It’s been a dizzying ride of late for Jayden Nelson.
Last year, the young forward from Brampton, Ont., made his pro debut with Toronto FC 2, turned 17, represented Canada at the FIFA U-17 World Cup and was named Canadian Youth International Player of the Year. He kicked off 2020 by making his senior debut Jan. 7 and scoring his first goal three days later in a pair of 4-1 wins over No. 162 Barbados.
Nelson and 73rd-ranked Canada faced No. 39 Iceland in an international friendly Wednesday at Irvine, Calif.
The Canadian men, who currently stand seventh behind No. 69 El Salvador in CONCACAF, are looking to pick up FIFA ranking points in their bid to crack the top six in the region by the close of the June international window.
The top six in CONCACAF, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean, will advance to the Hex – the most direct route of World Cup qualifying out of the region.
Nelson acknowledges he has felt nerves during his rapid rise – a lot has happened since he attended his first Canadian youth camp in 2016. But his confidence has grown in meeting the challenges along the way.
“To be honest, everything is moving really fast right now,” he said in an interview from California. “But I take it step by step and just remain humble and work hard every day.”
Nelson, who turned 17 on Sept. 26, replaced Jay Chapman in the 67th minute in the Jan. 7 game to become the third-youngest player to debut for Canada (behind Domenic Mobilio and Alphonso Davies).
Three days later, Nelson came off the bench in the 59th minute and opened his senior account in the 86th minute after an errant clearance by the Barbados goalkeeper gave the teenager an open net to shot at from just outside the penalty box.
“First goal, second cap. I was just honoured to score for Canada,” he said.
It was a far cry from the emotions he felt stepping on the Canada training field for the first time in a group that included Samuel Piette and Manjrekar James.
“I was nervous because growing up I’d seen them playing on the national team,” Nelson said. “It was kind of a surreal feeling – playing with them on the same pitch. But after I got into it, they welcomed me with open arms.”
Canada coach John Herdman continues to live up to his mantra when choosing talent – if you’re good enough, you’re old enough.
Nelson, who joined the Toronto FC academy in 2017, made his pro debut for Toronto FC 2 on April 6 against Orlando City B and appeared in 14 games last season. He has yet to appear for the first team although he has trained with them and will likely do so again when preseason starts next week.
While Jacen Russell-Rowe, a fellow highly touted TFC academy prospect, recently committed to the University of Maryland, Nelson plans to remain at TFC and go the pro route.
Nelson played at the 2017 CONCACAF Boys’ Under-15 Championship and then helped Canada qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Brazil later that year with five goals in six games at the CONCACAF U-17 Championship.
He started all three games at the FIFA U-17 World Cup against Brazil, Angola and New Zealand and was named man of the match against New Zealand.
“I learned a lot from that tournament. A lot of learning experiences within each game,” he said.
“It was a great experience overall,” he added. “Tournaments like that really help players grow into the future, to be able to go to camps like these and perform well.”
His preferred position is left wing, although he likes to roam inside. Nelson is a shifty player with great vision, happy to take players on and dip into his bag of tricks when needed.
On and off the pitch, Nelson is easy to spot with a shock of hair usually bursting out of a headband and sometimes sporting colour. Some have dubbed him the Canadian Valderrama after former Colombia playmaker Carlos Valderrama.
“I’ve always had it. That’s my trademark,” Nelson said of his wild hair.
Is it easy to look after, he was asked?
“No. But it’s worth having, it’s worth going through all the hard work,” he replied with a chuckle.
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NHL suspends Sharks’ Evander Kane 21 games for COVID-19 protocol violations – Sportsnet.ca
The NHL also announced Monday that its concurrent investigation into allegations of domestic abuse made against Kane by his estranged wife, Deanna, could not be substantiated.
Kane said he is in counselling in a statement released by the NHLPA.
— NHLPA (@NHLPA) October 18, 2021
“I would like to apologize to my teammates, the San Jose Sharks organization, and all Sharks fans for violating the NHL COVID protocols,” Kane said in a statement released by the NHLPA. “I made a mistake, one I sincerely regret and take responsibility for. During my suspension, I will continue to participate in counseling to help me make better decisions in the future. When my suspension is over, I plan to return to the ice with great effort, determination, and love for the game of hockey.”
The Sharks also released a statement.
Statement from the San Jose Sharks. pic.twitter.com/P25XxpiJgH
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) October 18, 2021
Kane will forfeit about $1.68 million of his $7 million salary for this season with the money going to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
Kane had previously been cleared by the NHL in an investigation into allegations made by Deanna Kane that he bet on hockey games, including some against the Sharks.
