TORONTO — On a big stage before a big crowd, Canada’s marquee man delivered. And how.
Alphonso Davies scored a remarkable goal to open the floodgates midway through the second half Wednesday as Canada roared to a 4-1 victory over Panama in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying play.
The goal epitomized the 20-year-old Bayern Munich star, showcasing his speed, acceleration and flair. Not many people on the planet could have scored it.
It got Drake’s attention. Canada coach John Herdman said the global hip-hop star texted Davies after the game, saying he wanted to get together.
The 51st-ranked Canadian men had No. 68 Panama under the cosh but didn’t pull ahead until the 66th minute when a sprinting Davies came out of nowhere down the right flank to pilfer the ball from under the feet of defender Harold Cummings, who thought the ball was about to go out.
Davies got to the ball before it did, acrobatically using his trailing foot to keep the ball in play and push it ahead of him, then danced around defender Fidel Escobar and — using Tajon Buchanan as a decoy — fired a low shot that left goalkeeper Luis Mejia rooted to the spot for a 2-1 lead. It was Davies’ 10th goal in his 28th match for Canada.
The Canadians, unbeaten at 2-0-4 in the final round of qualifying in the region, turned on the offence after the goal.
Buchanan made it 3-1 in the 71st, heading home a Richie Laryea cross for his third goal for Canada. Jonathan David then scored in the 78th minute, slotting the ball home on a counter-attack off a feed from Davies with the Panama defence in disarray. It was the 17th goal in 22 internationals for the Lille striker.
Davies left in the 81st minute to a standing ovation. Shirtless, he celebrated waving a Canadian flag to the fans after.
He shared the kudos in a post-game interview. “Everybody put a shift in tonight,” he said.
Davies’ influence on and off the field continues to grow.
“Phonzie’s a big infuencer in this group. He’s a humble guy but when he speaks, it reminds us of (Christine) Sinclair. When he speaks, people listen,” said Herdman. who coached Sinclair and the Canadian women before taking over the men’s program.
BMO Field was at full capacity, with announced attendance of 26,622 after local authorities eased pandemic-related restrictions. The south stand was a sea of red, filled with waving flags.
They got to see a full-blooded game played at breakneck pace. A rampant Canada dictated almost all of the tempo with Davies, starting up front with David, directing the attack. Davies was electric, tormenting defenders and became even more influential when Herdman shifted him to the wing from a more central position.
The Canadians have now taken seven of a possible nine points at home. And they’ve done the job on the road, picking up points through draws in the U.S., Mexico and Jamaica.
Herdman got what he wanted — a dominant home performance.
“That was as good or as strong a performance as I’ve experienced or been a part of,” he said.
Canada’s next two matches are also at home, against Costa Rica on Nov. 12 and Mexico on Nov. 16, both at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium.
Wednesday’s game was the third of an international window that saw the Canadians draw 1-1 in Mexico and 0-0 in Jamaica.
While Panama (2-2-2) was hanging on by a thread through much of the match, the visitors opened the scoring.
Canada started brightly but found itself down 1-0 early after a counter-attack down the right side. Canada was caught short at the back with wingback Laryea up field and Kamal Miller struggling to get back in position. Michael Murillo’s low cross found Blackburn between the Canadian centre backs and Rolando Blackburn, who plays for a Bolivian club called The Strongest, tapped it in.
Canada regrouped and attacked with verve, tying the game in the 28th minute off a Davies corner — the latest in a string of them. Buchanan soared high but the ball was ruled an own goal, coming off Murillo’s upper body.
Panama began to establish a bit of possession in the second half, keeping the ball away from Canada. Then Davies worked his magic and the match turned.
The benches emptied near the stroke of halftime after a melee as Panama delayed taking a corner. The Canadian substitutes were warming up in the vicinity and took umbrage at Panama’s tactics, leading to a scrum that eventually dissipated after some shoving and yelling.
