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USA-Canada preview: USMNT needs maximum points

The first World Cup Qualifying game for the USMNT since the debacle against Trinidad & Tobago was somewhat anticlimactic. A thunderous rendition of the El Salvador national anthem created an electric atmosphere which gave way to a game that saw very few clear-cut chances for either team. In the end it finished 0-0 with each team earning a point. The result and performance left US fans split. Half thought it was not a good result and it’s time to hit the panic button. But the modus operandi for the US in World Cup Qualifying has always been to steal points whenever possible on the road and to take care of business at home. The US got a point on the road and it’s time to start taking care of business at home as they return to Nashville to take on Canada.

Thursday’s game against El Salvador may have been a small disappointment as it snapped the US’ nine game winning streak, but there are several caveats. Most notably neither Christian Pulisic and Zack Steffen were present as they had been left behind in Nashville to ensure maximum fitness for the Canada game on Sunday. It should also be noted that while the win streak may have ended, the unbeaten streak now stands at 10 games (and 19 of the last 20). But the biggest takeaway from Thursday’s round of qualifying is that while the US did not gather all three points, neither did any of the other teams in the Octagonal, save for Mexico. On top of that, the US was poor on the road during the last cycle. Of the eight games played on the road on the dead-end road to Russia 2018, the US won just one of them and lost four of them. What really sunk the US in that campaign was the pair of home losses to Mexico and Costa Rica. To avoid another qualifying disaster, they need to get maximum points at home. That process starts on Sunday against Canada.

Similar to El Salvador, Canada has been resurgent of late. The appointment of John Herdman as manager caused some eyebrows to be raised as he was brought over from the Canadian women’s team. But after it’s been mostly positive results under his watch for Les Rouges. A 4-0-0 record in 2018 led into a 2019 that saw Canada make it to the quarter-finals of the Gold Cup and then beat the US in the Nations League (the first Canada win against the US since the 1980’s). This year Canada got off to a red-hot start as they won all six World Cup Qualifying games, though the opponents left much to be desired: Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Aruba, Suriname, and Haiti. They followed those six straight wins up with two wins to start their Gold Cup campaign before dropping the final group game to the US (in which Shaq Moore scored less than a minute into the game). They beat Costa Rica in the quarter-finals before falling to Mexico in the 8th minute of stoppage time in the semis. In their first game of the Octagonal on Thursday they fell behind to Honduras in the first half before fighting back to earn a draw through a Cyle Larin penalty in the 66th minute. The roster for this round of qualifiers is about as good as it’s ever been for Canada. The superstar of the group is 20-year old defender Alphonso Davies of Bayern Munich but they also have Larin (19 goals in 41 caps) and 22-year old Tajon Buchanan is a budding star with the New England Revolution.

1. After Thursday’s game the US has still never lost to El Salvador.
2. The US comes into Sunday’s game against Canada having not given up a goal in the last five games (and having only given up one goal in the last eight games)

When and where to watch the game on US TV and streaming
Sunday, September 5, 2021
Nissan Stadium
Nashville, Tennessee
8pm ET
Live on FS1, UniMas, TUDN and fuboTV

All-Time Series
USA leads 16-9-12

Last Meeting
Sunday, July 18, 2021
Children’s Mercy Park
Kansas City, Kansas
USA 1-0 Canada

Current FIFA Ranking
USA: 10
Canada: 59

Next Game
Wednesday, September 8, 2021
World Cup Qualifying
Honduras vs. USA
Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano
San Pedro Sula, Honduras
10:30pm ET
Live on Paramount+ and NBC Universo

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