Hernandez double lifts Cuba to draw with Canada

Cuba's Aricheel Hernandez (pictured) celebrates after scoring one of his two goals against Canada in the CONCACAF Men's Olympic Qualifying Championship on October 6, 2015, in Commerce City, Colorado. (Photo: Mexsport)

COMMERCE CITY, Colorado – Canada (1W-1D-1L, 4 points, 0GD) missed an opportunity to earn a place in the semifinals of the 2015 CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship (CMOQ), playing Cuba (0W-2D-1L, 2 points) to a 2-2 draw on Tuesday at rainy Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

The Canadians held destiny in their own hands, knowing a win would enable them to advance. Now they must wait on the result of the Group A finale, which will be contested later in the evening between the United States (2W-0D-0L, 6 points) and Panama (0W-1D-1L, 1 point, -2GD). A three-goal victory by the Panamanians would see them progress over Canada via goal difference.

On two occasions against Cuba, Canada let single-goal leads slip away.

Michael Petrasso scored in a third straight game to put the Canadians ahead in the 25th minute. This time, he intercepted a backpass from Abel Martinez and tapped a shot off the body of goalkeeper Sandy Sanchez, before the ball rolled into the left side of the net.

Eight minutes later, Cuba was on level terms thanks to a neat pass by Maykel Reyes. The electric forward sent a superb diagonal ball along the ground into the left side of the box for Aricheel Hernandez, who rolled a perfectly weighted left-footed effort past goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau and just inside the right post.

Needing a win to remove all of the drama from the nightcap, Canada regained the lead in the 52nd minute on a goalkeeping error. Mohlam Babouli’s left-sided free kick from 20-yards out slipped through the hands of Sanchez, finding the lower-right corner of the net.

Undaunted Cuba went on the attack. If not for Crepeau denying Hector Morales in the 65th minute, the last 25 minutes could have taken a different tone.

After doing well to free himself in the box, Mauro Eustaquio had a chance to put the game out of reach for Canada, but pulled his right-footed attempt wide of the left post.

The Caribbean runner-up equalized with three minutes remaining in normal time with a “goal of the tournament” nominee. A sprinting Hernandez received a delightful flick-on from Andy Baquero and chipped over Crepeau from 24-yards out with his right foot.

Despite an injection of energy from the strike, Cuba could not produce a game-winner. Canada, however, remains in contention for a third straight trip to the CMOQ semifinals.