My 3 Thoughts: USMNT 1, Canada 1

Not Winning Home World Cup Qualifiers Is Unacceptable

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NASHVILLE — The USMNT tied Canada 1-1 here on Sunday night in the second match of the 14-match World Cup qualifying campaign. Here are my three thoughts on the game:

Not winning home World Cup qualifiers is unacceptable. The U.S. looked like it had finally gotten things going when Brenden Aaronson scored off Antonee Robinson’s feed in the 56th minute for a 1-0 lead, but Alphonso Davies capped a remarkable individual run (with minimal U.S. resistance) by feeding Cyle Larin for the too-easy equalizer just six minutes later—silencing the home crowd. The U.S. clearly missed Gio Reyna (hamstring injury) and Weston McKennie (suspended for violating Covid protocol), but that’s no excuse for a team that should have plenty of depth to win at home against Canada. Suddenly all the momentum from this summer’s Gold Cup and Nations League victories is gone, replaced by the nagging feeling that yet another World Cup qualifying campaign could be a dogfight for the U.S. just to make it to the big tournament. Getting a win on the road at Honduras this Wednesday just took on a greater importance for a U.S. team that needs something positive to happen in these first three qualifiers.

It wasn’t just the result; the U.S. performance was lacking, too. For the second straight game, the U.S. performance didn’t match the talent on the field. There wasn’t nearly enough width in the American attack, and the tempo was often too slow to create much danger despite the U.S.’s possession advantage. Christian Pulisic played all 90 minutes and drew several fouls, but he’s not back in top form yet and mis-delivered on multiple set-piece opportunities. Jordan Pefok had a big chance to start a World Cup qualifier but didn’t provide much at centerforward. And Sergiño Dest was okay moving forward but struggled defensively before having to go off injured at the end of the first half. At least they were on the field. McKennie getting suspended for violating Covid protocols totally let down his teammates and calls into question what he’s really about. It’s time to stop calling these games “learning experiences.” They’re World Cup qualifiers. On Sunday the U.S. needed to win one, and failed.

The No. 1 U.S. goalkeeper job is Matt Turner’s to lose now. Turner was good for the second straight game and made a terrific save on Larin’s shot in the first half after Dest had blundered in defense. (There was nothing Turner could have done on Larin’s goal for Canada.) There’s a sense of calm when you have Turner in goal; even when Canada threatened, you felt like he would be able to make the save. And that’s what Turner does: He’s a shot-stopper extraordinaire. He’s also excelling and playing full-time at the club level, which isn’t something that either of the other U.S. keepers, Zack Steffen and Ethan Horvath, are doing right now. Steffen, who has been out with back spasms, tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday despite being vaccinated. And even if Steffen can get some games for Man City in cup competition over the next month, it’s hard to imagine him taking the No. 1 spot back from Turner next month.

What are your thoughts on the game? Put them in the comments below. And be sure to come back at 9 am ET for my longer magazine-style story on the game!

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