With Davies out, David front and center for Canada in crucial playoffs

It was a moment of bright and daring talent on the pitch, the likes of which has rarely been produced by a Canadian not named Alphonso Davies.

But Jonathan David is no average striker, and although he is often overshadowed by Davies, he is equally important for a Canadian side looking to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

Canada’s 2-0 victory in Honduras on Thursday in a crucial CONCACAF match owes much to the discipline and professionalism of the team, as well as the spectacular saves of goalkeeper Milan Borjan.

But it was David’s spectacular 73rd-minute goal that put the dagger between the Hondurans and sealed an important victory for Canada, who top the standings with a one-point lead over the United States.

David, a 22-year-old Ottawa native, is expected to be front and center again for Canada when they host the United States on Sunday at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton in another major Cup qualifier. of the world.

With the match in Honduras still in play, David settled the matter with an outstanding goal that rivaled Davies in Panama last October.

Liam Fraser delivered an accurate 40-yard pass from inside the Canadian midfielder to David, who deftly controlled the ball with his chest, headed forward and then passed Luis Lopez from 24 yards as the keeper was coming off his line. . So, after three sublime touches – at full speed, no less – the ball was in the back of the net and the match was practically over. Life was wiped out from the Hondurans with a perfectly executed counter-attack, capped off by David’s exquisite finishing.

“Watching (David) in that transition and the goal he scored, I mean, it was special,” Canada coach John Herdman told reporters after the game.

Their efforts have not gone unnoticed south of the border either. Former USA international Taylor Twellman took to Twitter and praised David for his ‘ridiculous submission’ against the Hondurans, and also claimed the Canadian was ‘the best striker in CONCACAF’ right now.

It is difficult to argue otherwise. David has scored four goals for Canada in this last qualifying round, taking his total to 19 goals in 25 games (19 as a starter) since making his international debut in 2018. He is just four goals away from becoming the leader of all time. Canada’s goalscorer, a record jointly held by teammate Cyle Larin and retired Dwayne De Rosario.

At club level, David ranks second in the French league top scorer chart with 12 goals for Lille OSC, and has scored more times domestically this season than Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappé. It’s no wonder he’s been linked with a move to some of Europe’s biggest clubs and is being sold to the highest bidder this summer.

The United States are not lacking in talent up front, but their leaders have let them down so far. The Americans scored 13 goals in nine games in the CONCACAF Qualifiers final, enough for the second-best attack. But only three of those goals have come from a striker – and Ricardo Pepi was responsible for all three.

How USA coach Gregg Berhalter must be watching Herdman with pure envy and how he wishes he had a dangerous goalscorer like David on his team.

“When you think of Jonathan David, he has the quality. He’s one of the best strikers in Europe right now,” Berhalter said ahead of Sunday’s game.

With Davies ruled out this entire international window due to myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, David was seen as the main point of attack for the Canadians. He turned out to be too much for the Hondurans even when he wasn’t in possession.

That’s the thing with David – it’s not just his fantastic goals that go instantly viral, the slalom blasting through defenses and powerful shots that keep opposing goalkeepers on their toes. He’s a smart player whose work off the ball is just as impressive as on his feet.

Against Honduras, Larin had a quiet night and was substituted after 60 minutes of ineffective action. At the same time, the chances of scoring did not diminish for David, but he remained stubborn and determined to make things happen for himself, constantly chasing the ball and harassing Honduran players near him in an attempt to regain possession of the ball.

As fabulous as his aim was, David’s work rate was just as impressive, maybe even more so.

“If you watched him all night, he put that shadow on central midfielders, he was always able to deny those two central midfielders that opportunity to swap,” Herdman said. “Finding a player to do the dirty work when he enters environments like this is not easy.”

John Molinaro is one of Canada’s leading football reporters, having covered the game for over 20 years for various outlets including Sportsnet, CBC Sports and Sun Media. He is currently the editor of TFC Republic, a website dedicated to in-depth coverage of Toronto FC and Canadian football. The TFC Republic can be found here.

Elmer Hayward

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