RECAP: CanMNT qualify for 2024 Copa América with close win vs. Trinidad & Tobago

The Canadian men’s national team will play in its first ever Copa América tournament and take on world champions Argentina this June, as they defeated Trinidad and Tobago 2-0 on Saturday in Frisco, Texas. Though it wasn’t the most comfortable of wins, a Cyle Larin goal and a Jacob Shaffelburg insurance marker were enough to get the job done and win this Concacaf play-in match.

Entering the game under immense pressure, Canada’s interim head coach Mauro Biello opted to play to his side’s strengths with his starting XI. He fielded an attacking lineup with Alphonso Davies and Tajon Buchanan out wide, Larin and Ike Ugbo together as dual strikers, and Jonathan David just behind them as a number 10. Plus, he gave the start to former Cavalry FC defender Joel Waterman in the middle of the back three. Meanwhile, Trinidad set up with a stingy back five, deploying Halifax Wanderers captain Andre Rampersad in midfield.

As expected, Canada had a strong majority of possession in the first half, playing a patient game as they worked the ball forward, probing both sides of the Trinidad penalty area. However, the Soca Warriors had the first major chance of the game, as AEK Athens attacker Levi Garcia charged downfield on the counter-attack and found himself alone in front of goal, though his rushed attempt ended up wide of the post.

The sudden scare did seem to wake up the Canadians, though, as they created a number of other dangerous chances in the next 10 minutes. Jonathan David and Cyle Larin both produced a shot on target, but Denzil Smith was up to both challenges.

With the opening goal proving difficult to find, Canada began to show some signs of frustration in the late second half, as Trinidad’s physicality made life difficult for them. The Canadians began to get sucked into a few heated moments, as their opposition picked up a pair of first-half yellow cards, but so too did Buchanan and Alistair Johnston. So, it was a somewhat irritated Canada side that went into the locker rooms at halftime with the score 0-0.

Moments into the second half, Trinidad sent another shot across Canada’s bow as they won the ball in the attacking half, but Andre Raymond’s shot also skipped just wide of the post.

Still, the game continued in similar fashion. Canada came close yet again around the 55th minute, as their 13th corner of the game found David at the near post for a flick toward goal, but a Trinidadian defender was in position on the goal line to get in its way.

As the game ticked over the hour mark, though, at last Canada’s moment arrived. Buchanan drove into the right half-space from the touchline and held off his man, finding the feet of Ugbo just inside the box. He tapped it into the path of Larin, who placed an excellent shot into the bottom left corner to put his country ahead.

With Trinidad now trailing, the Soca Warriors begin going in search of more possession and found it, as they pushed Canada backward over the next 10 minutes. They made a couple of attacking changes, with Pacific FC’s Reon Moore as well as Noah Powder looked to provide more quality going forward. Levi Garcia continued to be the greatest menace though, cutting in from the right side and putting the ball into dangerous areas.

Biello soon turned to his bench as well in search of fresh legs to seal up the game and Jacob Shaffelburg was the first to come in, replacing Ugbo.

New energy in the final 10 minutes seemed to help Canada, who had been bending under some Trinidadian pressure since the goal; they started probing for opportunities on the counter-attack, where Shaffelburg thrives. That said, Real Gill gave Canadian supporters a minor heart attack with five minutes to go as he drilled an open shot, but Crépeau was able to get down and hold onto it. Moments later down in the other end, Shaffelburg hit the post with a rocket of a strike from distance, but still the game remained at 1-0.

As the clock ticked into stoppage time, Shaffelburg was rewarded for being Canada’s liveliest player since he came on. The ball came to him in space on the left during a transition, and he took a touch toward goal before smashing it under the bar and in. The insurance goal was the Halifax native’s second time on the scoresheet in as many appearances for his country.

Canada saw out the match with one more positive moment, as 18-year-old Fulham youngster Luc de Fougerolles came on for Ismaël Koné to make his senior debut for Les Rouges. Shortly after, the referee whistled for full time, putting an official seal on Canada’s ticket to this summer’s massive stage.

With this enormous relief, Canada can now turn their attention to the summer, when they’ll play in Group A at the Copa América. They’ll take on Lionel Messi and Argentina in the competition’s opening match on June 20 in Atlanta, before also playing Peru (June 25) and Chile (June 29) as they challenge themselves in one of the world’s most prestigious international tournaments.



Canada: Crépeau; Johnston, Miller, Waterman; Buchanan (Choinière 80′), Eustaquio (Piette 90+4′), Koné (De Fougerolles 90+4′), Davies; Larin (Russell-Rowe 80′), J. David, Ugbo (Shaffelburg 70′)

Trinidad & Tobago: Smith; A. David, Raymond, Gomez (Auvray 81′), Jones, J. Garcia; Phillips, L. Garcia, Hackshaw (Powder 70′), Rampersad (Moore 56′); Fortune (Gill 81′)


61′ — Cyle Larin (Canada)
90+1′ — Jacob Shaffelburg (Canada)


5′ — Yellow: Aubrey David (Trinidad & Tobago)
42′ — Yellow: Tajon Buchanan (Canada)
45+1′ — Yellow: Daniel Phillips (Trinidad & Tobago)
45+1′ — Yellow: Alistair Johnston (Canada)