Brampton-to-Brampton Atiba Hutchinson ‘back break’ goal puts Canada closer to 2022 World Cup


Published February 2, 2022 at 11:04 pm

Wearing his lucky No. 13, Brampton native Atiba Hutchinson celebrates scoring what proved to be the game-winning goal for Canada in a 2-0 win against El Salvador, in San Salvador, in World Cup Qualifying play on Wednesday. (Sportsnet)

Brampton native Atiba Hutchinson illustrated that luck is the residue of design, and making a 60-yard run on 38-year-old legs.

The Canada captain scored an all-time pinball goal, that actually went into the net off of his back, that helped push Les Rouges to the cusp of World Cup qualification for the first time in 36 years. Hutchinson’s goal in the 66th minute broke the ice for Canada in 2-0 away win against El Salvador on Wednesday night, as undefeated Canada moved to within one point of clinching a top-three finish in the CONCACAF octagonal, and a berth in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar this fall.

Canada (7-4-0, 25 points) is undefeated and atop the eight-team, 14-match competition, four points clear of the joint second-placed United States and Mexico (both 6-3-2, for 21 points). Coach John Herdman’s charges, with linchin defender Alphonso Davies back in Germany, were perfect in the past week’s three-match FIFA window, with a triptych of 2-0 wins. That included defeating the U.S. in Hamilton on Sunday, with goalkeeper Milan Borjan earning a shutout in his hometown.

The match at Estadio Cuscatlán was scoreless just past the hour mark when Cyle Larin, Hutchinson’s fellow Bramptonian and club teammate at Besiktas in Turkey, made a run down the right side of the pitch at the Estadio Cuscatlán. After shedding a sliding tackle attempt from El Salvador’s Roberto Dominguez, Larin crossed the ball into the six-yard box for the onrushing Hutchinson. The captain’s deflection was stopped by El Salvador goalkeeper Nelson Bonilla, but the ball ricocheted off the back of a prone Huthinson, and into the air over the reach of the keeper and just under the crossbar.

Jonathan David salted away the result for Canada with a 93rd-minute goal in stoppage time. Borjan had to make a tough save around the 90th minute just before David scored, as he recorded his third consecutive clean sheet.

Clinching scenarios

With only the final three-match window in late March remaining, it appears Canada, the U.S. and Mexico will qualify for Qatar.

The U.S. won 3-0 at home against Honduras in St. Paul, Minnesota on Wednesday. Mexico won 1-0 at home against Panama to open the game between the top three and everyone else.

Fourth-placed Panama (5-3-3, 17) is eight points adrift of Canada. Costa Rica (4-4-3, 16) is the first team out. Their 1-0 win against Jamaica on Wednesday likely prevented Canada from clinching.

Canada will again, be at home for only the middle game in the final three-match FIFA window in late March. They are at Costa Rica for a potential clincher on March 24, host Jamaica on March 27, and finish at Panama on March 30.

A team’s placing in qualifying has no direct bearing on the World Cup draw.

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