Toronto FC

Canada returns to BMO Field with Concacaf Nations League Final on the line: “We can compete with the best”

A little more than a year ago Canada sealed a spot in the 2022 FIFA World Cup at BMO Field.

March 27, 2022: a 4-0 win over Jamaica sent the Canadian men to their first World Cup since 1986. It seems like just yesterday; it seems like a lifetime ago. 

“Since a year ago a lot has happened,” said Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio at BMO Field on Monday. “We've now had the experience of the World Cup, had experience of playing tier one teams, the experience of being in a tournament and the different things that go on with that. Now we're trying to take those experiences and get better from them.”

“We know that there's a next level that we want to reach,” he continued. “It's not necessarily putting it in the past and forgetting about it, it’s about learning from it, but we're looking forward and now taking this program to where we believe we can take it.”

Canada played their first match since Qatar on Saturday, beating Curaçao 2-0 in Willemstad with Jonathan David and Cyle Larin scoring in the first half. That sets up what should be a dramatic conclusion to Group C of Concacaf Nations League A on Tuesday night when Canada welcomes Honduras to BMO Field. 

Both sides enter the match on six points from three matches and have clinched a berth in the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup this summer. Canada holds the tie-breaker – a +5 goal-differential versus Honduras’ +1 – but a win would earn either a spot in the Concacaf Nations League Finals against the other three group winners.

There is a trophy on the other side.

“We want to win something,” underlined John Herdman. “We are top four in Concacaf in terms of our quality. And if you're top four and you've got a home match to seal a final, then we should win: we should win this game.”

“It's an expectation; it's a demand on each other,” he continued. “Winning this game puts us in a chance to either beat the US, Mexico, Jamaica, whoever we find in those games to lift our first Nations League trophy and be those pioneers again. That's what this quadrennial is about. It's about continually pioneering.”

“It's not, we're going to test the waters, try lots of new players, experiment for two years,” Herdman added. “It's the same path, the same mindset: what can we be first at? What do we need to do to make sure that as a group the confidence is there to go into a World Cup to really compete at it? Winning things is going to be important. Winning things in Concacaf is going to be important for us.”

A new cycle feeds on the last one. There is a confidence that comes from the World Cup experience.

“We learned that we can compete with the best,” said Osorio. “In a lot of statistics, we outplayed our opponents, that's a real positive that we need to take forward.”

“At the same time, we know that football is results driven and now it's taking that next level, to put out really good performances, but also getting the result that we deserve. That’s the next level for us,” he continued. “Tomorrow is a big game for us. We need to come together as a team, take everything that we've learned, and put in a good performance tomorrow.”

The last time Alphonso Davies was at BMO Field, he scored a goal that will long live in the memory of Canadian soccer watchers, tiptoeing along the touchline against Panama.

“I'm excited that we're back in BMO Field against Honduras,” said Davies to Canada Soccer. “The last time I was there I scored a very good goal to help us push for the World Cup and every time I'm there the fans support us, support the team, and bring the energy that we need.”

“Definitely,” he promised. “We're going to bring some entertainment.”

In the reverse leg in San Pedro Sula last June, Honduras won 2-1 in a combative affair that saw Alistair Johnston sent off for a second yellow card and Herdman shown a red after the final whistle. Both served those suspensions against Curaçao.

This one is set up to be similarly tasty.

“The last game was wet, that's what I remember about that last game. It was in an absolute puddle,” recalled Herdman. “It'll be hard tomorrow night, there's no doubt. They're hungry. They could put themselves in a Nations League Final.”

“And for us, it's all on the line. Winner takes all,” he continued. “We put ourselves in a great position to come in here and control, tactically, how the game might start and finish with the goal difference, but we're very clear, we've come home to win.”

“It's the first game here since March last year, what a moment. Great to be back here with our fans,” Herdman reflected. “We're here to win. That's the mentality. There's no other thought process than winning this match tomorrow.”