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Canada rallies to tie Honduras to begin final round of World Cup qualifying –



TORONTO — Canada got its first taste of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying on Thursday, having to fight hard for a 1-1 tie with Honduras.

The game — fast-paced and often prickly with little room to breathe — was the first of 14 for Canada in the eight-team Octagonal. And Canada’s first trip to the final qualifying round since the lead-up to France ’98 was an instant reality check, with two valuable home points dropped.

“That was a big welcome to the CONCACAF Octagon, I guess you could say,” said Canadian defender Alistair Johnston. “Nothing’s going to be easy, nothing’s going to be given.”

“It’s the start of a journey and we ‘ve got the ability to get better,” added coach John Herdman. “That’s the exciting thing for us.”

The teams each scored from the penalty spot with Honduras going ahead 1-0 in the 40th minute from Alexander Lopez with Cyle Larin pulling the Canadian men even in the 66th.

Canada, currently ranked 59th in the world, came into the game on a wave of optimism. But No. 63 Honduras, looking calm and collected some 3,400 kilometres away from home, proved to be a stubborn opponent.

The Canadians now head south to face on the U.S. in Nashville on Sunday. Then it’s back to Toronto to host El Salvador next Wednesday.

Next month, the Canadians visit Mexico and Jamaica before returning to BMO Field to entertain Panama on Oct. 13. Canada will play eight more matches after that, wrapping up play in March.

Canada got some help from other CONCACAF results Thursday with the U.S. tying El Salvador 0-0 and Panama drawing Costa Rica 0-0. Mexico defeated Jamaica 2-1.

Veteran goalkeeper Milan Borjan’s message to his teammates in the post-game huddle was the Canadians can’t wait until the second half to get into high gear, according to Johnston.

Herdman said his team lacked cohesion and chemistry in the first half, but came on strong in the second with substitute Junior Hoilett making a difference.

“It’s going to be a marathon,” Herdman said. “We’ve got a long way to go. The first game at home, it was a three-point focus. But these boys were in a number of occasions an inch, an inch away from making it one of those nights where the crowds goes home very happy.”

Both teams managed 15 shots with Honduras holding a 6-3 edge in shots on target. The Canadians had 66 per cent of possession in a game that featured a total of 39 fouls.

“A call or two went against us,” Canadian defender Steven Vitoria said diplomatically.

Canada had more of the ball but could not unlock the Honduran defence until Larin converted his penalty for his 19th Canadian goal. That moved him into a tie for second place in Canadian men’s scoring behind Dwayne De Rosario’s 22.

Veteran defender Maynor Figueroa took down Hoilett after Borjan triggered a rapid-fire attack following a save at the other end. Richie Laryea did most of the work with the ball before the Honduran defence was compromised.

Lopez opened the scoring after Canadian wingback Tajon Buchanan brought down Andy Najar in the box. A nice give-and-go between Kervin Arriaga and Najar allowed for the Honduran penetration with Buchanan’s leg catching Najar as the D.C. United wingback headed towards goal.

Mexican referee Fernando Guerrero Ramirez pointed to the spot and Lopez slotted the ball into the corner.

Lopez appeared to injure himself on the penalty, grimacing and holding the back of his thigh as his teammates celebrated. He was taken off the field on a stretcher, giving way to CF Montreal forward Romell Quioto.

Canada pressed in the second half with Honduras doing its best to kill time and slow down play. The visitors still had some teeth, however. Borjan got a fingertip to a Brayan Moya header in the 74th minute, pushing the ball off the post to safety in a game-saving save.

Jonathan David had an opening in the 80th minute after Vitoria headed the ball to him on a free kick but the Canadian forward’s shot was blocked. Laryea then shot high from a tight angle in the 89th minute.

Herdman liked what he saw in the second half.

“If they can carry that sort of spirit and resilience that we’ve seen, this is going to a great journey for the team,” he said.

The top three in the final CONCACAF round-robin qualify for Qatar 2022 with the fourth-place finisher taking part in an intercontinental playoff to see who joins them. Honduras made that playoff last time around, losing 3-1 on aggregate to Australia.

Thursday’s game was the first for the Canadian men on home soil since Oct. 15, 2019, when they scored a landmark 2-0 win over the U.S. in CONCACAF Nations League play at BMO Field. The Canadians played their next 15 matches on the road due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, going 11-4-0 with the only losses to Iceland, Mexico and the U.S. (twice).

Attendance for Thursday’s match was capped at just under 15,000 due to COVID regulations. The announced crowd of 14,822 was enthusiastic and noisy with a chant of “Canada, Canada” in the first minute of play. “Super Canucks” read one large sign in the south stand.

