Pickering, Mississauga players shine but Canada loses heartbreaker to U.S. in Gold Cup

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Published July 10, 2023 at 9:50 am

It was heartbreak for Canada’s Men’s National Team Sunday night in Cincinnati as the squad lost on penalties to the USA in the Gold Cup quarter-finals.

The Canadians, who had a lacklustre tournament leading up the game, qualifying second in group play in what was a very winnable group, went toe-to-toe with the 11th-ranked Americans and came within five minutes of pulling off the upset before an unlucky own goal in the 115th minute sent the match to penalties.

The U.S. had the better of possession through much of the game and were pushing hard late when Brandon Vasquez scored on a header after a great run through the box in the 88th minute to give the home fans a vision of victory. But a VAR review in the third minute of stoppage time discovered a handball and big defender Steven Vitoria made Mississauga proud by summoning his striker youth days and calming slotting the ball down the middle to tie the score.

In extra time Jacob Shaffelburg, who had come on in the second half as a substitute, gave the USA fits with his speed and scored his first goal for his country when the Kentville, Nova Scotia winger beat his man down the left side and scored a stunner in the 109th minute.

The joy was short-lived, however, as US pressure deep into extra time forced Canadian ‘keeper Dayne St. Clair of Pickering to make a big stop in the 115th minute, only to see the ball carom off defender Scott Kennedy and into the net.

Steven Vitoria of Canada and Brandon Vasquez of USA scored huge goals for their country in Cincinnati Sunday night

St. Clair, the heir to veteran Milan Borjan in the Canadian net, had a huge game for Canada and was named Performer of the Match. St. Clair made seven saves as the U.S. outshot Canada 21-5 (8-2 on target) and enjoyed a 2-1 possession advantage. St. Clair had a big block of a drive from Jesus Ferreira in the final minutes of the first half, another off Gianluca Busio’s shot in the 68th and a massive save in the 104th minute when he tipped a sure goal over the bar.

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The one he didn’t stop proved to be the dagger for Canada as St. Clair just got a piece of a shot to the bottom corner by Ferreira on the ensuing penalty shootout to set up a must-score attempt by 24 year-old Charles-Andreas Brym, who clanged his shot off the crossbar.

“Whenever it goes to penalties it’s never easy,” St. Clair said after the match. “We wanted to bring the fight and we left it all out there. It didn’t fall our way.”

As usual in a CONCACAF game there were a few questionable calls, including a couple of potential penalties against the U.S. that Mexican referee Marco Ortiz declined to call. But while there was plenty to like about Canada’s efforts Sunday, the Americans were the better side and will play Panama in the Gold Cup semi-final.

It was also a tense match, with tempers flaring and a lot pushing and shoving at the end of the first half and again after the game in the tunnel.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Canada head coach John Herdman. “I’m gutted, disappointed for the team, for the staff, they put a heckuva shift in. We showed tonight we’ve got depth and we were able to grow throughout the tournament.”

Both Canada and the U.S. fielded what was essentially ‘B’ sides as the two nations tested their 2026 talent pool.

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