TORONTO - Canada's opportunity to make the 2022 World Cup in Qatar was handed a boost Wednesday night at BMO Field in Toronto.
Atiba Hutchinson and Jonathan David struck inside of 11 minutes as Canada dealt El Salvador a comprehensive 3-0 defeat in the third match of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers.
Canada coach John Herdman made six changes from the side that faced the United States on Sunday in Nashville, most notably Alphonso Davies. The Bayern Munich star returned to Germany for assessment after suffering a knee injury in the 1-1 draw and was replaced by Junior Hoilett.
No Davies, no problem, as the 20-year-old's vacancy on the left side of Canada's attack was rarely felt on a night when the hosts excelled in wide positions.
Canada opened the scoring in the sixth minute when Richie Laryea's probing run and subsequent cutback from the end line found Hutchinson, who tapped in from close range. It was the 38-year-old captain's first goal for Canada since 2016, and his eighth in 88 international appearances.
That advantage was doubled five minutes later from a broken set piece when an unmarked David headed Tajon Buchanan's pinpoint delivery beyond a lunging Mario Gonzales. Buchanan was a menace on the evening in the right wing-back role, and the recent Club Brugge signing was a frequent victim of robust challenges from El Salvador left-back Alexander Larin, including one that appeared particularly cynical on review.
Canada cemented the result 14 minutes into the second half when David pounced on a poor pass from El Salvadorian center-back Eriq Zavaleta before finding Buchanan in a one-on-one situation with Gonzales. A composed Buchanan calmly slotted past La Selecta's No. 1 to claim his second international tally in a dozen outings.
Herdman's charges now sit second in the standings on five points with a goal difference of plus-three.
The final round of the CONCACAF qualifying format, coined "The Octagonal," features eight nations playing 14 matches each across five international breaks. The top three teams at the completion of play qualify for the 2022 World Cup, while the fourth-place finisher will compete in the intercontinental playoffs. CONCACAF qualifiers wrap up in March.
Canada is seeking its first men's World Cup berth since its sole appearance in 1986 and is currently ranked 59th in the world, the nation's highest placing since February 2010.
Next up for the Canadians is a clash away from home against Mexico at the 87,000-capacity Estadio Azteca on Oct. 7.
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