HAMILTON, Ontario — The USMNT lost to Canada 2-0 in the 10th game of the 14-match World Cup qualifying Octagonal on Sunday, leaving the U.S. with 18 points and Canada in first place with 22. Here are my three thoughts on the game:
• One sequence of U.S. mistakes made the biggest difference. Even though the U.S. had advantages in possession (64% to 36%) and shots (13 to 8), it was a series of preventable U.S. errors that led to Cyle Larin’s seventh-minute goal that ended up being the game-winner. (Sam Adekugbe’s late goal came as the U.S. pushed forward to find an equalizer.) Keeper Matt Turner’s goal kick up the middle went straight to a Canadian player, and the U.S. back line didn’t advance as far forward as it should have. Then Canada went straight up the gut and worked a good one-two while the U.S.’s Miles Robinson stumbled to let Larin in on goal. The coup de grâce was Turner, whose shot-stopping is usually his forte, not doing better to stop Larin’s attempt. And for all the U.S.’s possession in this game, the lack of quality in the final third was striking. The U.S. depends on Christian Pulisic more than anyone else to produce that quality, and it just wasn’t there on Sunday. On a field that was only 70 yards wide, Pulisic made it seem even narrower by continuing to drift in too much centrally instead of staying out wide left before cutting in on the ball. It’s not just on Pulisic, obviously. Surprise center-forward starter Gyasi Zardes didn’t have any good chances on goal—why did U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter not start Ricardo Pepi?—and Brenden Aaronson needed to do better on his terrific shot opportunity in the second half.
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• Scoreless first halves in eight of 10 World Cup qualifiers is a real problem for the USMNT. The U.S. wasn’t terrible in the first half despite giving up Canada’s early goal—it had advantages on possession (63% to 37%), shots (7 to 2) and expected goals (0.38 to 0.33)—but you can’t expect long-term sustainability when you have scored in the first half in just two of 10 World Cup qualifiers. Berhalter has said he isn’t concerned as long as chances are being created, but the U.S. had only one great scoring chance in the first half (Weston McKennie’s corner-kick header that was saved by Milan Borjan). And while Berhalter has had a knack for making smart adjustments at halftime, the preference would be to make the smartest moves before the game has started.
• Wednesday’s home game against Honduras just became even more important. The U.S. had a margin for error heading into this game after beating El Salvador on Thursday while Panama lost, giving the U.S. a four-point advantage on the Panamanians. But you’ve got to win your home games in World Cup qualifying, and that makes Wednesday’s match with Honduras even more crucial. There will be a lot of talk in the coming days about U.S. Soccer choosing to stage the game in temperatures around 0 degrees Fahrenheit in St. Paul. I’ve already said my piece on that topic. But the main thing is simple: You’ve got to win the game. Anything less is unacceptable. As for Canada, they’re the best story in global World Cup qualifying. I think they can actually do something in Qatar too.
What were your thoughts on the game? You can share them in the comments below. Make sure to sign up (free or paid) to get my posts in your inbox, and come back at 9 am ET for my magazine-style story on the game.
The US had a possession/shots advantage BECAUSE they were 1-0 down after 7 minutes. Canada was happy to contain the US, and they did it with ease. The stats are meaningless in the context of the score line. Canada was in control of the score for 83 minutes (plus stoppage time).
There was one decent chance for the US, McKennie's header from a corner. That's weak.
Canada gave us one full Fonz as a head start - good for them!
I believe Zardes has a role on the roster but don’t understand giving him the start. Do you feel Zardes earned more starts?