The Canadian men’s national soccer team didn’t take long to make a mark in its latest CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying match against El Salvador.

With a 3-0 win at Toronto’s BMO Field on Wednesday, Canada ends its first international break of the 14-match final round with five points through three matches, good enough for second in the group, behind Mexico and level with Panama.

There was a crowd of just under 15,000 in Toronto, but the local Salvadoran community came out in large numbers to support their home country.

“We need Canada to wake up and support this team,” goalkeeper Milan Borjan said. “The World Cup is right there, we can get there. We need the stadium to be all red… We need that from you guys. We have to be red, that’s my message.”

Large portions of the crowd was covered in blue and white jerseys and flags, which multiple players pointed out in their post match press conferences.

“It kind of felt like an away game, but it was crucial to get those fans out of the game early today,” Canada’s Jonathan Osorio added.

The Salvadorans’ pre-match chants were largely halted once the game began with the quick Canadian attack.

Canada’s 38-year-old captain Atiba Hutchinson scored what ended up being the match-winner just five minutes into the first half.

The Canadian men had scored just twice in the first 180 minutes of the final round of their qualifying campaign, and was without star Alphonso Davies due to injury.

For now, at least, the questions about Canada’s offensive talent have been put to rest.

“I was really happy for him to get that goal.. when you put in the hard work, you always get rewarded.” Canada’s Jonathan David said on Hutchinson’s goal. “Atiba, even at his age, he’s still playing, he’s playing well, he’s a leader on and off the field.”

Canada has a record of five wins and three draws lifetime when Hutchinson scores.

“We didn’t really look back from there,” Hutchinson added. “We did what we wanted to do early in the game, and things worked out in our favour.”

The top three out of the eight teams remaining qualify for Qatar, with the fourth going into an inter-continental playoff for the tournament’s final two spots.

Canada didn’t let up despite the early goal though, as Jonathan David found the net just six minutes later to double the home side’s lead.

Ben Steiner

Canada’s final goal came in the second half off an interception by David, who then fed Tajon Buchanan on a two-on-one break in the 59th minute.

“I think that was real growth tonight,” Canadian national soccer team head coach John Herdman said in his postgame press conference. “We shifted structure three-four times, and the players were seamless with it.”

Osorio celebrated post-match with The Voyageurs fanbase in BMO’s South End with a drum following the victory.

“Obviously we know the hype that we’re getting, the expectations that we’re getting,” Osorio said. “It’s special to get a victory that we envisioned.”

Ben Steiner

“To be in that moment in the end where they get that chant going, that was priceless. Absolutely priceless,” Herdman added.

El Salvador remains scoreless throughout their first three matches, with scoreless draws so far against the USA and Honduras prior to Wednesday night.

Canada returns to CONCACAF World Cup qualifying next month with matches against Mexico, Jamaica, and Panama, beginning on October 7th.

“All in all, we’re happy with where we’re at,” Hutchinson said. “But it’s still early on. We just want to build off of this. We’re a good enough team to be winning consistently. The more game that we win, the more interest there is, the more followers and the more people start backing us.”

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