Cyle Larin scored twice as Canada defeated a depleted but determined Haiti side 4-1 Thursday at the Gold Cup.
The Besiktas striker gave Canada some breathing room and a 3-1 lead from the penalty spot in the 74nd minute after video review confirmed Richie Laryea had been taken down. It was Larin’s 18th goal for Canada, his fifth in his past four games. He now has 10 goals in eight matches for Canada this year.
The victory all but guaranteed the Canadian men a berth in the quarter-finals. The U.S. played Martinique in the late match Thursday with an American win ensuring both North American teams advance to the knockout round ahead of their match Sunday to decide the winner of Group B.
Dealing with COVID-19, Haiti dressed just 14 players including three substitutes, one of whom was the reserve goalkeeper. The Haitians had dressed 17 Sunday in its 1-0 loss to the U.S. after five players and one assistant coach returned positive test results.
Coach Jean-Jacques Pierre said Wednesday that two more players were unavailable. But it turned out to be three.
Still, as Canadian coach John Herdman had predicted, the Haitians proved to be a handful. They came on late in the first half after going down a goal and scored themselves after falling 2-0 behind early in the second half.
Stephen Eustaquio and Junior Hoilett, with a 79th minute penalty, also scored for Canada, which had 10 players on its bench. Stéphane Lambese replied for Haiti.
The 70th-ranked Canadian men defeated No. 83 Haiti 4-0 on aggregate when they met in a two-legged CONCACAF World Cup qualifying series last month.
Canada came into the game riding a seven-game winning streak in 2021, outscoring its opposition 35-2. It will face its toughest test to date Sunday against the 20th-ranked Americans.
All of Canada’s group matches are at Children’s Mercy Park, which suffered a power outage briefly Thursday.
Eustaquio opened the scoring in the fifth minute, curling a free kick over a four-man Haiti wall and past 6-foot-5 goalkeeper Brian Silvestre, a product of the Vancouver Whitecaps residency program who now plays for the USL’s Miami FC. Lucas Cavallini won the free kick, taken down by defender Dutherson Clerveaux outside the penalty box.
Eustaquio, who plays for FC Pacos de Ferreira in Portugal, opened his scoring account for Canada in Sunday’s 4-1 win over Martinique.
Canada ‘keeper Max Crépeau was called into action in the 22nd minute, making a fine save on Derrick Etienne Jr. after the Canadian defence was opened up. The offside flag went up eventually on the play.
Six minutes later, Crépeau was called into action again – this time with no flag – as Haiti carved open the backline again. Canada’s Jonathan Osorio shot high in the 41st minute after a period of Haitian pressure at the other end.
Etienne tried to catch Crépeau out of his goal with a speculative shot from distance in the 48th minute, but the Canadian ‘keeper was up to the challenge.
Larin made it 2-0 in the 51st minute, knocking home a shot from in-close after a Tajon Buchanan cross came to him after bouncing off a defender.
Haiti had a gilt-edged chance two minutes later when Steven Vitoria lost the ball to substitute Ronaldo Damus, leaving him all alone in front of goal. Crépeau forced him to the side and Damus’s shot was off target.
Haiti finally breached the Canadian defence in the 56th minute with Lambese roofing a shot after some good interplay in the Canada penalty box.
Mark-Anthony Kaye’s deflected shot hit the Haiti goalpost in the 66th minute.
Forwards Tyler Pasher of the Houston Dynamo and Ayo Akinola of Toronto FC came on in the late stages to earn their first caps for Canada. Akinola, taken down by François Dulysse soon after taking the field, won the late penalty that Hoilett converted.
Those missing for Haiti included leading scorers Frantzdy Pierrot and Duckens Nazon, who have four and three goals, respectively, at the tournament.
Canada came into Thursday’s game 9-2-2 all-time against Haiti, with one of the losses a 3-2 defeat in the 2019 Gold Cup quarter-finals – a game that saw the Canadians blow a 2-0 lead.
Nazon, whose last club was Belgium’s Sint-Truiden, scored the opening goal and set up the third in Haiti’s comeback win against Canada in 2019.
Pierrot, who plays for Guingamp in France’s second-tier, scored three goals in 11 minutes in Haiti’s preliminary-round 4-1 win over Bermuda and was among those who did not dress against the U.S. Pierrot has four goals already at the tournament.
Canada went into the Haiti match with six players on a yellow card – Eustaquio, Cavallini, Kaye, Vitoria, Liam Fraser and Alistair Johnston. All but Fraser started Thursday, knowing a second yellow would mean missing the U.S. match.
Costa Rican referee Juan Gabriel Calderon kept his yellow card in his pocket for the most part but Eustaquio was cautioned late and will miss Sunday’s match.
Herdman made just two changes to his starting 11 with Doneil Henry and Cavallini, who both came off the bench against Martinique, slotting in for Laryea and Hoilett.
Herdman’s starting 11 had a combined cap count of 175 going into the match with Larin (38), Osorio (38) and Henry (35) accounting for 111 of those.
The CONCACAF championship, which features 16 teams including 2022 World Cup host Qatar as a guest entry, runs through Aug. 1 across the U.S. Haiti had to survive the tournament’s preliminary round, defeating St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Bermuda, to reach the main field.