Canada’s prized youngster has continued where he left off last season for Gent, banging in goals and helping lead them down the path to glory, as they try to both win the Jupiler Pro League and qualify for Europa League this season. As Canada looks to avenge demons of their national team’s past, David is one of those expected to lead the way as they push to try and change the narrative of the national team in this country.
Jonathan David has scored everywhere he goes. From his youth days in Ottawa as well as representing Canada in the various youth set-ups, to now in the pro game with Belgian side KAA Gent and with the Canadian Men’s National Team, David has constantly found a way to etch himself in the memories of goalkeepers, popping up to score timely goals when his team seems to need him the most.
For Canada, a country that has typically struggled to score and generate offence, he has been a key pillar in helping them change the perception that they are a country that plays boring and uninspiring attacking football, usually relying on defensive prowess to grind out results.
In 8 matches with the National Team, David has already scored 10 times, including an impressive 6 at this past Gold Cup, where he won the Golden Boot despite Canada being knocked out in the quarter-finals at the hands of plucky upstarts Haiti.
But, despite his immense growth over the last year, he remains grounded and focused on the things he loves to do in life, which amongst them include suiting up and kicking the ball around at every opportunity. When he spoke to btsvancity back in March, he gave off an air of happiness and excitement heading into the last match of the Nations League qualifying campaign, which resulted in a 4-1 Canadian victory thanks in part to a key David strike .
“It feels really good for me when I come here,” said David with a smile. “It’s like my second family. I’m very excited to come here and see the players, play with them and represent my country.”
For a country that has seen many top players eschew their allegiances to play for other countries, the hard work and joy a top player like David has brought to the fold every outing has been a breath of fresh air for followers of the program.
David burst onto the scene last season, making his debut in a 13-minute cameo in the league against Zulte Waregem, where he scored his first professional goal to help Gent earn a draw. It was the beginning of a whirlwind start to the campaign for David, who would catch the attention of eyeballs around the globe as he would score 5 goals in 4 substitute appearances across the his first 4 league and Europa League qualifying matches for Gent, racking up his totals in less than 80 minutes of playing time.
But, despite his hot start, he would not play regularly for the next few months, only making 3 starts by the time the calendar turned to 2019, featuring with Gent mostly as a substitute. It was nothing David couldn’t handle, however, as the Brooklyn-born youngster who lived the first 6 years of his life in Haiti with his parents before moving to Canada was more than motivated to establish himself for Gent and pursue his dream.
So when he found regular playing time in the new year, starting every league game from last January into the Canadian National team camp back in March, it was just a continuation of the hard work that had led him on the unique path from Ottawa to Gent, skipping the MLS path most Canadian youngsters typically take.
“Of course (I’m happy), it does a lot because it shows that hard work pays off,” David said of earning the trust of Gent’s staff. “If you keep working hard and you stay consistent you’ll get your chance to play.”
“I think that’s very important for any player, because if you feel like you’re working hard and you’re not getting a chance it can be hard. But if you feel that you’re getting your chance, everything feels good and you’re playing well, so (for me) it’s going well right now.”
After defeating French Guiana in the match to qualify for both the Gold Cup and Nations League A, David went on a bit of a tear. He continued to start for Gent as they tried to qualify for European football heading into this season, and he finished the campaign strongly, scoring 4 goals in the last 3 matches to ensure they would be able to embark once again on Europa League qualifiers this summer.
With the Gold Cup right around the corner, Canada’s faithful were expecting big things from both David and the rest of the Canadian national team crew. For David, he was excited to get into the tournament, as he was ready to embark on some of his biggest games for his country
“This is a good opportunity to test ourselves against the best,” David said after the French Guiana victory. “It was a massive step to qualify for Gold Cup and now Nations League A, so we can now play more competitive games to get ready for the future.”
With David heading into the Gold Cup firing at all cylinders, it certainly showed on the pitch, with his golden boot performance being one to remember for him and the country. It brought a lot of worldwide attention to what he can do as a player, and it seems inevitable that he will make a move to a big European team very soon.
While the tournament will ultimately be looked back upon for how Canada bowed out to Haiti, the strong offensive performances of David, Alphonso Davies and Lucas Cavallini has given hope for Canadians expecting a possible World Cup qualification in 2022.
The defensive side of things still needs sorting, while Canada has yet to figure out the best way to get as many of their best players on the pitch at once, but the steps they have made the last few years has certainly been inspiring.
“I think from the first camp we had until now we see the progression is immense,” David said to btsvancity. “From the first training, we can see that there’s more quality. Everyone’s sharper. They know what to do and from the first one through now it’s been a big improvement”
David has started strong this season, bagging 4 goals in 9 matches, helping Gent reach the final round of Europa League qualifiers, where they currently have a 2-1 advantage heading into the second leg against Croatian side Rijeka, one match away from qualifying for the tournament proper.
As he continues to rack up goals, and Gent continues to make some noise both in Europe and in the Belgian league, where they are currently 3 points off of first place after 4 matches, it seems a matter of when not if that he makes a move to a top side like Borussia Dortmund or Borussia Moenchengladbach, who were both rumoured to be after him earlier in the summer.
But until then, he will just be happy to bang in goals and enjoy freedom on the pitch. With his youthful exuberance and his ability to get things done all over the field, David will be front and center as Canada kick off their 2022 qualifying campaign this fall. Just don’t expect him to do it in one spot specifically in Herdman’s set-up.
“I think striker is my preferred position,” David finished with a smile. “But obviously, in Belgium, I play as a 10, as well as an 8. I can also play on the wings and here (with Canada) when I come I play on the wing, so I think even though my first position is 9, I can adapt to those positions and still play them.”
“I would say I’m a pretty technical player likes to score goals. I like to take players one vs one, I just like to enjoy the game and play with the ball during the game. That’s what I like to do.”
Canada vs Cuba, September 7th, 2019 17:00 PDT (BMO Field)