Canada beats St. Vincent in World Cup qualifier
By Bill Beacon, THE CANADIAN PRESS
MONTREAL - The 11,502 who turned out on a damp, cool night to Saputo Stadium were not disappointed in what they saw from Canada's national soccer team.
Dwayne De Rosario and Ali Gerba each scored two goals as Canada posted a clear 4-1 victory over St. Vincent and the Grenadines in a World Cup qualifying match Friday night.
Canada won the two-game series 7-1 on aggregate and advanced to the group stage of qualifying in the CONCACAF zone - a tough round robin tournament that begins in August against Mexico, Honduras and Jamaica.
"Most importantly, we got the result," said De Rosario. "It's nice to play well and score, but we got the result.
"The fans were really into the game, which is very important, and hopefully we'll continue this run."
Marlon James delighted the enthusiastic group of St. Vincent supporters in the stands with a late goal for the visitors, who pressed their attack from the start in a bid for goals after dropping a 3-0 decision in the opening leg at home last Sunday.
The talk all week has been how Canada's players want to make Saputo Stadium their home because it is in the East, which makes travel easier from their European clubs, and because it has a grass field. But the Canadian Soccer Association has commitments for games at BMO Field in Toronto, which has a synthetic surface.
The first game of the next round is currently scheduled for Aug. 20 against Jamaica at BMO Field.
"I think the main thing is finding a home ground where we can play," added De Rosario, a Scarborough, Ont., native. "In Montreal, it's beautiful stadium.
"I think Saputo has done a great job of putting together a great atmosphere. And if we continue to get results, why should we move anywhere else?"
Canada will have its work cut out for it in the next round, with no easy opponents. It has not qualified for the World Cup since its one and only appearance at the 1986 event in Mexico.
"I'm looking forward to that round," said De Rosario, the Houston Dynamo striker. "We've been playing well and in order to be the best, we have to beat the best."
Canadia captain Paul Stalteri said Canada has to toughest of the three four-team groups in the next round. The top two from each group advance to the final round to be played in 2009, with the best three or four from that going on to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
"Again we have the hardest group in qualifying, like the last two World Cups," said Stalteri. "But in the end, you have to play everybody.
"We need to get off to a good start, because the last two times, we lost the first game and it made it very difficult for us."
Getting past St. Vincent, ranked 147th in the world to Canada's 60th, was a formality.
It rained hard for an hour before the match, which likely kept some fans at home, but the game opened in sunshine on a slick pitch.
The gold, green and blue-clad islanders pushed their players up and Canada played quick balls back to try to catch their defence off guard.
De Rosario, easily the player of the game, could have had a hat-trick in the first half, but he failed to control a pass from Gerba in front of a gaping St. Vincent goal in the 22nd minute.
He made no mistake in the 29th, slipping past defender Wesley Charles, cutting inside, deking Charles again and firing a shot into an open side.
Gerba, a Montreal native who also scored twice in a 3-0 win in St. Vincent on Sunday, was at the edge of the goal area to head in a De Rosario pass in the 38th minute.
In the 43rd, again it was De Rosario fielding a perfect pass from Issey Nakajima-Ferran, but he slipped on the wet grass and couldn't shoot.
When he got a pass from Tomasz Radzinski five minutes into the second half, De Rosario blasted it through goalkeeper Winslow McDowall's hands and into the net. And then he put a smart cross from the right side in that Gerba headed past McDowell in the 63rd minute for a 4-0 lead.
"We read each other very well," De Rosario said of Gerba. "It's just the cohesiveness of this team - we all read each other well."
St. Vincent never quit and the big striker James swept in on the right side and chipped the ball over 'keeper Pat Onstad in the 76th minute.
"That goal was big," said St. Vincent coach Stewart Hall. "In the first game, you (Canada) scored after 38 minutes, but it was nip and tuck up to then.
"This time, it was close for 25 minutes. If we'd have been a bit more clinical in front, we could have got more than one, but it's great for our boys."
St. Vincent had other moments, including one in the 73rd minute when substitute Alwyn Guy failed to control a set-up from James in front and managed only a weak rolling shot to Onstad.
Canada's Julian de Guzman and Radzinski were cautioned, the latter for giving a small shove to referee Joel Antonio Aguilar while St. Vincent's Cornelius Stewart was being booked.
"I know that on paper it looked easy, but I don't think any games are easy now," said Radzinski. "We're just glad that we made it.
"Hopefully we'll be back here in August and play another great game."
Notes: Injuries forced two lineup changes from the first leg for Canada. Gerba replaced Rob Friend (back spasms) as he did only seven minutes into the last game, and defender Adrian Cann took the place of Richard Hastings (abdominal strain). . . St. Vincent started midfielder Darren Hamlet in place of Richard Haydes and forward Shandell Samuel for Sean Glynn. . .The officials were from El Salvador.