TORONTO – Canada’s 6-0 win over Cuba on Saturday night at BMO Field was particularly special for one player.
Toronto FC’s Richie Laryea earned his first cap for the Canadian National team, in his hometown and at his home stadium no less.
“I don’t know if I really have words for it,” said Laryea post-match. “I feel good, it’s nice to get this cap, especially in this stadium and in front of family and friends.”
Converted from midfield into a marauding right-back under Greg Vanney this season, the 24-year-old has been a revelation at the position, stepping into a need for both club and country.
“Just a big smile,” was John Herdman’s reaction to Laryea’s debut. “He’s such a good person before the player. When I called him to say he was getting the call-up, he said he didn’t sleep and I genuinely believe that.”
‘Watching his performance tonight, he’s brought something different for us. I’ve not seen that level of cohesion with Junior [Hoilett] on that right-hand side and Mark-Anthony [Kaye] His instincts, his touch, that was a top, top performance,” observed Herdman. “If Junior hadn’t scored a hat-trick, I would have had Richie up there for man of the match.”
Laryea credited his teammates with making it easy for him to fit into the side: “Guys like Junior, Jonathan [David], and Alphonso [Davies] made it easy for me to get forward, creating havoc opened up spaces for me to get wide. And when we have talented midfielders, like Mark-Anthony, [Jonathan] Osorio, and Sam [Piette], it’s easy for me.”
There was one play in particular that was instructive of the night he had.
Having made a key defensive intervention at one end of the pitch in the 69th minute, Laryea charged up the pitch to get on the end of an attacking move.
His effort would ultimately sail high, but neatly it was a childhood friend, fellow Orlando City SC and Sigma FC alumni Cyle Larin, who laid it off.
“I’ve played with Cyle for years,” said Laryea. “It was a no-brainer, as soon as I saw him get the ball in the box, I knew he was going to lay it off for me. He’s a striker, but he’s extremely unselfish at times, which is good for guys like me.”
That first goal will have to wait for another day.
It is rarely easy to step into a national team and fit so seamlessly. Laryea accomplished that.
“Richie’s first cap, his first time with us,” said Hoilett, who captained the side. “He was magnificent. Since day one he’s been willing to learn and willing execute. He’s done well, you can see he’s got a lot to give. Happy that he’s out there with us.”
As for that kit, it will have to wait until after Tuesday’s match against Cuba in the Cayman Islands before it can join his collection of mementos.
“It’s in the locker room,” smiled Laryea. “I can’t take it yet.”