It was quite a week for Canadian international Simeon Jackson. It started in front of 75,000 people at the world famous Old Trafford when he came off the bench for Norwich City in the English Premier League against Manchester United, and ended in a rural area of St. Lucia at a small venue better known as a home for cricket.
The contrast couldn't have been bigger for Jackson, going from the Theatre of Dreams to a backwater at the foot of the Beausejour Hills, but both experiences were equally as rewarding. The appearance for his club side was only his second in the Premier League this season, and his first since August. The 24-year-old followed that up by making history with the Men's National Team, becoming only the second player to score a hat-trick for Canada in a World Cup Qualifying match when he found the net three times in the 7-0 rout of St. Lucia on Friday.
The hat-trick doubled Jackson's tally of goals for his country, and helped put his side in a commanding position at the top of the group in the first stage of qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Canada has three wins from its first three matches and is now preparing to face Puerto Rico in Toronto on Tuesday night.
"The main objective was to get out of the group and we are in a good position right now," said Jackson after a training session at BMO Field. "We went to St. Lucia with a game plan and we managed to execute it very well. It was good that a number of players got on the score-sheet and we can take a lot of positives from the game.
"Our performance at the Gold Cup earlier this year was very disappointing so it was very important for us to bounce back in the early stages of World Cup Qualification and we have managed to do that very well. Now we have three wins and have the points on the board so the spirit in the camp is really good."
In a group that includes St. Kitts and Nevis, as well as St. Lucia, Puerto Rico represents the most difficult challenge, but Canada produced a disciplined performance to win when the teams met on the Island last month and Jackson scored one of the goals.
"We know what we are up against. We did well against them when we played them away so now we have a good idea of how they are going to play. Hopefully we can continue our good form and take the points again. We are in a good position but we still have to play the remaining games and make sure we finish the job. So far we have done well."
Performing well for Canada could help Jackson when he returns to his club in England later this week. After finishing last year by scoring the goal that secured promotion for Norwich, the 2009 Canadian Player of the Year has found playing time limited. A six minute cameo against Stoke City at Carrow Road in August is his only other top flight appearance, but rather than get frustrated about his lack of minutes on the pitch, Jackson is determined to play his way into the team.
"It's all part of football," he said. "Ever since I have come to the club there has been competition for places. It is a good club with a strong squad. I just have to keep working hard and take my chance when it comes along. We have had some big fixtures already this season and I am enjoying every minute of it."
Jackson's performances for Canada could have a positive impact when he heads back across the Atlantic, but for now he is firmly focussed on the task in hand at BMO Field on Tuesday as his country looks to take another step forward on a journey that could lead to the World's biggest stage.
It was great to see a national team debut for Toronto FC's young left back Ashtone Morgan in Canada's win over St. Lucia. The TFC Acadmey product came off the bench to earn his first cap. Morgan has been gaining plenty of experience in his rookie season in Major League Soccer this year, but the opportunity to travel with Canada's Senior Team is yet another great learning experience for a player with lots of potential for a big future in the game.
Seattle Sounders defeat to Philadelphia Union in the Pacific North West on Saturday night was enough to ensure Los Angeles Galaxy would be lifting the Major League Soccer Supporters Shield for the second successive season. The Galaxy's title has been well earned and Head Coach Bruce Arena deserves much credit for building a deep squad that mixes star names such as David Beckham, Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan, along with top quality MLS talent like left back Todd Dunivant and Omar Gonzalez.
The Galaxy are the best team over the course of the regular season, but the job is not finished yet. Last year they fell to a shock home defeat against FC Dallas in the Western Conference Final, and the pressure is really on to ensure they don't slip up in the playoffs this time around with the MLS Cup being played at the Galaxy's Home Depot Center next month (Sunday, November 20, live on TSN2).