Cyle Larin celebbrates one of his goals. (Photo courtesy of Canada Socccer)
Cyle Larin scored on either side of halftime to lead Canada to a 2-1 upset historic win over Mexico in a World Cup qualifier on a cold and wintry Tuesday night in Edmonton, Alberta.
Playing in temperatures that dropped to 14 degrees, the Canadians took over the Concacaf Octagonal lead with a 4-0-4 record and 16 points. The United States (4-1-3, 15) is second and a surprised Mexican side (4-2-2, 14) is third as qualifying moved past the halfway point.
It was the first Canadian win over Mexico in more than two decades.
Prior to the game, it had snowed in Edmonton and snow was shoveled to the side of the artificial pitch.
“I know when you have to go to Azteca and play at altitude, it’s tough,” Canada head coach John Herdman said. “These road games are really tough, and every country uses their own uniqueness as an advantage. A big thanks to the City of Edmonton. The whole time we’ve been here they’ve made it our fortress.”
After a cold night and performance by his side, Mexican head coach Tata Martino must be feeling the heat as his team has lost twice in North America within a span of four days. El Tri dropped a dos a cero decision to the U.S. in Cincinnati on Friday night.
Mexico has a history of firing coaches in the middle of qualifying, even if the team has been doing well, and especially after defeats to the USA. Add Canada, and that might be too much for the powers that be in Mexico.
Herdman, however, has his team flying high.
Larin lifted the Maple Leafs into the lead two minutes into first-half stoppage time, putting in a rebound of a shot.
Seven minutes into the second half, he scored off a Stephen Eustáquio for a two-goal margin.
Larin tied Dwayne De Rosario for the most international goals by a Canadian man (22).
“I’m happy to tie the record and hopefully one day beat it but I wouldn’t be able to do it with my teammates. I’m happy to get there, but, it will be better if we make a World Cup,” Larin said. “The fans came out for us today and supported us in the cold. We’ve all grown up in this weather, so we’re used to it.”
The Mexicans made it interesting in the 90th minute as they cut the lead in half on Hector Herrera’s header from the center of the penalty area, off a Jesus Corona assist.
Four minutes into second half stoppage, the Mexicans came within inches of leveling after a corner kick ricocheted to Jorge Sanchez at the far post. A goal-line stop by a diving Milan Borjan kept the ball out.
The goal denied Canada a dos a cero result of its own. Still, that could not dampen the mood of the team.
“Amazing night. Atmosphere in the stadium was electric and the boys went out there and played our hearts out. We left everything on the pitch. We knew how important this match was and we wanted to go out there and make a statement,” said Atiba Hutchinson, who became the all-time Canadian men’s cap leader with 90.
“The work ethic that we’ve been putting in, it’s something special. I haven’t seen anything like this. It’s been a long road, I didn’t think I could get to this many games. It’s an amazing accomplishment.”