This teenager has announced himself on the international stage with an almighty bang
Heading into the Gold Cup final on Sunday, a relatively unknown Canadian teenager by the name of Jonathan David stands to collect the tournament’s Golden Boot.
Despite his nation’s untimely exit from the competition following a shock 3-2 loss to Haiti in the quarter-finals, David’s stunning six-goal haul currently leaves him as the Gold Cup’s top scorer.
Though Mexico’s Raul Jimenez and Uriel Antuna are hot on his heels heading into their final against the U.S. national team, Golden Boot or not, this has been a breakout few weeks for the 19-year-old.
It has in fact been a whirlwind 18 months for David, who was still playing for his local side Ottawa Internationals in late 2017.
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But, after signing for Belgian club Gent in January 2018, the US-born attacker hasn’t looked back.
From scoring an injury-time equaliser on his professional club debut to striking a winner just days later in a Europa League qualifier, David has a profound knack for hitting the ground running.
After netting five goals in his first five games for Gent, the Canadian was quickly handed a contract extension that ties him to the club until 2022.
David’s first season of top-flight professional football ultimately ended with him striking 12 times across 33 appearances.
Breaking out at club level, the striker was given the chance to shine for Canada’s senior side in August 2018 and he once again made the most of it by scoring a brace on his debut against Virgin Islands in an 8-0 win.
He followed that up a month later with another goal against Dominica, with his place in his nation’s Gold Cup side all but secured in March this year when he struck again against French Guyana.
Handed a start in Canada’s opening match against Martinique, David didn’t let coach John Herdman down as he netted a brace in a 4-0 win.
Kept quiet in a 3-1 loss to Mexico, the teenager roared to life against Cuba as he bagged his first career hat-trick in a 7-0 rout.
David then set Canada on course for a routine victory against Haiti in the quarter-finals with an 18th minute opener, only for the nation he spent the early part of his life in, to storm back and claim a 3-2 upset.
The match was always going to be a significant one for David, who after being born in New York, spent the first six years of his life in Haiti before moving to Canada.
“Definitely, it’s a special game,” David told CBC Ottawa.
“It’s not every day you get to play against the country where you lived when you were younger. But I still need to go there with the mindset that I have to do a job for my country and play for my country and try to do my best.”
While David did that with an early strike, Canada capitulated in embarrassing fashion but their young striker can still hold his head high after a terrific tournament where he was involved in eight of his side’s 14 goals.
After just eight senior international appearances, David already has 10 goals to his name – just 12 shy of Canada’s all-time top scorer Dwayne De Rosario.
Canada’s coach is all too aware he’s got something special on his hands in the young attacker.
“He’s like an iceman,” Herdman said.
“He’s able to slow it right down in the box, wait for the keeper to sit down, and pick his moments. That’s a real special quality in a striker.”
Iceman appears to be a very good description for the teenager, whose cool finishing makes up for a lack of lightning pace.
Off the pitch, David also appears to have ice running through his veins, showing no signs of worry ahead of Canada’s crunch quarter-final match.
“I’m feeling good because, you know, I love playing football and that’s what I’m doing,” David said.
“So for me it’s not about pressure – it’s more about enjoying the moment.”
From playing park football in Canada to the cusp of playing in the Europa League, David admits his move to Genk has had a lot to do with his brilliant form on the international stage.
“Before that I was still playing in Ottawa for just a local club. So, of course, that was a massive step for my career,” David told CBC Ottawa.
“I had to grow up faster and learn things on my own. I just had to adapt quicker and learn the game. Because over there, they don’t wait for you to get better.
“You just have to get better on your own. And I think that really helped me develop as a player and get to where I am today.”
Depending on how things go on Sunday, David could well go from relative unknown to a Golden Boot winner and that looks to be just the start of this Canadian’s rise to the top.