Suriname were good early on, but Canada pulled away: “I’m proud”
Herdman said Canada needed to get off to a hot start, and while it was a nervy opening 37 minutes before Canada took the lead, Canada held their own and, most importantly, kept the ball out of their net.
“I’m proud,” said John Herdman. “Proud of what the players put out there. We knew Suriname were going to be a tough test, they were riding a bit of a high after their last game. We knew those first 15 minutes were a cup final for both teams, we knew they were going to bring an intensity.”
Suriname had several early chances, including a long shot that crashed off the crossbar.
“We were wobbling,” said Herdman. “The guys stayed in the fight. We always knew if we could just weather that storm and bring the passion and stick to the process, then if we matched their level of intensity, our quality would shine through and I think it did.”
Canada had been preparing for this Suriname match for a while, always keeping one eye on Tuesday’s match.
“We were preparing all week for them,” said Alphonso Davies. “We knew the quality of players they had in their team. We just wanted to focus on our game, play how we trained all week. We knew we had to win this game. There’s a lot of young players, a lot of hungry players willing to play for this country. We went out there and did what we needed to do.”
Herdman had a lot of praise for Suriname and how quickly they’ve shown that they’re a country on the rise in Concacaf.
“My hat’s off to Dean (Gorré, Suriname head coach) and what he’s achieved in that country,” said Herdman, adding that he was impressed at how much money Suriname were able to raise in recent months to bring players over on chartered flights, and fund other parts of the program. “He’s on the start of a journey, and I’m excited to see Suriname in the Gold Cup.
“One of the players at the end said ‘we’ll see you in the final’, and I think there’s going to be a really bright future for this team.”
When asked about Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David, Herdman instead wanted to focus on another young duo: Scott Kennedy (who made his international debut on Tuesday night) and Alistair Johnston.
“Scott Kennedy stepped in there for the first time in his international career, playing against some experienced forwards like (Mitchell) te Vrede and (Nigel) Hasselbaink,” said Herdman. “Those guys are good players, I thought both Johnston and Kennedy had that top-level performance tonight.
“They did what they did to keep the clean sheet, and some of the passes from Johnston to find David in that first half, and then Kennedy to find Davies. I thought there was some really good chemistry. And then you have Stephen Eustáquio in the middle there like a little metronome, just dictating things.”
The strong performances from those in midfield and defense is what led to success in the final third, according to Herdman.
“I was really impressed that those guys could help Jonny and Phonzie reach their potential, and you need that. Obviously David scoring that hat trick was terrific.”
Team chemistry — and a world-class duo — were the difference
The world-class duo of Alphonso Davies and hat-trick hero Jonathan David came up big on Tuesday night. David scored three and assisted Davies’ goal, while Davies scored and assisted two for David — further proof that they’re becoming one of the best young pairs in the international game.
“The combination with me and David, it’s one of those ones where it just happens I guess,” said Davies with a smile. “The only time we play with each other is at the national team level, but we have that connection. It was good today.”
That connection goes back a long time.
“I met Jonathan when we were really little,” Davies recalled. “We played in the youth teams together. On the pitch, you just know where he is, when he wants the ball, and he makes his presence felt. Over the years playing with Jonathan we found that bond, that connection, and we try to show it every time we play.”
That team chemistry might’ve been where Canada had the most significant advantage over their opponents, who have recruited a significant number of their players in the past few months.
“We have experienced players but we have a young team together,” said head coach Dean Gorré. “The players know each other from football but they never played together. They only played a few games, a few sessions (together).”
Defender Ryan Donk echoed that feeling.
“You see the difference in experience. They’ve built the team already and we’re still building. We’ve only played together 10 or 11 times.”
Both Surinamese representatives acknowledged what Herdman said — they’re a nation on the rise and could turn out to be a very good team with a few more strong years under their belt.
Revenge in mind as Canada move on to play Haiti
With Tuesday’s victory, Canada will face Haiti in the second round of Concacaf World Cup Qualifying. The first match is on Saturday at 5 pm EST, and can be watched on OneSoccer.
“We’re excited for the game,” said Davies. “We know that we lost to Haiti in the Gold Cup, it was a tough defeat, but we’re ready and we’re excited for these two legs coming up.”
“We’ve got to control what we can control,” said Herdman. “There’s been good work at head office to put security with us. To look at risks from either COVID, or other risks or medical risks that could be undertaken. I think there’s a good plan in place to keep people safe.”
“FIFA have done their risk assessments to say it’s a safe place to go. Canada’s doing the right thing by not playing in their country, playing in neutral venues, and you hope that common sense would be if a country isn’t right to be played in, you should put it in a neutral venue.”
Herdman is focusing on what needs to be done on the pitch against Haiti, and like Davies, has had this game in mind for a while.
“At the end of the day, we get Haiti back, that’s the game we’ve been wanting now for two years,” Herdman said emphatically. “Whether it’s in Haiti, Timbuktu, or wherever they want to put us, that game is so important to this group of boys.
“We get to play them twice, and get to right the wrongs of two years ago.”