With Davies out, David is front and center for Canada in the crucial playoffs

It was a moment of brilliant skill and bravery on the pitch, as seldom by a Canadian not named Alphonso Davies.

But Jonathan David is no ordinary striker, and although he is often overshadowed by Davies, he is just as important to a Canadian side looking to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

Canada’s 2-0 win in Honduras on Thursday in a crucial CONCACAF match thanks to the team’s discipline and professionalism, as well as some spectacular saves from goalkeeper Milan Borjan.

However, it was David’s spectacular goal in the 73rd minute, which put the dagger between Honduras and sealed a crucial win for Canada, who are top of the league with a one-point advantage over the United States.

David, a 22-year-old Ottawa native, is expected to be front and center again for Canada when he welcomes the US on Sunday at Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field in another major World Cup qualifier.

With the game in Honduras still underway, David settled matters with a superb goal that rivaled Davies’ goal in Panama last October.

Liam Fraser struck a precise pass from 40 yards from deep in Canada’s midfield for David, who deftly controlled the ball with his chest, headed forward and then past Luis Lopez from 24 yards as the goalkeeper raced out of his line. . So, after three glorious touches – at full speed, no less – the ball was behind the goal and the game was basically over. Lives were erased from Honduras with a perfectly executed counter-attack, crowned by a fine finish from David.

“Watching (David) in that transition and the goals he scored, I mean, it’s special,” Canada coach John Herdman told reporters after the game.

Their efforts have also not gone unnoticed south of the border. Former US international Taylor Twellman took to Twitter and praised David for his “ridiculous surrender” against Honduras, and also argued that Canada was “the best striker in CONCACAF” at the moment.

It’s hard to argue otherwise. David has scored four goals for Canada in this final round of qualifiers, taking his overall tally to 19 goals in 25 games (19 starts) since his international debut in 2018. He is just four goals away from becoming the all-time lead. Canadian goalscorer, a record shared by team-mate Cyle Larin and retired Dwayne De Rosario.

At club level, David is second in the French league’s top scorers table with 12 goals for Lille OSC, and has scored more goals domestically this season than Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappe. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that he has been linked with moves to some of Europe’s biggest clubs and will be sold to the highest bidder this summer.

The US are not without talent up front, but their frontmen have let them down so far. The Americans scored 13 goals in nine games in the CONCACAF qualifying final, enough for a second best strike. But only three of those goals have been scored by a striker – and Ricardo Pepi has been responsible for all three.

How America coach Gregg Berhalter must have looked at Herdman with pure envy and how much he wanted to have a dangerous goalscorer like David in his team.

“When you think of Jonathan David, he has quality. He is one of the best strikers in Europe right now,” Berhalter said in preparation for Sunday’s game.

With Davies absent throughout the international window due to myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, David is seen as a key point of reference in the attack for Canada. He proved too much for Honduras even when he was not in possession.

That’s the thing about David – it wasn’t just his fantastic goal that went viral, it was his slalom through the defense and powerful shot that kept the opposing goalkeeper on guard. He is an intelligent player whose work off the ball is as impressive as on his feet.

Against Honduras, Larin had a quiet night and was substituted after 60 minutes of ineffective action. At the same time, scoring opportunities did not go down for David, but he remained steadfast and determined to make things happen for himself, constantly chasing the ball and tormenting nearby Honduran players in an attempt to regain possession.

As great as his goals were, David’s level of work was just as impressive—perhaps more so.

“If you watch him all night he puts that shadow on the central midfielders, he’s always in a position to deny those two central midfielders a chance to trade,” Herdman said. “Finding players to do the dirty work when they get into an environment like this, it’s not easy.”

John Molinaro is one of Canada’s leading football journalists, having covered the game for more than 20 years for various media including Sportsnet, CBC Sports and Sun Media. He is currently the editor-in-chief of TFC Republic, a website dedicated to in-depth coverage of Toronto FC and Canadian football. TFC Republic can be found here.

Jackson Wintringham

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