There was really nothing for the US to learn about themselves against Cuba in their Nations League opener on Friday night. The only possible outcome that would have moved the needle in any direction was a loss and that didn’t happen. The US was totally dominant from start to finish but that’s to be expected against a team ranked in the triple digits in the FIFA world rankings and a country that has spent the last 50 plus years under communist rule. However, the US desperately needed something to go right after a Gold Cup final loss to Mexico and then an ugly September. Seven-nil results don’t typically happen in international soccer and it’s even more rare for the US to be the one banging in seven goals. The test now gets much more difficult as the US travels north of the border to take on Canada.
In a shocking new twist for the USMNT, there are few (if any) negatives to take from the game on Friday against Cuba. As lame as it sounds, that’s good news for the US given that even in their wins under Gregg Berhalter there have been plenty of negatives to take (see a 1-0 over Curacao during the Gold Cup). American fans were mercifully spared an appearance by Gyasi Zardes as the European trio of Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Josh Sargent got the starting nod. The decision to start McKennie paid immediate dividends as he racked up a hat trick in the first 13 minutes. Sargent added a crisp, cool finish in the 40th minute and Pulisic fired home a penalty in the 62nd minute. Even against minnow opposition, it was not a surprise to see the three best players on the US team (who all happen to play for European clubs) look good. Only one change has been made to the roster since the Cuba game as defender Miles Robinson has been forced to withdraw from the squad with a left hamstring strain. That leaves the US with 24 players to tackle their first test away from home all year as they head to Toronto to face Canada.
Like the US, Canada failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia last summer. Unlike the US however, this was not a surprise as Canada has only ever been to the World Cup one time (a last place finish at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico). Canada was bounced out of qualifying even earlier than the US as they were eliminated from the semi-final round in 2016 after a 3rd place finish in Group A (behind Mexico and Honduras). It’s been kind of up and down for them since then. They lost two of their last three in 2016 before going to the Gold Cup quarterfinals in 2017 (the first time they had advanced past the group stage since 2009). In January of 2018 they made the unprecedented move of naming their women’s national team coach as head coach of the men’s national team. John Herdman had served as the CanWNT coach since 2011, a position in which he won two Olympic bronze medals (London 2012 and Rio 2016) as well as a quarter-final appearance at the 2015 Women’s World Cup on home soil. There was some doubt as to whether his success was due to managerial acumen or due to the fact that Canada, as a first world country, has massive advantages in women’s sports that many countries do not. So far it seems that the former is true. Canada went 4-0-0 (W-L-D) in 2018 under Herdman’s watch: a 1-0 win over New Zealand, an 8-0 win over the US Virgin Islands, a 5-0 win over Dominica, and a 1-0 win over St. Kitts & Nevis.
The year 2019 started out just as well with a 4-1 win over French Guiana. They started the 2019 Gold Cup off with a 4-0 win over Martinique, before Herdman lost his first match, 3-1 at the hands of Mexico (during which he and Tata Martino had an ugly confrontation on the sideline). They bounced back with a resounding 7-0 win over Cuba and qualified for the knockout round for the second straight time. The fun ended there however as they fell 3-2 to Haiti. So far in Nations League play, Canada has swept Cuba: 6-0 in Toronto and 1-0 in the Cayman Islands (Cuba’s home stadium having been deemed unfit to host matches). Their roster for this game features ten players who play in MLS (and eight of those ten players are on one of the three Canadian MLS teams). They do also feature a number of players playing for European clubs. Their captain, Scott Arfield, plies his trade for Scottish giant Rangers. Liam Millar also plays in Scotland with Kilmarnock. Junior Hoilett plays for Cardiff City in the English Championship. But the big name is Alphonso Davies, who started his career with the Vancouver Whitecaps before making a big money move to Bayern Munich in Germany. At the age of just 18, he already has four goals in sixteen appearances for the CanMNT.
1. The US has not lost to Canada since a 2-0 defeat in Vancouver in 1985.
2. The US has held Canada scoreless in their last four meetings. The last time Canada scored against the US was in the 2007 Gold Cup semi-final.
3. This is the first road game for Gregg Berhalter since being appointed US manager. The US is currently on a ten match winless run in games away from US soil. The last win away from home came in October of 2016 in Cuba.
When and where to find the game on US TV
USA leads 14-8-12
Friday, February 5, 2016
Dignity Health Sports Park
USA 1-0 Canada
Current FIFA Ranking
Friday, November 15, 2019
USA vs. Canada