TORONTO – Lucas Cavallini made sure it was an emphatic finish.
With Canada holding a 1-0 lead into stoppage-time, the 26-year-old forward, who came off the bench in the 66th minute, calmly waited for the ball to drop.
“I was expecting a pass from [Jonathan] Osorio,” Cavallini explained post-match. “Me and him have played together since we were small. I knew the pass he was going to give me, the ball started bouncing.
“All I wanted to do was break the net and that’s what happened.”
Cavallini’s right-footed blast ripped past goalkeeper Zach Steffen in the U.S. net, sealing a historic 2-0 win over the Americans, keeping Canada at the top of Group A of the Concacaf Nations League table with one game remaining.
“It feels good. Any goal feels good,” said the striker, who netted his 11th goal for Canada, all since last September.
“Scoring for my country, in an important game like this, is something special.”
It was fitting that it was Osorio, a childhood friend, who played the ball to Cavallini.
“Special,” Cavallini smiled. “We grew up together, we did everything together.
“We can take that chemistry to this team and start doing some damage.”
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The two met at Clarkson SC in Mississauga and then took a dive south, way south, to the famed academy of Uruguayan club Nacional.
“I lived with Lucas in Uruguay,” explained Osorio last year as Nations League qualification began. “I always say this: it’s so crazy to me that, especially for him – this guy has played at Nacional, made it to Penarol – these are the biggest clubs in South America and don’t get talked about as much.
“It’s unbelievable. I don’t know why. I guess it’s South America, it’s over there, but these are historic clubs,” Osorio continued. “They’re not shown on TV. I understand, I just find it crazy.
“What we did wasn’t easy. I’m not saying it to get attention, I just find it crazy. Nacional, Penarol, Boca Juniors, River Plate, these are huge clubs that develop great players.”
That lack of awareness only fuels the fire.
“They can talk or they don’t have to,” Cavallini shrugged. “It’s something me and Jon always talk about: they didn’t give much attention to us, going to clubs where the best players in Europe came from.
“I guess nobody pays attention to South America. They don’t know the history.”
In Montevideo, as teenagers, the Canadian duo lived in ‘La Casona’.
“Translates to a mansion – I wouldn’t say it’s a mansion – it’s a dorm,” Osorio explained. “Our rooms had three bunk beds in there. I lived with 30 other kids ranging from 12 to 18 years old. Once you turn 18 you’ve got to get out, find your own house. Me, Lucas, and two other guys moved into an apartment.
“The house was interesting. We were the only foreigners, everybody else was Uruguayan, just from further parts. It was a good experience.”
Fast forward a little less than a decade and both are in their prime. Osorio is starring for his hometown club, Toronto FC, while Cavallini can be watched on OneSoccer, banging in goals for Club Puebla in Mexico’s Liga MX.
Both carry themselves with an eternal chip-on-the-shoulder attitude that is pure South America.
“We have the same mentality,” Cavallini said of himself and Osorio. “Coming from South America, where we learned from the best.
“The mentality players need to achieve what they want.”
In Uruguay, that fighting spirit is known as ‘garra charrua.’
“I feel I have that as well,” Cavallini smiled. “I have Uruguayans on my team. Whenever I score a last-minute goal, I say ‘Garra Charrua.’
“This is where I got it from.”
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Perhaps he was growling that on Tuesday night at BMO Field come the 91st minute.
The South American experience is one that served them well.
“It was something crazy, going from this life to down there, living how they live. Not poverty, but you don’t have all the accommodations. We didn’t care because we wanted to make something out of football,” Cavallini recalled. “We thought about achieving our dream, becoming professionals. You’ve got to go down in order to come back up.
“It was a really good experience. We talk about it now, how we did it we don’t know – living in a little room, six of us in a room – I don’t know how we did it. You think about it and you regret nothing.”
That ‘got to be down to get up’ element mirrors neatly with Canada.
A country looking to force its way into the Concacaf Nations League finals next June by topping their group and into the top six ranked nations in the region on FIFA points to secure a place in the Hex when 2022 World Cup Qualification comes around.
The win over the Americans was a step in that direction.
“Happy for the result, for the victory. We organized ourselves well this week, trained hard, thinking how we needed to defeat this team,” Cavallini said post-match. “Everything worked out well, all as planned.
“A historic day for us.”
The team now awaits the next international break, when they will square off against the U.S. in Orlando on Nov. 15. The Americans have a game in hand, their away match against the Cubans in the Cayman Islands a few days later, and will no doubt be eager to make amends for a disappointing night.
“It’s going to be tough, playing in their home country, we’ve got to be focused,” Cavallini stated. “Just like we did this game, we’ve got to go in with the same mentality.
“It’s going to be like a final for us.”