Home Global Game CONCACAF Simpson leads Canada to World Cup qualifying win over St. Lucia

Simpson leads Canada to World Cup qualifying win over St. Lucia

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Canada lived up to its favourite tag in its World Cup qualifying opener against St. Lucia — completely outplaying the Caribbean nation for a 4-1 win Friday at Toronto’s BMO Field.

Josh Simpson led the Canadian attack scoring two goals while Dwayne De Rosario added a goal from the spot and substitute Will Johnson added the other. Simpson became just the eighth player in Canadian history to score two goals in a match. Paul Tremain replied for St. Lucia in what Simpson called a “world class” strike.

Canada created numerous chances from the beginning to the final whistle outshooting St. Lucia 30-6, including 18-1 in the second half — while putting 15 shots on target compared to just one for the island nation. Canada had an explosive start and scored in the fifth minute, only to be scored on less than a minute later. That did not please Canadian Head Coach Stephen Hart.

“The first half, I think we wanted to play the game in 15 minutes and get it over with,” said Hart. “If we were a little patient, show a little more composure in and around the box we would have gotten the scores. Basically that’s all we said in the dressing room you can’t just be throwing yourself forward and not thinking about the end product of how’s its going to finish. It was marginally better in the second half — we got the goals. We’re just happy to start with a win.”

St. Lucia Head Coach Alain Providence thought Canada’s play was average and that the game was close — quite the bold statement considering the outcome and stats of the match. He claimed that the team was unprepared for the match having arrived in Canada late only the night before. With the team being strapped for cash, St. Lucia had very little choice in its itinerary since flights leave the island only three times a week to Toronto.

“It was a game that was rather close from my standpoint,” said Providence. “My guys actually stuck to the task, but nevertheless they had the better of us. This team actually is a work in progress, and you would agree this team is relatively young averaging 20 years old.”

Simpson was shocked when told of Providence’s comments.

“We could have been more clinical but I don’t think we were average by any means,” said Simpson. “We smashed them so I’m not sure what he’s on about.

“It would have been nice to put the game away earlier — that’s what we’re trying to do but we’re pretty happy with it. It’s still a win but a good win…we got the result so that’s important.”

Another aspect of the match that had a big impact in the game was the number of St. Lucia players falling to the pitch during the match. The referee to call for the stretcher on at least five different occasions disrupting the flow of Canada’s game. It came to a point where it became quite laughable — the players might not have been fit enough to play against a team like Canada. St. Lucia is ranked 184th in the FIFA rankings compared to 102 for Canada which is more talented of squad than its ranking suggests.

Added midfielder Atiba Hutchinson, “Yeah, you really don’t want to think about it too much but some of them maybe get cramps, maybe they don’t train daily. But you can’t really think about that too much, we have to focus on ourselves and keep pushing for a win.”

Quick Start

Canada made an explosive start to the match by pushing forward in numbers and putting on relentless pressure inside the St Lucia end of the field. The red and white didn’t take long to capitalize getting the opening goal in just the fifth minute. Forward Simeon Jackson ran up the right flank before passing back to De Rosario who then crossed the ball behind the line of defenders to Simpson. The striker was open at the side of the net and fired a quick shot that went off the hands St. Lucia keeper Iran Cassius before deflecting off a defender and into the net.

Fans were still celebrating Canada’s goal when St. Lucia evened the score less than a minute later. From the right side, Tremain quickly cut inside before firing a low drive in between Canadian defenders and past a diving Lars Hirschfeld. The Canadian keeper seemed to have reacted late on the play and may have been screened long enough before he decided to make the dive. The ball was just out of his reach and went just inside the far post to tie the game at 1-1. The crowd fell silent after the goal and Canada looked stunned at the sudden turn of events.

Hirschfeld gave up a bad goal against the U.S. in the opening match of the Gold Cup earlier this summer. The goal gave an early advantage to the Americans and put Canada in a bad position trying to play catchup. Hirschfeld was subsequently replaced by Milan Borjan for the remaining group stage games which Canada won and tied against Guadeloupe and Panama, respectively. With Hirschfeld giving up another bad goal it won’t be a surprise of Borjan starts the next match in Puerto Rico on Tuesday.

Josh Simpson in action. PHOTO: JASON GEMNICH/CANADA SOCCER
Josh Simpson in action. PHOTO: JASON GEMNICH/CANADA SOCCER

The rest of the first half did not have the same frenzied pace of the opening minutes and calmed down considerably after the St. Lucia goal. However, the St. Lucia defence looked awful and and amateurish at times while making some suspect and needless challenges. Canada could have had more goals in the first half but could not capitalize on St. Lucia’s mistakes either lacking the finish or were unable gain control of the ball deep in the box.

The second half was more of the same for Canada as the team continued to pick apart the St. Lucia defence. The home team finally caught a much deserved break in the 50th minute when a Canadian cross hit a defender in the hand giving Canada a penalty kick. De Rosario stepped to the spot and made Cassisus guess left but he slotted the ball inside the right post to put Canada up 2-1.

In the 60th minute, Canada was able to string together some great passes in the midfield with before Ian Hume passed back to Hutchinson who then made a great long through ball sending Simpson in on a breakaway. The forward charged in on goal and slotted the ball to the left of Cassius who came out to challenge, giving Canada a commanding 3-1 lead.

Substitute Will Johnson added another for Canada in the 90th minute when Tosaint Ricketts headed a cross to him at the right post. He caught the bouncing ball with his right foot while falling to make it 4-1.

Canada will hope to keep itself in the win column when it travels to Bayamon, Puerto Rico for its second match on Tuesday with kickoff at 8 p.m. ET.

Puerto Rico drew St. Kitts and Nevis 0-0 on Friday night, giving Canada the clear lead in the qualifying group after just one match.

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