Martinique stuns Canada in opener

Fabrice Reuperne scored in the 92nd minute to lift Martinique to a 1-0 victory over Canada in the opening round of the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Sunday at the Rose Bowl.

”It’s a bit disappointing to lose in the last minute, but I can’t fault the players for their attitude and efforts,” said Colin Miller, Canada’s interim coach. ”I felt that we made things very difficult for ourselves by giving the ball away too easily.”

The victory was a first for Martinique in Gold Cup competition over Canada. The teams tied in group play during the 1993 Gold Cup, but Canada got a 6-5 penalty-kick win in the 2002 quarterfinals.

”We still have bad memories from that quarterfinal against Canada,” Martinique coach Patrick Cavelan said through a translator. ”(Reuperne) was the same player that missed the penalty kick in that game. We got revenge for him.”

Martinique didn’t bring an especially impressive resume into the tournament. It qualified for its first Gold Cup entry since 2003 by finishing fourth in the CFU Caribbean Cup.

The team won its two prep matches, but those were against an amateur selection squad from Oregon and the Portland Timbers under-23 squad.

Martinique controlled the action through most of the first half but failed to score, partly because of alert goalkeeping by Milan Borjan but mostly because their shots were missing the net.

Captain Kevin Parsemain was the offensive leader for Martinique, making passes to all sides of the field.

Canada’s first scoring chance came in the 10th minute when Marcus Haber’s header, off a corner kick, was saved by goalie Kevin Olimpa.

Martinique was spurred by Parsemain’s scoring chance in the 20th minute. Frederic Piquionne threaded a pass to Parsemain in the box, but the shot was turned away by Borjan.

Cavelan counted eight scoring opportunities in the first half and seven more in the second.

”If we had not gotten that late goal, we would be regretting the missed chances,” he said. ”We need to work at being more efficient.”

Canada tried to jumpstart its offense early in the second half when Miller substituted midfielder William Johnson for forward Simeon Jackson in the 51st minute.

Jackson brought life to Canada’s offense by using his speed to put Martinique’s defenders on their heels. He was a few steps away from a breakaway in the 72nd minute when he was pulled down by Gregory Arnolin. Arnolin received a yellow card.

”I don’t want to take anything away from Martinique,” Miller said. ”They did very well.

”We’re going through a rough transition period. What happened today is a culmination of a lot of different things through the years. It’s a massive rebuilding process. It’ll be some time before we fix it.”

Miller was picked as the temporary coach for Canada in January while the Canadian Soccer Association looks for someone to do the job on a permanent basis.

The Group B teams will move to Seattle, where Canada will play Mexico, and Martinique will play Panama.