Jason deVos knows all about making history in CONCACAF. As captain, he lifted the Gold Cup trophy after Canada upset Colombia 2-0 in the 2000 final.
Now Canada Soccer's interim general secretary, deVos hopes to watch the 47th-ranked Canadian men make their mark Sunday when they take on the 13th-ranked U.S. in the CONCACAF Nations League final in Las Vegas.
"It was a special time," deVos said of the 2000 cup run. "You don't realize how impactful those moments are when they're happening. It's not until after you're old and retired and no longer able to pull on the jersey and put on the boots, that you realize what a special moment that was in your life.
"I've told many many people, when I get asked what's the greatest memory of your career, for the national team it's wining the Gold Cup in 2000. And being able to lift that trophy."
The new crop of Canadians advanced to the Nations League final by dispatching No. 58 Panama 2-0 before the defending champion U.S. blanked No. 15 Mexico 3-0 in the nightcap of Thursday's semifinal doubleheader at Allegiant Stadium.
DeVos believes the current cup run under coach John Herdman is even more special "because it's been deliberate."
"This has actually been John's plan from Day 1," deVos said. "It shows just his mastery of his craft, to be able to take a team in 2018 (when he took charge) that hadn't done anything for 20-odd years, hadn't qualified for a World Cup in 36 (years), and in a five-year period turn them into a team that is now contesting trophies like this on Sunday.
"And that's all down to the brilliance of the manager."
DeVos, now 49, says he usually tries to shy away from sharing war stories with today's players, whom he believes are "playing a different level in a different world."
But some memories have come up with Herdman a master at knowing when to bring information out at the right time, he said.
The 2000 Gold Cup win came "in peculiar circumstances," deVos noted.
The 80th-ranked Canadians, who had to play three qualifying games just to get into the final tournament field, needed to win a coin toss to make the knockout round after finishing tied with No. 52 South Korea behind No. 64 Costa Rica on all the tiebreakers in round-robin play.
The coin toss was held in a tent by a nearby stadium, with Canada coach Holger Osieck giving his players, who were watching from the back, a thumbs-up when it went the Canadians' way.
Their reward was a quarterfinal matchup with 10th-ranked Mexico. The CONCACAF powerhouse went ahead in the 35th minute but Canada pulled even in the 83rd minute with Carlo Corazzin heading home Martin Nash's cross.
The golden goal rule was in effect back then and Richard Hastings won the game in extra time, knocking home a Nash cross after a lung-busting Canadian counterattack.
Mark Watson's 68th-minute header gave Canada a 1-0 win over No. 45 Trinidad and Tobago in the semifinal with Canadian goalkeeper Craig Forrest stopping a penalty.
Canada then faced No. 28 Colombia, a guest team at the tournament that had beaten the 22nd-ranked U.S. in a quarterfinal penalty shootout.
DeVos and Corazzin, from the penalty spot, both scored in the final with Forrest stopping a penalty from Colombia star Faustino Asprilla before just 6,197 on a dreary wet day at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
"I don't think anyone that was there expected or perhaps wanted Canada to lift that trophy," said deVos. "But we defied the odds and were able to make that happen."
It helped that the Canadians knew going into the final that win or lose, they would represent the region at the Confederations Cup given Colombia was from a different confederation.
That allowed them to go out and play without pressure.
DeVos was joined in Canada's starting 11 at the 2000 final by Paul Stalteri, Jim Brennan, Tony Menezes, Paul Fenwick, Jeff Clarke, Hastings, Watson, Nash, Corazzin and Forrest.
The team is now in the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame.
DeVos says the bond between those players is still strong.
"When you have a shared experience like that with a group of people, it stays with you for life. It never goes away."
The former centre back also savours his relationship with today's team.
DeVos, who is Canada Soccer's director of development when not holding down the organization's top job on a temporary basis, was a member of Herdman's coaching staff in World Cup qualifying and in Qatar.
"That's always going to be special," he said. "That's going to be something that stays with me forever."
DeVos sees good things in the future.
"The things that really excites me about this group of men is I see so much potential in all them and so much upside. They haven't reached their best yet," he said. "The best is still to come. And I know that this is part of John's plan, to get maximal performance at the optimal time — and peaking in these key events.
"Sunday provides an opportunity for them to show the world that they belong at this level. It's going to be a very difficult game. The U.S. is a top, top team. Many will argue that they're the top team in CONCACAF and have a depth in their squad that we just don't have. But I know that this group of men is going to go out there and fight for their country and do everything they can to lift a trophy."
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 16, 2023.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press