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  • Canada squeaks past Guadeloupe in U20 opener


    In a prelude to what will surely be a titanic clash between Canada and Guadeloupe at this year's Gold Cup, the U20 men's squads of the respective nations... wait, is Guadeloupe a nation? Anyway, Canada and Guadeloupe played on Monday night in U20 World Cup qualifying. Canada won 2-1. The end.

    Well, not quite.


    The Canadian side wasn't what it could have been. Jaineil Hoilett was held back by his club side (FSV Mainz 05), as was Ashtone Morgan (of Toronto FC). His teammate, Doneil Henry, joined the Canadian team late (after riding the bench for TFC on Saturday) and only came into the game as a substitute in the second half, while Nicholas Lindsay surely would have factored into the team if not for his season-ending injury. Goalkeeper Roberto Stillo, part of Genoa's youth system, is also out with an injury.

    With all of this wafting above their heads, the Canadian team had a flat first half. Despite some early possession, Canada conceded the opening goal in the 25th minute, a 20-yard bomb by Christophe Houleche that was deflected on its way past 'keeper Julian Latendresse-Levesque. Clearly buoyed by breaking the ice, Guadeloupe had their way with the young Canucks for the remainder of the opening 45, controlling possession and creating some (unsuccessful) opportunities to score a second.

    A halftime substitution did wonders for Canada, though, as the insertion of Jonathan Osorio in the midfield provided a good complement to the ongoing hard work of Russell Teibert and captain Ethan Gage. Teibert's hard work made Canada's opener possible, as he fought for the ball along the Guadeloupe end line and fed a pass to Lucas Cavallini, one of four Canadians plying his trade down in Uruguay, who slotted a low shot into the net in the 53rd minute.

    The winner came just five minutes later as (who else?) Teibert whipped a free kick into the area which found the head of Derrick "the pride of North Delta, B.C." Brassi, who did exactly what a centre back is meant to do in that situation: put the ball low and into the corner. The Guadeloupe 'keeper was left helpless, the Canadian kids were left ecstatic.

    The psychic power of having the lead allowed the Canadians to maintain control for the remainder of the match, as JLL was rarely tested in the Canadian goal.

    Overall, the U20s certainly weren't playing the sort of fluid attacking style that the U17s treated us to a few months back. Then again, many members of the U17 team are regular teammates in the academies of Toronto FC, the Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact, whereas the members of the U20 squad play their club soccer in six different countries.

    Either way, a win is a win -- and an absolutely crucial one at that, as a loss almost certainly would have dashed any hopes of qualification for the U20 World Cup. As it stands, Canada temporarily sits first in its three-team Group C. Costa Rica and Guadeloupe meet on Wednesday, while Canada meets Costa Rica on Friday. The top two teams in each group advance to the quarterfinals.

    Canada could still advance, even with a loss to Costa Rica, but that would likely see them match up with Mexico in the quarterfinals (while winning the group would likely book them a date with either Cuba or Trinidad & Tobago). No matter what, the road to the U20 World Cup won't be easy for this team... but Canadian soccer seems to have some magic dust around it as of late, so let's just wait and see what happens, shall we?


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