Canadian captain Atiba Hutchinson earned his 86th senior cap, moving within three of the retired Julian de Guzman, who holds the Canadian men’s record.

Herdman fielded an attacking lineup with Alphonso Davies, Larin, David and Buchanan all starting. Borjan made his 54th appearance for Canada.

The Canadian starting 11 came into the game with a combined 294 caps. Six of the starters had less than 20 senior appearances

Herdman said prior to the match it might take his team a little while to find its rhythm given the layoff since the Gold Cup. But it was a frenetic opening with neither team given much time on the ball.

Davies wasted little time showing his pace and guile, beating defenders down the left flank in the 11th and 13th minute but unable to find a teammate in the box as Honduran defenders scrambled. Buchanan showed off his bag of tricks, nutmegging a Honduran in his own half.

Honduras was unfazed, looking to counter-attack and shoot from any distance. Borjan made a diving save in the 20th off Diego Rodriguez after punching away a Honduran free kick.

Davies and Buchanan changed sides midway through the half. At times, Canada had a line of five attackers waiting for the ball as attacks developed.

Canada had 58 percent of the possession in the first half but was unable to turn that into goals.

A call for a Honduran handball went unanswered in the 58th minute. The CONCACAF final round does not feature video review with the confederation saying the technology was not available in the stadiums of five of the eight competing federations.

With the CONCACAF road map changing several times as the pandemic played havoc with the world soccer schedule, the Canadians — along with El Salvador (No. 64) and Panama (No. 74) — fought their way through a 29-team first round and then a knockout second round to earn the right to join Mexico (No. 9), the U.S. (No. 10), Costa Rica (No. 44), Jamaica (No. 50) and Honduras in the so-called Octagonal.

Canada defeated Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Aruba, Suriname and Haiti (twice) to get this far.

The Canadian men came into the game 7-11-6 all-time against Honduras but 5-2-2 on home soil. The teams drew 0-0 the last time they met, at the 2017 Gold Cup in Frisco, Texas.

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Blue Jays' stadium capacity to rise to 30,000 as Ontario increases limits for sporting and event spaces –



The Toronto Blue Jays will get a home-field advantage boost when they return to Rogers Centre next week.

Seating capacity at the downtown stadium will be doubled to 30,000 starting with Tuesday night’s series opener against the New York Yankees.

The Blue Jays received approval from the Ontario government for the increase on Friday.

Ontario announced Friday it is easing capacity limits in certain sports and event venues that require proof of vaccination.

Starting Saturday, capacity limits at outdoor events where people stand will increase to up to 75 per cent capacity or 15,000 people, whichever is less.

For outdoor events where people are seated, capacity limits will be increased to up to 75 per cent capacity or 30,000 people. Proof of vaccination will now be required in outdoor settings where the normal capacity is 20,000 people or more.

The Rogers Centre will be treated as an outdoor venue even with the roof closed, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said, citing the building’s ventilation system.

Noting almost 80 per cent of eligible Ontarians are fully vaccinated, Moore said “we are able to recommend cautiously easing capacity limits in certain settings.”

The Blue Jays announced Thursday that they would make additional tickets available for their final home stand next week. They were hopeful that government regulations would be loosened for those six games and any post-season home games should the team qualify.

Forced to play south of the border last season and part of this season due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, the Blue Jays received clearance to return home in mid-July.

The team played its 2021 Rogers Centre opener on July 30 after receiving a national interest travel exemption from the federal government. The Blue Jays were approved to treat the stadium as an outdoor venue at just less than one-third of the stadium’s regular 49,000-seat capacity.

Other professional teams in the province, including NHL, MLS and CFL clubs, returned to play earlier this year with limited attendance due to government restrictions.

Attendance for Maple Leaf and Raptors games at Scotiabank Arena will be capped at 50 per cent capacity starting Saturday.

The Blue Jays, meanwhile, could certainly use the extra boost from a raucous home crowd as Canada’s lone Major League Baseball club makes a push for the post-season.

Toronto, currently wrapping up a road trip with a weekend series in Minnesota, will entertain the Yankees in a critical three-game set before closing out the regular season against the Baltimore Orioles next weekend.

The Blue Jays will open the stadium’s top deck — the 500 level — for the first time this season and additional seats were made available in the 100 and 200 levels. The team would have issued refunds to ticket purchasers if capacity was not expanded.

Team president Mark Shapiro has said the stadium’s retractable roof would be open as long as the weather allows, and additional measures had been taken to ensure proper ventilation.

