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Teen soccer star from Edmonton impresses in history making debut for Team Canada

Click to play video 'From civil war in Liberia to Canada’s U-20 soccer team' From civil war in Liberia to Canada’s U-20 soccer team
WATCH ABOVE: On March 25, 2016, Julia Wong profiled teenaged Edmonton soccer player Alphonso Davies, At the time, he had been selected for Canada's U-20 soccer team, but his story began in war-torn Liberia.

Exactly one week after becoming a Canadian citizen, a 16-year-old Edmonton-raised soccer prodigy became the youngest player ever to play for Canada’s senior team and impressed his head coach in a 2-1 win over Curacao in Montreal.

“He came in and made a big difference,” Team Canada’s Head Coach Octavio Zambrano said of midfielder Alphonso Davies Tuesday evening. “When we made the switch to put Junior Hoilett on the right side and him on the left, that’s when we really started to click.”

Only a little more than 6,000 fans turned up for the friendly at Saputo Stadium but the match was a chance for Canadian players to show what they can do before Zambrano selects which players will be on the roster for next month’s Gold Cup in the United States.

“Alphonso has demonstrated that he’s ready,” Zambrano said of Davies, who also plays professionally for Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps.

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“He’s a great addition to our team. It’s going to be difficult to keep him off the field.”

Canada’s Alphonso Davies clears the ball away from Curacao’s Gevaro Nepomuceno during second half of a friendly match, in Montreal on Tuesday, June 13, 2017.
Canada’s Alphonso Davies clears the ball away from Curacao’s Gevaro Nepomuceno during second half of a friendly match, in Montreal on Tuesday, June 13, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Curacao, ranked 70th in the world, looked like the better side early on. The Caribbean squad scored first thanks to Rangelo Janga’s strike in the 43rd minute but Canadian defender Manjrekar James erased Curacao’s lead before halftime.

The score remained unchanged until Canada – ranked 109th in the world – scored in the 87th minute. Davies was tripped, forcing a penalty, but Hoilett couldn’t take advantage of the goal opportunity as he hit the left post. However, just seconds later, Anthony Jackson-Hamel scored a goal that would hold up as the winner in a 2-1 victory for Canada.

Davies’ Team Canada debut is not the first time he has turned heads for making an appearance for a team at such a young age.

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In 2016, when the midfielder signed a multi-year contract with the Vancouver Whitecaps at the tender age of 15, he became the youngest active player in Major League Soccer.

READ MORE: ‘This is a dream come true’: 15-year-old Edmonton midfielder signs with Vancouver Whitecaps

Davies has said he grew up watching his brother and father play soccer and developed a desire to play the sport at a young age. His steady rise in the world of soccer came after a turbulent beginning to his life.

He was born in Buduburam – a refugee camp in Gomoa East District in the central region of Ghana – to his Liberian parents during that country’s civil war in 2000 before his family relocated to Windsor, Ont. when he was five. A year later, the family settled in Alberta’s capital.

“I’m also extremely thankful to my parents for everything they’ve done throughout the years, carrying the family to this safe environment,” Davies told Global News in March 2016. “This is our home. This is where I grew up.”

READ MORE: From war-torn Liberia to Edmonton, young soccer player selected for Canada’s U-20 team

The much-talked about soccer talent has seen his stock rise significantly since playing for the Whitecaps. Earlier this year, Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi confirmed the English Premier League’s Manchester United has even made inquiries about Davies.

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READ MORE: Teen soccer star from Edmonton turns heads with Vancouver Whitecaps

It’s not clear if Zambrano will select Davies to be one of the 22 players who represent Canada at the Gold Cup – a tournament involving countries in FIFA’s CONCACAF region – but the coach didn’t mince words when talking about how much Davies impressed in his debut.

“He’s a great addition to our team. It’s going to be difficult to keep him off the field.”

-With files from The Canadian Press and Julia Wong, Global News