Canada finished in second place in Group D at the 2018 Concacaf Men’s Under-20 Championship with their 2:1 victory over Martinique. With only the group winner advancing to the next round, Canada return home after posting three wins and two losses in five matches over a nine-day window.
Panama won the group undefeated, including their narrow 2:1 victory over Canada at the midway point of the group phase.
“We knew we had to build some Concacaf understanding and we did that,” said Head Coach Andrew Olivieri. “Our new reality is that we’ve got to be able to get up and go again within two days and rely on the depth of the team and of players being able to recover physically, mentally, technically and tactically.”
Canada scored early in the first half after Clément Bayiha and Mathieu Choinière forced a Martinique turnover. Theo Bair took a misdirected through ball down and played tournament debutant Steffen Yeattes through into the six yard box and he pushed the ball wide of Martinique goalkeeper Aldrick Bouloi in the 8’.
Bayiha got a goal of his own in the 15’ getting through on his own from the half way line after Yeates’ pressure forced a turnover. Bayiha finished it off by pushing the ball to his right and putting it behind Boulois for his first goal of the competition. Martinique’s lone goal came off a penalty kick in the 69’.
Canada’s starting lineup featured Alessandro Busti in goal, Émile Legault at right back, Antonio Romeo Rocco and Yohan Le Bourhis at centre back, Daniel Kinumbe at left back, and Steffen Yeattes, Noah Verhoeven, captain Mathieu Choinière, Clément Bayiha, Dante Campbell and Theo Bair from the midfield up through to the attack.
In the second half, coach Andrew Olivieri replaced Kinumbe with Noble Okello (46′), Verhoeven with Adonijah Reid (63’), and Bair with Jordan Peruzza (81’).
At the 2018 Concacaf Men’s Under-20 Championship, Canada scored 10 goals in five matches. Eight different players scored in the competition, with Noble Okello the team leader with three goals. Canada finished with a +4 goal differential. The competition provided nations with some key learning experiences, from the quick turnarounds in between matches to the emotional composure needed to refocus on the next opponent.
With the start of this cycle, Canada Soccer have started to lay the foundations of a new cultural and tactical identity across the Men’s EXCEL Program. From experiences at the Toulon tournament this summer and now the Concacaf Men’s Under-20 Championship, Canada Soccer can identify gaps that need to be closed while also learning character, cultural, and tactical traits about their international players.
“We knew that the top clubs would not release their young players outside of FIFA windows for youth events or even qualification tournaments, so we knew it was a challenge we face ahead of the Concacaf Men’s Under-20 Championship,” said John Herdman, Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team Head Coach. “On the flip side, this tournament provided a very good opportunity for other young players on our depth charts to experience the international levels and push their case for selection to the Men’s National Team.”
Already this year, Canada Soccer have debuted five teenagers at the international “A” level, the most since 1984. For the upcoming Concacaf Nations League Qualifying match in St. Kitts and Nevis, the Men’s National Team will feature eight players born 1997 or later who are 18 to 21 years old.
Canada opened with a 4:0 win over Dominica on Friday 2 November before a 2:1 win over Guadeloupe and then the 1:2 loss to Panama. Following a disappointing 1:2 loss over St. Kitts and Nevis, Canada rebounded with the win over Martinique.