KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Canada’s under-23 squad was caught sleeping early, and it cost them late.
Forward Jordan Morris scored twice — including his first less than a minute into the match — as the United States beat Canada 3-1 on Thursday at the CONCACAF men’s Olympic qualifying tournament.
Morris put the U.S. ahead before fans were even settled into their seats after heading home a cross from forward Jerome Kiesewetter. Canadian goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau dove out to intercept the cross and missed, leaving Morris a wide open goal.
“It was a really early goal and it was unexpected,” said forward Michael Petrasso, who scored Canada’s lone goal. “I think with that goal it woke us up a little bit. We started slow but came on strong and possession of the ball in the second half was really strong.”
Despite its slow start, Canada didn’t change its approach to the match and stuck with a 3-4-3 setting. The Americans kept the pressure on early and spent much of the first 25 minutes of the match on the opponent’s side of centre, but Canada turned up its pressure and held 56 per cent of ball possession in the opening half.
Any chance of a Canadian comeback seemed to go away when Morris scored again in the 73rd minute to make it 2-0. Morris was sprung by midfielder William Trapp, who stole the ball at midfield.
“I felt at half, one goal down we were playing well enough to get back in the game,” said Petrasso. “When they scored to make it 2-0 a couple heads went down, but we kept fighting.”
Petrasso responded in the 81st minute, heading in a corner kick from a set piece that brought some late life back into the Canadian squad. But that was as close as Canada could make it as Luis Gil tacked on a penalty kick for the U.S. in extra time after defender Jerome Gagnon-Lapare took down an American in the box.
“I got the goal back and I thought it lifted the team and I thought we were gonna have a good push, which we did, but we got unlucky on that third goal,” said Petrasso.
Morris, who is a standout at Stanford University, was a force early for the American side and had another scoring chance in the sixth minute, but was off balance and put the ball harmlessly wide of the Canadian goal from the top of the penalty box.
Midfielder Christopher Mannella had Canada’s first shot on goal off a free kick in the ninth minute and put it right at goalkeeper Zackary Steffen.
Kiesewetter got behind Canada’s defence in the 21st minute only to put the ball wide of the far post. Kiesewetter had another scoring chance right before half but couldn’t get the ball past Crepeau.
Forward Caleb Clark had a scoring chance early in the second half for Canada, but his left-footed shot was easily handled by Steffen.
Crepeau kept Canada in the match when he stopped Kieswetter in alone in the 64th minute by coming out to cut down the angle — forcing the forward to go low with his shot.
The U.S. finished with the edge in shots 14-13, but Canada won the shots-on-target 6-3.
Canada is in Group A with the United States, Panama and Cuba. It will play Panama on Saturday before facing Cuba on Tuesday. Head coach Benito Floro is confident that if his squad plays the way they did against the Americans that they can have success against the Panamanians.
“We have to do much of the same in the next game, to play well on attack, to take advantage of centring pieces, and to defend correctly,” said Floro. “It is important to believe in our system, because in reality the team played well and controlled many parts of the game, but just needed to score more goals.”
Earlier Thursday evening, Cuba and Panama settled for a 1-1 draw to open the tournament.
The Canadian Press