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MLSers Shaffelburg and Crepeau key Canadian Copa America win

The first 45-minutes of Tuesday’s Group A Match Two v Peru at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas, in Copa America 2024 was not kind to the Canadian Men’s National Team.

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Thad Bell Photography

The first 45-minutes of Tuesday’s Group A Match Two v Peru at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas, in Copa America 2024 was not kind to the Canadian Men’s National Team.

Heck, with a heavily pro-Peruvian crowd and a “warmup” in 90 plus-degrees Fahrenheit heat, the pregame was not kind either.

Then, Coach Jesse Marsch’s side scuttled at least two transition opportunities in the first half to make the mountain ever more laborious. Captain and Bayern Munich starlet Alphonso Davies chose a more difficult cutback instead of a ball across the face of goal for a runner as well.

“When you have physical exhaustion because of the pace of the game, the heat, etc, your mental priorities get away,” Canadian Goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau stated after the match. “That is where small details are very important. We had a couple of giveaways here and there that we fixed. It’s just being aware in those moments.”

Meanwhile, the pesky and dogged Peruvians were clever enough to weather an early storm and end the half with three free kicks to threaten Crepeau’s net.

A scrap is not what Canada needed after their 2-0 opening loss to Argentina last Thursday. They needed a win. And wins come in different ways.

Some require an injection of life from a substitute and a solid backstop.

Winger Jacob Shaffelburg entered the fray at halftime for Canada and changed the match. The current Nashville “Yote” was one of 12 current or former MLS Academy or MLS players who featured in the match for Canada.

Only ten minutes into the 2nd half, Shaffelburg drew a key foul that not only inspired a spirited “coming together” of the two sides, but an ejection. Peru’s Miguel Arajuo went through the Port Williams native’s lower leg to earn a red card that put Peru down a man.

The warranted dismissal would give Shaffelburg and Canada the space and freedom they yearned for.

Now even more free to scheme on the left flank, Shaffelburg became the focus of Canada’s attack in their 4-2-3-1 setup. In the 67th minute, the winger played for former Orlando City striker Cyle Larin; however, Larin’s shot went high. Four minutes later, Shaffelburg blazed a cross that former New England Revolution forward Tajon Buchanan just missed at the back post.

Shaffelburg and Larin would drive Canada to a critical and historical victory in the 74th minute. Larin, shielding for the ball during a battle just outside his own box, released Shaffelburg with a splitting ball to the left wing. Shaffelburg one-touched a perfect pass for Jonathan David, who finished off the far post and into the net for a 1-0 lead they would never relinquish.

Because Maxime Crepeau.

Peru flighted a ball into Canada’s box in the 91st minute. A flick header to the top of box three yards in and slightly to right of Crepeau found Peru’s #10. Christian Cueva’s well-struck volley forced Crepeau down to the right to force the ball away from goal. Crepeau leapt up pumping his fists after, feeling Canada’s first ever win in Copa America – in any major tournament outside of their own region – was pending.

Yet, the seven minutes of stoppage time would call on Crepeau again. Paulo Guerrero’s free kick from 23 yards to the left of Canada’s goal in the 95th minute vaulted Crepeau to his right for a two-fisted punch.

The heat, Peru, and the effort needed for the win within had taken its effect. Shaffelburg needed a hands-on-knees moment after playing another penetrating long ball forward in the 88th minute. Yet, he persevered for another near-assist a minute later.

Related: Canada players upset with heat conditions in KC after referee collapses at Copa America

Alistair Johnston, former Nashville SC and CF Montreal player currently with Celtic FC in Scotland, went the full 90 for Canada.

“It wasn’t one of those matches you are going to look back on and love to see what we did tactically,” Johnston stated. “It was a bar fight, and we came out with the three points. At the end of the day, that is what is most important.”

Related: Why do Copa America games have empty seats? It’s about more than ticket prices

Canada will now face Chile, who sit on one point after a 1-0 loss to Argentina late Tuesday, on Saturday. Canada will need at least a draw with Chile to go through to the Round of 16.

Said Canadian and Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio, “We want more out of this. We are not satisfied with winning our first game. We have a group game coming up now that is like a final… We want to prove ourselves, and we think our ceiling is much higher.”

 

 

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