The Blue Jays require proof of full COVID-19 vaccination for all fans aged 12 and older upon entering Rogers Centre. A negative COVID-19 test is no longer accepted except for individuals with a doctor’s note indicating they can’t receive the vaccine due to medical exemptions.

The Blue Jays played last year’s condensed schedule at the home field of their triple-A affiliate in Buffalo. The team started the 2021 campaign at its spring training home in Dunedin, Fla., before moving back to Buffalo and then finally to Toronto.

Entering play Friday, Toronto was one game behind New York in the race for the second American League wild-card spot. The Yankees were two games behind the Boston Red Sox, who held the first spot.

The AL wild-card game is scheduled for Oct. 5. The winner advances to a best-of-five AL Division Series starting Oct. 7.

The Blue Jays reached the playoffs last season but were swept by the Tampa Bay Rays in a best-of-three wild-card series. It was Toronto’s first post-season appearance since 2016.

Toronto’s last World Series title came in 1993.

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Rory McIlroy is sitting a Ryder Cup session for the first time in his career – Golf Channel



SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – For the first time in a storied Ryder Cup career, Rory McIlroy will play the role of cheerleader on Saturday at Whistling Straits.

McIlroy was not in European captain Padraig Harrington’s foursomes lineup after going 0-2, including a 5-and-3 loss to Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele in the morning foursomes session, on Day 1 at Whistling Straits. Paired with Shane Lowry in the afternoon fourball session McIlroy lost, 4 and 3.

“He’s already a leader. You saw him out there after a tough day, he was out following those matches and supporting his team,” Harrington said. “He is very much a leader amongst his peers and I couldn’t have asked more from him during the year, I couldn’t have asked more from him today.”

Match scoring for the 43rd Ryder Cup

McIlroy had played 26 consecutive matches (including his singles starts) before Saturday. Because of weather delays in Wales in 2010 that forced officials to combine the second and third sessions he only played four times.

McIlroy’s overall record in the Ryder Cup is now 11-11-4.

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Wiggins denied COVID-19 vaccination exemption by NBA – CTV News



The NBA has denied Andrew Wiggins’ request for a vaccination exemption, leaving the Golden State Warriors swingman ineligible to play home games until he meets San Francisco’s vaccination requirement.

The ruling was announced Friday hours after the New York Knicks said their entire roster is vaccinated, making all their players eligible to play in their home games.

Because of local coronavirus regulations in New York and San Francisco, the Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Warriors are required to be vaccinated to play in their home arenas unless exemptions for medical or religious reasons apply.

Wiggins sought an exemption from the league for religious reasons.

“The NBA has reviewed and denied Andrew Wiggins’ request for religious exemption from the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s order requiring COVID-19 vaccination for all participants age 12 and older at large indoor events,” the league said in a statement. “Wiggins will not be able to play in Warriors home games until he fulfills the city’s vaccination requirements.”

Unvaccinated players are allowed to play this season, though the NBA has said that they will have to be tested daily on practice and travel days and at least once — possibly more — on game days, while fully vaccinated players will not be subject to daily testing.

However, the Knicks, Nets and Warriors face stricter rules because of their local regulations, which the NBA has told teams do not apply to clubs visiting them.

The Knicks are the first of those teams to say they have met the mandate.

“I’m proud to say that our organization — players, coaches and staff — are 100 percent vaccinated,” general manager Scott Perry said Friday. “And I think it’s a credit to our players, too, in particular that they took this thing very seriously and took the responsibility to get that done.”

Nets general manager Sean Marks said earlier this week that a couple players wouldn’t yet be eligible, but he was confident everyone would be able to participate by the time the regular season began on Oct. 19.

Wiggins still has time, as San Francisco’s mandate doesn’t take effect until the middle of next month. Training camps open Tuesday.

The NBA has struck agreements this offseason to have virtually all parties involved in games — referees, coaches, stat-crew workers and anyone else who will be in close proximity to players on or off the court in NBA arenas — vaccinated in order to participate.

The one exception: The players themselves, with the National Basketball Players Association rebuking all efforts from the NBA to mandate that they be vaccinated. About 85% of players were vaccinated at the end of last season. The leaguewide figure is believed to have increased since.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau credited the Knicks’ medical staff for keeping the organization educated and aware about virus protocols. Perry praised the players for acting on the information they were given, saying their decision to get vaccinated was unrelated to any rules.

“As an organization we’re obviously following laws and mandates for the league and state government, but a lot of this was internal, internally driven,” Perry said.


AP basketball writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.

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