But the league did determine that Kane violated the COVID-19 protocols. A person familiar with the investigation said earlier this month that the league was looking into allegations that Kane submitted a fake vaccination card. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details weren’t made public.
Using a fake vaccination card is illegal in both the United States and Canada, as well as against NHL rules.
Commissioner Gary Bettman said last week that only four players on active rosters hadn’t been vaccinated.
Kane had not been around the team since the start of training camp while these investigations were ongoing in an agreement between him and the team.
Kane, 30, is three seasons into a $49 million, seven-year contract. He’s with his third organization after being drafted by and debuting with Atlanta/Winnipeg and a stint in Buffalo.
The 30-year-old led the Sharks in scoring last season with 22 goals and 49 points in 56 games.
The Vancouver native has 506 career points (262 goals, 242 assists) in 769 NHL games with the Atlanta Thrashers, Winnipeg Jets, Buffalo Sabres and Sharks.
Red Sox’s two grand slams lead ALCS rout of Astros – Sportsnet.ca
HOUSTON — J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers helped the Red Sox have a grand old time in Houston.
Boston became the first team to slug two grand slams in a postseason game, with Martinez and Devers connecting in the first two innings of a 9-5 win over the Astros on Saturday that tied their AL Championship Series at one game apiece.
Martinez made it 4-0 with his opposite-field shot off rookie Luis Garcia with two outs in the first. It was the first career playoff slam for the four-time All-Star, who began his career with the Astros.
Garcia exited with right knee discomfort after walking the first batter of the second inning. Jake Odorizzi took over, and shortly after a 13-minute delay while the right-hander warmed up on the field, Devers connected with one out for slam No. 2.
“J.D.’s swing was huge to get us on the board early, and then Raffy, same thing, another granny,” red-hot teammate Kike Hernandez said. “Has that ever happened before?”
It has now.
Game 3 is Monday night in Boston. It’s the first of three consecutive home games for the Red Sox, back in the playoffs for the first time since winning the 2018 World Series after downing Houston in the ALCS.
Hernandez, who Boston manager Alex Cora referred to Friday night as “en fuego” after a two-homer performance in Game 1, remained on fire Saturday. He had two hits, highlighted by a solo homer in the fourth inning.
Hernandez has been this postseason’s hottest hitter, leading all players with 16 hits, five homers and four doubles. His nine extra-base hits are also the most in these playoffs and tied a Red Sox postseason record with Mike Lowell (2007), Kevin Youkilis (2007) and David Ortiz (2004 & 2007).
“The importance of the game is allowing me to stay focused and stay locked in,” Hernandez said.
Red Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi permitted five hits and three runs in 5 1/3 innings.
The Astros captured a 5-4 win in the series opener as they rallied behind homers from Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa before falling into the huge hole early in this one.
“That’s a tough team,” Cora said. “It’s never comfortable with them because they’re a swing away from getting back in the game.”
The Red Sox were up 9-0 when Houston got on the board with an RBI double by Kyle Tucker with two outs in the fourth. The Astros cut the lead to 9-3 when Yuli Gurriel followed with single to right field that scored two more.
Gurriel and Jason Castro added solo homers in the ninth off Darwinzon Hernandez before Ryan Brasier got the final out.
“At the end, it was a little too close for comfort, but we got it done,” Hernandez said.
The injury to Garcia is another blow to a Houston team trying to reach the World Series for the second time in three years. The Astros are already reeling after an injury to staff ace Lance McCullers Jr. that kept him off the roster for this series.
They won the championship in 2017, a crown tainted by the team’s sign-stealing scandal.
When McCullers went out, manager Dusty Baker said the team would just have to “hit more” to absorb the loss. But now that the rotation is further depleted, it’ll be an even taller task for this powerful lineup outgunning a Boston team whose offense has outpaced everyone this postseason.
Odorizzi was left off the Division Series roster after a disappointing first season in Houston before getting a spot in this round after the injury to McCullers. He allowed seven hits and four runs in four innings Saturday in a performance that certainly isn’t good news for a team that is running short on starters.
TOUGH UP TOP
Altuve and Michael Brantley, the top two hitters in Houston’s lineup, are a combined 2 for 17 in the series with a hit each, including Altuve’s homer in Game 1.
There’s a day off Sunday before Houston’s Jose Urquidy makes his first start this postseason in Game 3 Monday. The Red Sox have yet to name their starter.
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