There was more bad blood after the final whistle with players having to be separated. Laryea, whose blood is no stranger to boiling, was irate at something.
“This is life or death for us,” said Herdman. “We will fight. We will fight right to the bitter end for this country … Our purpose is bigger and stronger than any other team in CONCACAF. We haven’t been to a World Cup since 1986. These teams have. So when you’re trying to take that away from us, we’re getting in there — everyone.”
“It’s not nice to see and I don’t condone what goes on,” he added. “But at the same time our country needs us to fight. We cannot back down at any moment now.”
Canada outshot Panama 9-3 (4-1 in shots on target) and had eight corners to Panama’s one in the first half alone. The final shots count was 16-7 (8-2 in shots on target) for the Canadians.
In other matches Wednesday, the 13th-ranked U.S. (3-1-2) rallied for a 2-1 win over No. 44 Costa Rica (1-2-3) in Columbus, Ohio, and No. 59 Jamaica (1-3-2) won 2-0 at No. 63 Honduras (0-3-3). No. 9 Mexico (4-0-2) won 2-0 at No. 65 El Salvador (1-3-2) in the late match.
The win moved Canada past Panama into third spot with 10 points in the standings. Mexico leads with 14 points, ahead of the U.S. on 11.
Come March, the top three teams in the eight-team CONCACAF round-robin book their tickets to Qatar 2022. The fourth-place team will take part in an intercontinental playoff to see who joins them.
Canada opened the final round of qualifying in September with a 1-1 home tie with Honduras before tying the U.S. 1-1 in Nashville and blanking El Salvador 3-0 at BMO Field.
Herdman made six changes to his starting 11, which came into the match with a combined 218 caps — with Jonathan Osorio accounting for 46 of those.
Laryea, Buchanan and Steven Vitoria returned after missing the Jamaica game through suspension for yellow-card accumulation. Stephen Eustaquio was also back, after an appearance off the bench Sunday.
Miller and David Wotherspoon also slotted in. Vitoria captained the side.
Canada was without the injured Atiba Hutchinson, forwards Cyle Larin, Lucas Cavallini and Junior Hoilett. Goalkeeper Milan Borjan is recovering from COVID-19.
Panama was coming off a 1-0 win over the U.S. on Sunday in Panama City, just its second victory over the Americans in 24 meetings (2-16-6) and first in World Cup qualifying play (1-6-2).
It has also registered home ties with Costa Rica (0-0) and Mexico (1-1). On the road, it won 3-0 at Jamaica and lost 1-0 at El Salvador.
Canada improved to 4-1-6 all-time against Panama.
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 13, 2021
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
Indigenous leaders denounce Quebec Premier Legault as ‘paternalistic,’ ‘arrogant’
MONTREAL — Indigenous leaders in Quebec on Friday denounced Premier François Legault for his decision not to meet with them during a two-day economic summit in Montreal.
Ghislain Picard, chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador, criticized Legault for speaking with reporters after the speech and for not meeting with Indigenous leadership.
“He did not have time to meet with the chiefs, but he did have time to speak to the media,” Picard said at the conference, called the Grand Economic Circle of Indigenous People and Quebec.
Picard said Legault was in “electoral mode,” adding that the premier’s refusal to meet in person with the chiefs “shows a certain level of arrogance.”
Indigenous leaders said Legault had only planned to deliver remarks to the gathering but then finally agreed to take three questions at the end of his speech from those in attendance.
Réal McKenzie, chief of the Innu Matimekush-Lac John of Schefferville, Que., asked Legault about royalties owed to Indigenous Peoples in exchange for the use of their lands. John Martin, chief of the Micmacs of Gesgapegiag, asked the premier about First Nations communities being excluded from accessing natural resources.
Neither chief said they were satisfied with the premier’s responses.
The two-day event, which concluded Friday, aimed to bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous business people together.
During his speech, Legault announced a $10-million investment over five years for First Nations Executive Education, a program based at HEC Montréal business school.
