Canada strolled to a 4-1 win over lowly Barbados in an international friendly held in Irvine, California.

Tosaint Ricketts, Tesho Akindele and Jonathan Osorio scored for Canada, as did Theo Bair, who was one of five Canadians to make their national team debuts. Jayden Nelson (Toronto FC 2), Noble Okello (Toronto FC), Shamit Shome (Montreal Impact) and Charles-Andreas Brym (Belenenses) also earned their first caps. At 17, Nelson is the third-youngest player ever to feature for the Canadian national team.

Cavalry FC goalkeeper Marco Carducci was an unused substitute, while FC Edmonton defender Amer Didic and Forge FC midfielder Tristan Borges weren’t on coach John Herdman’s team sheet.

Canada is No.73 in the current FIFA world rankings, while Barbados is 162nd, and the difference in quality between the two countries was evident from early on.

It took just seven minutes for the Canadians to open the scoring, with Akindele’s shot coming off the post and falling to the feet of Ricketts who scored on the rebound. It was the Vancouver Whitecaps forward’s 17th goal for Canada.

Canada poured on the pressure, with Jay Chapman hitting the post, and Akindele and Osorio forcing Barbados goalkeeper Kishmar Primus to make important saves.

The Reds’ persistence paid off in the 34th minute when Chapman’s headed the ball to Akindele, who quickly spun around and fired it home from inside the six-yard box.

Barbados struck back the next minute, as Armando Lashley converted from the penalty spot. Canada nearly restored its two-goal cushion shortly after, but a Chapman effort on goal hit the post for the second time in the half.

Canada eventually made it 3-1 just before the halftime break courtesy of an Osorio blast from just inside the penalty area off a setup from Chapman. It was Osorio’s fifth goal for Canada.

Bair, a 20-year-old with the Vancouver Whitecaps, entered the game as a second-half substitute and minutes later marked his international debut by scoring to give Canada a three-goal lead.

Important win for Canada

Canada plays Barbados again on Friday and then Iceland next Wednesday. Both games are also in Irvine, California.

Even though all three of these matches are friendlies they are still hugely important for Canada if it’s going to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Under new rules, the top six teams in Concacaf, based on the FIFA world rankings in June 2020, move on to “the Hex,” the final round of qualifiers for the region. The top three nations in “the Hex” then qualify for the World Cup in Qatar.

Canada currently sits seventh in the Concacaf region, behind Mexico (No. 11), the U.S (22), Costa Rica (46), Jamaica (48), Honduras (62), and El Salvador (69). In order to crack the top six by next June and advance to “the Hex.” Canada has to win games like the ones against Barbados and Iceland in order to pick up valuable ranking points and move up the FIFA ladder. Canada trails El Salvador by 15 points at the moment.

Should Canada not make “the Hex,” it would be forced to compete in an arduous secondary Concacaf qualifying competition, with the ultimate winner then facing the fourth-place finisher from “the Hex” in a two-game series. The winner of that would then have to play a home-and home playoff against a nation from outside Concacaf with a World Cup berth at stake.

NOTES: Montreal Impact midfielder Samuel Piette served as Canada’s captain for the first time on Tuesday. With 60 caps, Ricketts was Canada’s most experienced player… Canada beat Barbados 1-0 in 2004 in the only other game between the sides.