Canada (pictured) celebrates after scoring against Haiti in a CONCACAF Under-20 Championship match on January 10, 2015, in Montego Bay, Jamaica. (Photo: Mexsport)
MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – The expectations that Canada has set for itself at the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship are undoubtedly high.
After not participating in a FIFA U-20 World Cup since 2007, when it hosted the event, making a return to the global stage is the clear objective.
In the Group B opener against Haiti on Saturday, the Canadians jumped out to an early 2-0 lead -- courtesy of a Jordan Hamilton brace – en route to a 3-1 triumph.
Though head coach Rob Gale was pleased with overall performance, he was looking for a complete 90-minute performance.
“We started very well,” said Gale. “We looked to stretch them and get in behind them early and, obviously, took our chances. I think then we probably took it a little bit easy and maybe got a little bit complacent, but we responded.”
Jonel Desire’s 27th minute tally got Haiti back in the game, but Michael Petrasso punctuated the scoreline with a second-half penalty kick.
“We’re confident coming into the tournament,” commented Petrasso, who’s on the books at English Premier League side Queens Park Rangers. “Getting the two first goals helped us settle in, so we’re glad we got them quick so we could calm our nerves down right off the bat.”
Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Marco Bustos agreed with both Gale and Bustos. He acknowledged that Canada’s first-half performance was slightly uneven, but was delighted with the win.
“In the beginning, we took control of the game and we were moving the ball quick,” said 18-year-old. “We sort of lost it towards the end (of the first half), giving balls away and not connecting the passes we should have connected. We regrouped at half time, came out on fire. We were getting behind and we created lots of chances, the penalty.
“At the end of the day it’s about winning and we could have scored more, but we were happy with the three points.”
An additional three points are on offer on Monday against two-time defending champion Mexico, a 9-1 winner over Cuba in its opener.
“Big game against Mexico,” stressed Hamilton, who scored three goals in the 2013 CONCACAF Under-17 Championship and two in the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup. “That’s all we’re focused on right now. We just got to go out and do what our coaches tell us to do and stick to our game plan and we should be fine.”
Canada is the last team to post a victory over Mexico in CONCACAF Under-20 Championship play, defeating the Tricolor, 2-0, on March 9, 2009.