Earlier Friday, Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafrenière announced a $3.3-million investment for a hotel project in Kahnawake, south of Montreal.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
The Canadian Press
Towering musical theater master Stephen Sondheim dies at 91
NEW YORK (AP) — Stephen Sondheim, the songwriter who reshaped the American musical theater in the second half of the 20th century with his intelligent, intricately rhymed lyrics, his use of evocative melodies and his willingness to tackle unusual subjects, has died. He was 91.
Sondheim’s death was announced by his Texas-based attorney, Rick Pappas, who told The New York Times the composer died Friday at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut. Pappas did not return calls and messages to The Associated Press.
Sondheim influenced several generations of theater songwriters, particularly with such landmark musicals as “Company,” “Follies” and “Sweeney Todd,” which are considered among his best work. His most famous ballad, “Send in the Clowns,” has been recorded hundreds of times, including by Frank Sinatra and Judy Collins.
The artist refused to repeat himself, finding inspiration for his shows in such diverse subjects as an Ingmar Bergman movie (“A Little Night Music”), the opening of Japan to the West (“Pacific Overtures”), French painter Georges Seurat (“Sunday in the Park With George”), Grimm’s fairy tales (“Into the Woods”) and even the killers of American presidents (“Assassins”), among others.
“The theater has lost one of its greatest geniuses and the world has lost one of its greatest and most original writers. Sadly, there is now a giant in the sky. But the brilliance of Stephen Sondheim will still be here as his legendary songs and shows will be performed for evermore,” producer Cameron Mackintosh wrote in tribute.
Six of Sondheim’s musicals won Tony Awards for best score, and he also received a Pulitzer Prize (“Sunday in the Park”), an Academy Award (for the song “Sooner or Later” from the film “Dick Tracy”), five Olivier Awards and the Presidential Medal of Honor. In 2008, he received a Tony Award for lifetime achievement.
Sondheim’s music and lyrics gave his shows a dark, dramatic edge, whereas before him, the dominant tone of musicals was frothy and comic. He was sometimes criticized as a composer of unhummable songs, a badge that didn’t bother Sondheim. Frank Sinatra, who had a hit with Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns,” once complained: “He could make me a lot happier if he’d write more songs for saloon singers like me.”
To theater fans, Sondheim’s sophistication and brilliance made him an icon. A Broadway theater was named after him. A New York magazine cover asked “Is Sondheim God?” The Guardian newspaper once offered this question: “Is Stephen Sondheim the Shakespeare of musical theatre?”
A supreme wordsmith — and an avid player of word games — Sondheim’s joy of language shone through. “The opposite of left is right/The opposite of right is wrong/So anyone who’s left is wrong, right?” he wrote in “Anyone Can Whistle.” In “Company,” he penned the lines: “Good things get better/Bad gets worse/Wait — I think I meant that in reverse.”
He offered the three principles necessary for a songwriter in his first volume of collected lyrics — Content Dictates Form, Less Is More, and God Is in the Details. All these truisms, he wrote, were “in the service of Clarity, without which nothing else matters.” Together they led to stunning lines like: “It’s a very short road from the pinch and the punch to the paunch and the pouch and the pension.”
Taught by no less a genius than Oscar Hammerstein, Sondheim pushed the musical into a darker, richer and more intellectual place. “If you think of a theater lyric as a short story, as I do, then every line has the weight of a paragraph,” he wrote in his 2010 book, “Finishing the Hat,” the first volume of his collection of lyrics and comments.
Early in his career, Sondheim wrote the lyrics for two shows considered to be classics of the American stage, “West Side Story” (1957) and “Gypsy” (1959). “West Side Story,” with music by Leonard Bernstein, transplanted Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” to the streets and gangs of modern-day New York. “Gypsy,” with music by Jule Styne, told the backstage story of the ultimate stage mother and the daughter who grew up to be Gypsy Rose Lee.
