Mark-Anthony Kaye didn't expect to be back so soon.
The 2019 Gold Cup was to be the start of something big for the Canadian Men's National Team. A slew of young players with top-flight experience made up the core of John Herdman's side. And a 2-0 lead over Haiti at halftime seemingly gave them one foot in the semifinal.
Three Haiti goals in the span of 25 minutes brought it all to a halt.
"The tournament started off on a good foot but then as it went on, the game against Mexico was a little disappointing and then, obviously, the way we got out of the tournament wasn't the right way," Kaye said after LAFC training in Kansas City. "I think that when you're up 2-0 at half, you need to figure out the right way to manage the game. We have a young group of players that might not know what to do in that certain situation. That hurt us a little bit."
After starting Canada's first two matches of the tournament, Kaye was left in reserve for the final group-stage match. In the quarterfinal against Haiti, the midfielder found himself on the bench once more. This time coming on in the 64th minute for Jonathan Osorio in the team's ouster from the tournament.
"International football isn't easy. Whenever I get the chance to represent my country, I want to do it in the right way and I want to leave everything on the field. Being here with LAFC, playing on one of the best teams in North America, there's a drive to want to win every game, no matter who you are playing against," Kaye said. "That's something that I have personally for myself, too. And I was hoping that we could get better results. But at the end of the day, it wasn't meant to be and we just have to move forward."
Canada's early exit from the Gold Cup is LAFC's gain. The Black & Gold are currently in the midst of a five-match stretch in 15 days. Recently named to his first MLS All-Star Team, Kaye's addition is a boost. And while his teammates understand his disappointment in light of Canada's results, they're more than happy to welcome him back with a match against Sporting KC looming.
"They're sad for me because I came back early but they're excited because I've been doing well with the team," Kaye said. "The more players that we can get back that are healthy, the better it is for the whole camaraderie. Considering it's been a difficult patch recently with all these games in a compact week, I would say everyone's happy to get more bodies around."
When players return to their clubs from their respective national teams, it's always a process. Kaye noted that his first priority is getting fit and doing what the coaches and performance staff ask of him before rushing into the starting 11. But the midfielder can't hide his eagerness to don the Black & Gold once again and help his teammates.
"It's a great feeling playing for this team and I want to help them go forward considering our last game was a loss," Kaye said. "We always want to bounce back in the next game.
"I want to show everyone I'm back and ready to go."