CanMNT Breeze Past Cuba To Secure Gold Cup Knockouts

Soccer: CONCACAF Gold Cup-Cuba at Canada as the CanMNT Breeze Past Cuba

HOUSTON, TX – The CanMNT breezed past a resilient Cuba side 4-2 in the final group game of Group D at Shell Energy Stadium for the 2023 Gold Cup. Goals from Junior Hoilett, Jonathan Osorio, Jayden Nelson, and Liam Millar saw Canada in the driver’s seat for the majority of this match, in what is to be the warm-up for a grudge match against the US in the quarter-finals.

CanMNT Secure Quarter-Final Berth Against Cuba

Rust Is Finally Coming Off

After a lacklustre first two games in the Gold Cup, the CanMNT have finally started to hit their rhythm in this competition. Canada lined up in a more pragmatic 4-4-2 formation in this match, which quickly became the base for their success. The Canucks looked more organized, more composed, and created a lot more opportunities than in previous games. Players like Liam Millar, Junior Hoilett, and Jonathan Osorio stepped up big time in this game, providing an example for all the other newcomers to follow.

READ MORE: Dayne St. Clair: The Young and Promising CanMNT Goalkeeper

And while Canada did score four goals, they did concede two penalties to sour their night. The first was a poor giveaway from Osorio, in his only real mistake all game, who allowed Cuba to go in clean on goal. St. Clair rushed out and clipped the heels of the onrushing Cuban attacker, conceding a penalty. The second was a harsh handball call on Dominick Zator, whose arm was clipped by the ball after coming off the head of a Cuban player. These penalties show that Canada still has room for improvement, but the overall result signifies that they have finally arrived as one of the favourites to win the tournament.

Youth & Experience Starting to Gel for CanMNT

Two players shone in this match for Canada, and both signify a different era of the CanMNT. One was Junior Hoilett, as he scored in his fourth separate Gold Cup tournament, a new record for a Canadian Men’s National player. The other was Liam Millar, who scored his first goal for the Maple Leaf in all competitions. Hoilett used his experience and wisdom to score the penalty that started the goals and create three chances for his team, one of which was the corner that Millar scored from. Millar, at the same time, played a huge part in the threat up front, and almost set up another goal after his own.

This tournament was seen as a “passing the torch” competition for many players, as a new crop of players is coming in for the 2026 World Cup cycle. Today exemplified how players like Hoilett and Osorio can help the next generation take on the mantle, and raise the platform for players like Millar and Ali Ahmed, who have impressed greatly throughout this tournament. It will remain to be seen how many of the promising young players will be able to stake their claim in the “A” team for Canada in the competitions to come, and how many of the veterans will stick around until then.

A Chance for Revenge in The Quarter-Finals

The last time the CanMNT faced the US, they fell to an abysmal 2-0 victory in the final of the Nations League Finals. Comprised of many of the strongest players available, it was a real wake-up call for Canada on how much they still need to work on and improve to reach the heights of the US. Now, just a few weeks later, they have a chance of redemption against an also rotated American side. The US finished first in Group A on seven points, after completing back-to-back 6-0 victories. The American squad, like this Canadian side, is full of players that are fighting for their spot ahead of a busy World Cup cycle and will look to replicate another sound defeat of the Canucks.

Canada then needs to build on this victory against Cuba and continue to gel, improve and organize, as the US is a different beast altogether. Like last time, they will have little room for mishaps and mistakes. The US will smell blood in the water if Canada is not at their absolute best for this quarter-final. And not only would it be sweet revenge for Canada, but it would put them in an extremely favourable position to kick on and reach the final of the Gold Cup. It all rests now upon head coach John Herdman and his crop of players to banish old demons and start this new cycle in the right manner.

The game against the US will take place on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. ET at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. Fans can watch the game live on OneSoccer and Telus.


Photo Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports, of a Liam Millar Headshot, on July 4, 2023.


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