It was not until 1962 that Sondheim wrote both music and lyrics for a Broadway show, and it turned out to be a smash — the bawdy “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” starring Zero Mostel as a wily slave in ancient Rome yearning to be free.
Yet his next show, “Anyone Can Whistle” (1964), flopped, running only nine performances but achieving cult status after its cast recording was released. Sondheim’s 1965 lyric collaboration with composer Richard Rodgers — “Do I Hear a Waltz?” — also turned out to be problematic. The musical, based on the play “The Time of the Cuckoo,” ran for six months but was an unhappy experience for both men, who did not get along.
It was “Company,” which opened on Broadway in April 1970, that cemented Sondheim’s reputation. The episodic adventures of a bachelor (played by Dean Jones) with an inability to commit to a relationship was hailed as capturing the obsessive nature of striving, self-centered New Yorkers. The show, produced and directed by Hal Prince, won Sondheim his first Tony for best score. “The Ladies Who Lunch” became a standard for Elaine Stritch.
The following year, Sondheim wrote the score for “Follies,” a look at the shattered hopes and disappointed dreams of women who had appeared in lavish Ziegfeld-style revues. The music and lyrics paid homage to great composers of the past such as Jerome Kern, Cole Porter the Gershwins.
In 1973, “A Little Night Music,” starring Glynis Johns and Len Cariou, opened. Based on Bergman’s “Smiles of a Summer Night,” this rueful romance of middle-age lovers contains the song “Send in the Clowns,” which gained popularity outside the show. A revival in 2009 starred Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta-Jones was nominated for a best revival Tony.
“Pacific Overtures,” with a book by John Weidman, followed in 1976. The musical, also produced and directed by Prince, was not a financial success, but it demonstrated Sondheim’s commitment to offbeat material, filtering its tale of the westernization of Japan through a hybrid American-Kabuki style.
In 1979, Sondheim and Prince collaborated on what many believe to be Sondheim’s masterpiece, the bloody yet often darkly funny “Sweeney Todd.” An ambitious work, it starred Cariou in the title role as a murderous barber whose customers end up in meat pies baked by Todd’s willing accomplice, played by Angela Lansbury.
The Sondheim-Prince partnership collapsed two years later, after “Merrily We Roll Along,” a musical that traced a friendship backward from its characters’ compromised middle age to their idealistic youth. The show, based on a play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, only ran two weeks on Broadway. But again, as with “Anyone Can Whistle,” its original cast recording helped “Merrily We Roll Along” to become a favorite among musical-theater buffs.
“Sunday in the Park,” written with James Lapine, may be Sondheim’s most personal show. A tale of uncompromising artistic creation, it told the story of artist Georges Seurat, played by Mandy Patinkin. The painter submerges everything in his life, including his relationship with his model (Bernadette Peters), for his art.) It was most recently revived on Broadway in 2017 with Jake Gyllenhaal.)
Three years after “Sunday” debuted, Sondheim collaborated again with Lapine, this time on the fairy-tale musical “Into the Woods.” The show starred Peters as a glamorous witch and dealt primarily with the turbulent relationships between parents and children, using such famous fairy-tale characters as Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel. It was most recently revived in the summer of 2012 in Central Park by The Public Theater.
“Assassins” opened off-Broadway in 1991 and it looked at the men and women who wanted to kill presidents, from John Wilkes Booth to John Hinckley. The show received mostly negative reviews in its original incarnation, but many of those critics reversed themselves 13 years later when the show was done on Broadway and won a Tony for best musical revival.
“Passion” was another severe look at obsession, this time a desperate woman, played by Donna Murphy, in love with a handsome soldier. Despite winning the best-musical Tony in 1994, the show barely managed a six-month run.
A new version of “The Frogs,” with additional songs by Sondheim and a revised book by Nathan Lane (who also starred in the production), played Lincoln Center during the summer of 2004. The show, based on the Aristophanes comedy, originally had been done 20 years earlier in the Yale University swimming pool.
