Josh Simpson (Paul Giamou/CanadaSoccer.com)

Canada Dominates St. Lucia In Brazil Quest

TORONTO - Canada started its 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification with a tepid 4-1 victory over St. Lucia on Friday night in front of an overwhelmingly pro-Canadian crowd of 11,500 at BMO Field. 

The Canadians dominated play from the outset, but it wasn’t until the second half that they made their authority count toward an important victory in this early road to Brazil 2014. Entering the CONCACAF qualifiers from Round 2, the victory puts Canada on top of Group D as the other two sides – Puerto Rico and St. Kitts and Nevis – drew scoreless in Basseterre in their World Cup qualifying opening match.

It was an all-action start at BMO Field Friday night with Canada controlling play from the first whistle. In the opening minute, Josh Simpson picked out Dwayne De Rosario with a low cross from the left but a St. Lucian defender slid in to force the corner.

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[inline_node:7046]That play set the stage for several Canadian forays for the next five minutes, including a neat back heel pass from De Rosario to Iain Hume inside the 18-yard box, only to have the resulting shot saved by the island nation’s keeper Iran Cassius.  Later, a St. Lucia defender sent a thundering drive off his cross bar on a misguided clearance attempt.

Canada looked likely to score and they did at the sixth minute. De Rosario this time provided for Simpson, who had his initial shot saved by Cassius but a ricochet carried the ball into the back of the net for a 1-0 Canadian lead.

St. Lucia had hardly touched the ball up to this point but nonetheless, it took one moment of carelessness for the Canadians to concede the equalizer. St. Lucian winger Tremain Paul found space seconds after Simpson’s strike, and from 25-yards he picked out the far corner of Lars Hirschfeld’s goal with a low shot to level the match 1-1.

The first half settled down after that electric start, though Canada continued to threaten. The ball seemed to rest exclusively in the St. Lucia third, however, Canadians were unable to finish several chances from teasing passes, friendly bounces and multiple Cassius miscues.

At the restart, Canada emerged looking to atone for its first half missed chances. They retook the lead within five minutes when Pernal Williams handled inside his area on an Ante Jazic cross. That set up De Rosario for the spot kick, which was promptly buried low and to the keeper’s right, giving Canada the 2-1 advantage after 50 minutes.

The St. Lucians responded on another Canadian lapse in concentration. Kevin Edward had entered the match just prior to De Rosario’s penalty, his introduction drowned out by Canadians celebrating the go-ahead-goal. The midfielder re-introduced himself on a set piece, inches from heading in the equalizer at Hirschfeld’s near post after getting a step on Atiba Hutchinson.

Taking advantage of this reprieve, Hutchinson helped Canada to build a 3-1 lead at the 61st minute, sending Simpson through on goal with a perfectly weighted ball. The Canadian winger, who makes his living in Turkey, scored his second of the night by calmly passing the ball into goal beyond the advancing figure of Cassius.

Canada had more chances to widen the margin as the second half progressed, including a 67th minute header from Hume that went wide. Then Simeon Jackson, followed by Marcus Haber were stopped by Cassius in the last five minutes of regulation. Shortly thereafter, St. Lucia was reduced to 10 players when Williams picked up his second caution at the 88th minute. 

A fourth goal finally arrived via Will Johnson in stoppage time. The winger from Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer tapped a sitter past Cassius after fellow second half substitute Tosaint Ricketts redirected a De Rosario offering across the face of goal. At 4-1, the Canadian crowd approved of the second half performance.

Toronto FC midfielder Julian de Guzman played the full 90 minutes for Canada, while Terry Dunfield was an unused substitute. In his familiar holdinig role in front of the back four, de Guzman looked comfortable and unlike in his Gold Cup outing for Canada performed through an injury-plagued summer, the Toronto player did not display any fitness woes.

Canada’s next World Cup qualification match will be on Tuesday, September 6 in Puerto Rico, with a chance to take a commanding lead in Group D.

Scoring Summary
Canada - Josh Simpson 6' 61'
St. Lucia - Tremain Paul 7'
Canada - Dwayne De Rosario 50' PK
Canada - Will Johnson 90+1'

Lineups

Canada - Lars Hirschfeld; Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgault, Kevin McKenna, Andre Hainault, Ante Jazic; Julian de Guzman, Atiba Hutchinson (Will Johnson 69'), Josh Simpson (Tosain Ricketts 69'); Simeon Jackson, Dwayne De Rosario, Iain Hume (Marcus Haber 82') ... Substitutes not used: Milan Borjan; Mike Klukowski, David Edgar, Jaime Peters; Terry Dunfield

St. Lucia - Iran Cassius; Pernal Williams, Nathan Justin, Bernard Edward (Fabian Joseph 29'), Kurt Frederick; Zaine Pierre (Cliff Valcin 69'), Hiram Hunte, Guy George (Kevin Edward 51'), Tremain Paul, Enderson George; Jamil Joseph ... Substitutes not used: Pessius Polius; Rickson Augustin, Terran John

Misconduct summary
St. Lucia - Pernal Williams (caution) 8' 88'
St. Lucia - Hiram Hunted (caution) 63'
St. Lucia - Pernal Williams (ejection) 88'

Referee: Jair Marrufo (USA)
Assistants: Charles Morgante (USA), Adam Wienckowksi (USA)
Fourth official: Terry Vaughn (USA)

Attendance: 11,500

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