The U.S. men’s national team surrendered an early goal and looked totally listless for much of the game as they allowed a second in stoppage time to suffer an embarrassing loss to Canada in Hamilton, Ontario, on Sunday in their second of three World Cup qualifiers.
It wasn’t going to be easy heading up north to take on a Canada team that has been undefeated thus far in Concacaf’s octagonal. However, with a World Cup spot on the line, and a lackluster 1-0 win over El Salvador on Thursday night, some improvements would have been expected in the team.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter once again went to his trusty 4-3-3 formation, making several changes in the lineup. Brendan Aaronson got the start in the place of Tim Weah who was left back stateside as he did not meet Canada’s COVID-19 vaccination requirements. Miles Robinson partnered with Chris Richards in central defense, as he replaced Walker Zimmerman. At center forward, he chose Gyasi Zardes, who hasn’t scored since July 2021, in the place of Jesus Ferriera.
The Americans surrendered the first goal after seven minutes when the hosts won possession of the ball following a goal kick. Cyle Larin would get in front of Miles Robinson to run onto a through-ball from Jonathan David and put his shot past Matt Turner.
Following the goal, the U.S. showed a lack of urgency to find the equalizer as they elected to go with a possession game in hopes of exploiting openings in Canada’s defense.
Christian Pulisic, who has been struggling as of late, had a chance to level the score in the 36th minute from a direct free-kick, but his effort was nowhere near the target.
The visitors would only truly test goalkeeper Milan Borjan once in the 42nd minute. Pulisic’s corner kick from the left side found Weston McKennie, who sent a glancing header goal-bound only for the Red Star Belgrade netminder to make a reaction save to clear the danger away.
Entering the second half, it was more of the same as the U.S. kicked the ball around looking desperately for an opening. Aaronson would find his chance in the 57th minute, but his shot went straight into the hands of Borjan.
The Red Bull Salzburg man would find himself threatening the Canadian goal again in the 64th minute when he dribbled the ball in the area before tumbling. There was an appeal for a penalty, but the referee called for play to continue.
With no new ideas coming from Berhalter and realizing that the game was nearing the 70th minute, he finally went to his bench, bringing on Ricardo Pepi and Jordan Morris. Kellyn Acosta, Paul Arriola, and Reggie Cannon would come later, but none would have an impact to change the course of the game.
Canada nearly doubled the lead in the 70th minute when they turned the ball over in their own end, allowing David to take a powerful shot from the edge of the area. Turner was able to block it and was fortunate to make another stop on Larin who was there to pounce to the rebound.
With the game clock reaching the 87th minute, the U.S. had another attempt to level the score when McKennie lofted the ball into the area from the left side. Miles Robinson headed it into the path of Arriola who tried an acrobatic kick at goal. However, his effort went wide.
Pulisic would attempt another free-kick from distance as the game entered stoppage time, but it was no threat for Borjan as he easily took control of the ball.
Then the proverbial nail in the coffin would come in the fifth minute of stoppage time as Sam Adekugbe took possession of a long ball at midfield and charged forward before putting his shot past Turner.
It was a totally embarrassing display by the team on the day as they had a chance to get one foot in the door to qualifying for Qatar. However, Berhalter seemed to have seen something entirely different out on the field.
“I think it was an entire team effort that was outstanding,” he said in his post-game comments, “We asked them to be dominant. We asked them to embrace the conditions, embrace the physicality, and I think we did that and more.”
“It’s hard for me to remember a performance away from home this dominant without getting a result.”
The end result, the U.S. had 64 percent possession with only three shots out of 13 on target. It’s certainly something that you don’t want to praise after that performance.
The team will need to regroup in a short time as they head to Minnesota to face Honduras on Wednesday in hopes of taking all three points.
They, fortunately, remain in second place in the standings on goal difference as Mexico could only take a point in their 0-0 draw with Costa Rica.