April 16th, 2024

Canadian men take on St. Vincent next in CONCACAF U-20 qualifying play

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on February 24, 2024.

Kevaughn Tavernier (middle) celebrates a goal in Canada’s 8-0 win over Dominica in CONCACAF Under-20 Championship qualifying play on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Canada Soccer **MANDATORY CREDIT**

After having its way with Dominica in an 8-0 romp Friday, Canada expects more of a challenge from St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Sunday in CONCACAF Under-20 Championship qualifying play in Port-of-Spain.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was unable to hold on to a 2-0 lead in its opener Friday, losing 3-2 to host Trinidad and Tobago on a 95th-minute winner by Michael Chaves.

“They took Trinidad to the wire,” said Canada coach Andrew Olivieri.

“There’s just a lot, a lot of offensive threat from St. Vincent,” he added. “They put a lot of pressure, a lot of athleticism, a lot of desire to go forward, which will be quite different from what we faced.”

Olivieri said he was keeping the Dominica win in context.

“And the context was we had more quality. We had a lot of players in better environments,” he said. “So it’s a game we had to win and score goals. We did that. We’re trying not to get too carried away with how good we were but still appreciating what was good and looking at the tidy-ups for what we expect to be a tougher match against St. Vincent.”

There is little room for error.

CONCACAF U-20 qualifying runs through March 2 across five venues in Central America and the Caribbean. Twenty-seven teams have been split into three groups of five and three groups of four with only the six group winners advancing to the main CONCACAF tournament this summer.

The U.S., Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic have received byes into the CONCACAF main tournament. The four semifinalists qualify for the 2025 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Chile.

Canada has not taken part in the FIFA U-20 soccer showcase since it hosted the event in 2007.

Myles Morgan had a hat trick and Santiago Lopez and Sergei Kozlovskiy each had two goals apiece against Dominica. Kevaughn Tavernier, a 17-year-old from Forge FC, scored the other goal.

Morgan, a former Toronto FC academy member, is currently on trial with an unidentified team while Lopez is in Pumas UNAM’s system in Mexico.

Kozlovskiy represented Canada at the CONCACAF U-15 Boys Championship last August in the Dominican Republic and took part in a Canadian under-17 camp in September in Indonesia.

A member of CF Montreal’s U-17 side, Kozlovskiy was invited to the first team’s camp in Tucson, Ariz., and started Montreal’s first pre-season game at centre back against Minnesota United on Jan. 27.

While a defender, he showed his skills on the ball with his two goals against Dominica. Kozlovskiy, who entered the game in the 74th minute, made it 7-0 in the 87th minute when goalkeeper Ronny Lockhart fumbled his Olimpico-style corner and the ball bounced in off a defender. Kozlovskiy went one better in the 94th minute, roofing a powerful shot for Canada’s final goal.

Olivieri said Kozlovskiy was following team orders in joining the attack.

“He really went at it, youthful enthusiasm,” he said “He just started bombing in behind and found himself in a great area for that last goal “¦ It was wonderful to see.”

Olivieri explained Canada’s second goal, which left the Dominica players in disbelief.

Thinking Dominica had been awarded a free kick in its own penalty box, Lockhart placed the ball for a teammate to boot up field. But there was no free kick and when the teammate didn’t react quickly enough, Lopez snuck in and knocked the ball into the open goal in the 26th minute.

Dominica was reduced to 10 men after midfielder Fabio Drago was sent off for crudely scything down Christian Greco-Taylor in the 43rd minute.

Canada outshot Dominica 32-0 (13-0 in shots on target).

Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2024

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