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Canada's Cyle Larin, right, battles for the ball against Honduras defender Denil Maldonado during first half CONCACAF Nations League soccer action in Toronto on March 28. Larin scored two goals in the opening 11 minutes against Honduras.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

What a difference a year makes.

Exactly 366 days ago, a sold-out BMO Field was awash with excitement and anticipation, supporters braving the elements for the hours leading up to and after a resounding win over Jamaica as Canada comfortably secured qualification for a first men’s World Cup in 36 years.

On Tuesday evening, in the team’s first appearance at home since its World Cup ended with a 2-1 loss to Morocco on Dec. 1, the venue was rather less frenzied. The upper sections of the stands were closed off, and hundreds of tickets – many selling for upwards of $100 – were still available in the hours leading up to kickoff. The pricing left many fans exasperated, with former Canadian men’s team goalkeeper Craig Forrest taking to Twitter to label the policy as “extortion” and bad for growing the game.

The attendance was 13,626.

If only ticket pricing were the lone hurdle preventing soccer from getting ahead in this country at present. Seeing current members of the women’s national team and the sport’s executives bringing their labour dispute before the House of Commons is certainly suboptimal.

Still, for those that like to focus solely on what happens on the pitch, Tuesday’s game was a resounding success. The 4-1 win over Honduras, the 81st-ranked team in the world, was more akin to a comfortable stroll in the park for John Herdman’s 53rd-ranked squad.

Cyle Larin, who currently plays for a team owned by the original Ronaldo, pulled off a passable impression of the Brazilian legend right out of the gate in dispatching two well-taken goals within the opening 11 minutes. The first, following a neat give-and-go with Jonathan Osorio, was dispatched into the net with his right foot, while the second, following a corner from Stephen Eustaquio, was headed forcefully past Luis Lopez in the Honduran goal. Larin was given the perfect opportunity to complete a first-half hat trick three minutes before the interval, but he contrived to push a right-footed shot wide of the right post.

For Larin, the goals were a welcome development on two fronts. For Canada, they represented his 27th and 28th international goals, adding to his burgeoning legend as the top career scorer for the men’s national team. For his club team, it could prove an ideal warm-up for this weekend, when Real Valladolid visits the Spanish capital on Sunday to take on the reigning European champions, Real Madrid. Larin has already scored five goals in nine appearances for La Liga’s 16th-placed team since joining on loan from Belgium’s Club Brugge in January.

Not to be outdone, Larin’s striker partner, Jonathan David, got in on the scoring act in the 49th minute. The Lille striker, currently tied with Paris St-Germain striker Kylian Mbappé atop the Ligue 1 scoring charts, steered home a rebound to register his 24th international goal in his 40th appearance for Canada.

And Osorio added a late insurance goal in the 86th minute, taking a pass from Toronto FC teammate Ayo Akinola before directing the ball wide of Lopez for his eighth goal for Canada.

Alphonso Davies, who famously scored Canada’s first goal in a men’s World Cup last November, was held off the scoresheet here in his first game back in his home country since scoring that goal at BMO Field against Panama in late 2021, although he played his part in the buildup to the opener. And 40-year-old midfielder Atiba Hutchinson came on for Eustaquio in the 62nd minute to extend his own national-team record with his 103rd international appearance.

The veteran midfielder, who made his Canada debut back in 2003 and has made just four appearances for his club side Besiktas in Turkey, says the end of his national-team career is getting near.

“I’m really close now to the end of it,” he said after the win. “It’s been a great spell for me, a good career and I just want to finish off on a high note, finish off good.

“But yeah, this is not my announcement, but I’m kind of just letting you guys know that I’m happy about the career I’ve had with the national team and just getting really close to the end of it.”

But Canada’s chance for a second straight clean sheet disappeared in the 73rd minute, when Jorge Benguche directed a glancing header wide of Milan Borjan, although the goal wasn’t enough to prevent Canada from stretching its unbeaten run on home soil to 16 games.

The win also punched Canada’s ticket to the CONCACAF Nations League final, to be held at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas in June, joining defending champions Mexico, the United States and either Costa Rica or Panama, which played each other late on Tuesday to determine the fourth and final finalist.

Though a fledgling tournament, founded just five years ago, the Nations League gives this Canadian squad the chance to do something that Herdman has made a priority this year – lifting a trophy.

“There’s no bigger moment than when you hold a trophy together, when you actually win something. So it’s right at the front of this group’s mind,” he said.

Canada is always going to face an uphill battle to win the World Cup, and with just one Gold Cup victory in its history – back in 2000 – hoisting silverware is something that the men’s team has little practice at. But it will get another crack at the Gold Cup later this year, and fledgling or not, the Nations League provides yet another target to take aim at.

“In CONCACAF, we are one of the top four teams on paper,” Herdman said. “Qualitatively, we’ve got talent in our squad, we’ve got some good experience now. So this year is about sticking our necks out and saying we’ve got to win something.”