ALSO ON SLAM!
Thursday, July 13, 2000
It was the highlight that put Canadian soccer in the spotlight.
Richard Hastings, streaking towards the goal then corralling a terrific feed from Martin Nash, slipping past a Mexican defender and burying a wonderful strike just beneath the crossbar over the outstretched arms of 'keeper Oscar Perez.
A Golden Goal to be sure. The overtime winner that gave Canada its most prestigious victory in international play and launched the squad towards its shocking Gold Cup championship.
Hastings will never forget that moment, no matter what happens throughout the remainder of his football career.
"I moved on but it's always going to be something that stays in my mind," said the 23-year-old hero. "It was just a great experience to have those sorts of emotions running through you on the field.
"You're so happy that you scored and you're relieved that they can't come back on you - it's over. It was such a great feat to beat Mexico. The celebration showed what it meant."
Hastings would surely welcome more of those triumphant occasions - certainly one Sunday night at Commonwealth Stadium against Trinidad and Tobago would sit well with him - but he'll be hard-pressed to top that time in February. Not only did the Prince George, B.C.-born midfielder score the decisive marker against the mighty Mexicans, but he played a major part in his club side, Inverness Caledonia Thistle, defeating Glasgow Celtic in a Scottish FA Cup match.
"I never even got a chance to celebrate that, to let that sink in, before I was on a flight to get to the Gold Cup.
'`It sounds bad, but I don't even have a lot of memories of it," recalled Hastings from Canada's training camp in Alliston, Ont.
"Then we won the Gold Cup and I didn't even really get a chance to celebrate that either. I was on flight home early because I had to play a big Cup game for my club the next day."
Since the Gold Cup success, Canada has upped its unbeaten streak to 15 games, made a vast leap in the FIFA international rankings and attracted a new-found following within in the nation. It's not out of the question that the Canucks could make their way through the rest of qualifying and earn a spot at the 2002 World Cup, but T&T, Panama and the revenge-minded Mexicans aren't going to be walkovers.
"Everyone who knows more about soccer knows what we're up against. We can only look at this stage now, not at the final group, and we can see it's going to be pretty difficult," said Hastings, who has 13 caps to his credit.
"We just have to worry about our own game. We obviously want to improve all the time, but the main thing for us is to go out there, do the job and not let ourselves down. We don't want to come off the pitch knowing we didn't give it 100 per cent."
RETURN TO SCOTLAND
After this current stint with the national team which lasts through the July 23 matchup in Panama, Hastings will return to Scotland and rejoin Inverness, though it may be the beginning of his final season with the Second Division side. There are strong rumours about a possible transfer to Aberdeen or Middlesboro, along with Hastings's own thoughts.
"I've been there a while now. Basically, I'm going to see my contract through and see what comes up," he said. "Hopefully, I can go down to England where I want to play. You've just to keep doing these things to get your resume built up."