3 Takeaways as Canada Defeat Trinidad 2-0, Qualify for Copa America

By: Adam Iannetta

It wasn’t straightforward, but Canada got the job done. Trinidad and Tobago, ranked 96th in the world coming into the game, were supposed to be no match for a Canadian attack that featured the firepower of Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, Cyle Larin, and Tajon Buchanan. But for many Trinidad players, it was the biggest game of their careers. They certainly showed that, frustrating the Canadians in the first half. Chances were limited and the Canadians couldn’t find their rhythm. That changed when Cycle Larin opened the scoring in the 61st minute with a left-footed strike. Trinidad threatened the Canadian backline but in stoppage time Canada doubled their lead through substitute Jacob Shaffleburg. Canada was off to the Copa America, but their performance was anything but convincing. 

Here are 3 takeaways from the match:

Canada continues to struggle when faced with a low-block

For most of the match, Canada struggled to create clear-cut scoring chances. Canada set up in a 3-4-3 formation, with Larin and David on either side of the striker Ike Ugbo. The build-up play was slow and ineffective, with Canada failing to get into dangerous scoring positions. While Canada has electrifying wingers such as Davies and Buchanan who are dangerous in transition, Canada lacks creative midfielders that can break down a low block. Most of Canada’s build-up play went out wide, where they looked for Davies and Buchanan. However, a lack of off-the-ball movement and rotation meant that Canada’s build-up play was predictable. 

A shift to a 3-5-2 would be effective for Canada. Canada could have used an extra midfielder such as David Choinière or Samuel Piette to improve their build-up play. A front 2 of Larin and David also works nicely, with Larin leading the line and David playing as a second striker. David showed encouraging signs in the number 10 role, finding space between the lines. Larin, however, struggled as a 10 against Trinidad. This is a role he should not be deployed in. He is an out-and-out striker with his strengths being in the box rather than in build-up sequences. 

Concerns over Canada’s defence persist

Trinidad warned the Canadians in the 18th minute when striker Levi Garcia found himself through on goal. Thankfully, his shot went wide, but it was a moment of fragility for the Canadian backline, allowing Trinidad to spring a dangerous counterattack with only a few passes. Trinidad threatened in the second half after Canada took the lead. Canada failed to track runners at times, showing lapses in concentration and disorganization at the back. While the Canadians survived those moments against Trinidad, those errors will be punished by higher-quality opposition at the Copa America. 

The substitutes make an impact

When Canada needed to kill off the game in stoppage time, the substitutes stepped up. Jacen Russell-Rowe came off the bench and played a crucial role in the second goal, spinning away from his marker, before fellow substitute Jacob Shaffleburg finished the counter-attack with a powerful strike. A bright future is in store for Russell-Rowe and Shaffleburg. Russell-Rowe is a versatile forward who can play anywhere across the frontline. The Columbus Crew forward already has 2 goals in 4 MLS matches in 2024. Shaffleburg is also off to a brilliant start to the season with MLS side Nashville SC. He scored 2 goals in the CONCACAF Champions Cup round of 16 games against Inter Miami and Lionel Messi. Hopefully, he will get another chance to stun Messi at the Copa America. 

While the performance was not up to standard, Canada got the job done. A World Cup appearance followed by a Copa America qualification is something many thought wouldn’t be possible only a few years ago. A date with Argentina and Lionel Messi to open this summer’s event is an incredible opportunity for Canada to test themselves against the best. 

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