One of his more troubled shows was “Road Show,” which reunited Sondheim and Weidman and spent years being worked on. This tale of the Mizner brothers, whose get-rich schemes in the early part of the 20th century finally made it to the Public Theater in 2008 after going through several different titles, directors and casts.
He had been working on a new musical with “Venus in Fur” playwright David Ives, who called his collaborator a genius. “Not only are his musicals brilliant, but I can’t think of another theater person who has so chronicled a whole age so eloquently,” Ives said in 2013. “He is the spirit of the age in a certain way.”
Sondheim was born March 22, 1930, into a wealthy family, the only son of dress manufacturer Herbert Sondheim and Helen Fox Sondheim. At 10, his parents divorced and Sondheim’s mother bought a house in Doylestown, Pa., where one of their Bucks County neighbors was lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, whose son, James, was Sondheim’s roommate at boarding school. It was Oscar Hammerstein who became the young man’s professional mentor and a good friend.
He had a solitary childhood, once in which involved verbal abuse from his chilly mother. He received a letter in his 40s from her telling him that she regretted giving birth to him. He continued to support her financially and to see her occasionally but didn’t attend her funeral.
Sondheim attended Williams College in Massachusetts, where he majored in music. After graduation, he received a two-year fellowship to study with avant-garde composer Milton Babbitt.
One of Sondheim’s first jobs was writing scripts for the television show “Topper,” which ran for two years (1953-1955). At the same time, Sondheim wrote his first musical, “Saturday Night,” the story of a group of young people in Brooklyn in 1920s. It was to have opened on Broadway in 1955, but its producer died just as the musical was about to go into production, and the show was scrapped. “Saturday Night” finally arrived in New York in 1997 in a small, off-Broadway production.
Sondheim wrote infrequently for the movies. He collaborated with actor Anthony Perkins on the script for the 1973 murder mystery “The Last of Sheila,” and besides his work on “Dick Tracy” (1990), wrote scores for such movies as Alain Resnais’ “Stavisky” (1974) and Warren Beatty’s “Reds” (1981).
Over the years, there have been many Broadway revivals of Sondheim shows, especially “Gypsy,” which had reincarnations starring Angela Lansbury (1974), Tyne Daly (1989) and Peters (2003). But there also were productions of “A Funny Thing,” one with Phil Silvers in 1972 and another starring Nathan Lane in 1996; “Into the Woods” with Vanessa Williams in 2002; and even of Sondheim’s less successful shows such as “Assassins” and “Pacific Overtures,” both in 2004. “Sweeney Todd” has been produced in opera houses around the world. A reimagined “West Side Story” opened on Broadway in 2020 and a scrambled “Company” opened on Broadway in 2021 with the genders of the actors switched.
Sondheim’s songs have been used extensively in revues, the best-known being “Side by Side by Sondheim” (1976) on Broadway and “Putting It Together,” off-Broadway with Julie Andrews in 1992 and on Broadway with Carol Burnett in 1999. The New York Philharmonic put on a star-studded “Company” in 2011 with Neil Patrick Harris and Stephen Colbert. Tunes from his musicals have lately popped up everywhere from “Marriage Story” to “The Morning Show.”
An HBO documentary directed by Lapine, “Six by Sondheim,” aired in 2013 and revealed that he liked to compose lying down and sometimes enjoyed a cocktail to loosen up as he wrote. He even revealed that he really only fell in love after reaching 60, first with the dramatist Peter Jones and then in his last years with Jeff Romley.
In September 2010, the Henry Miller Theatre was renamed the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. “I’m deeply embarrassed. I’m thrilled, but deeply embarrassed,” he said as the sun fell over dozens of clapping admirers in Times Square. Then he revealed his perfectionist streak: “I’ve always hated my last name. It just doesn’t sing.”
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits
Mark Kennedy, The Associated Press
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