TORONTO, Canada—The Canadian men’s national team put in a strong performance Sunday afternoon in Kansas City, however, it was the United States emerging victorious, as the home side would take Group B after defeating Canada by a score of 1-0.
With both sides fielding a mixed team of starters and depth pieces, the game was a good measuring stick for Canada (2-1-0), who have been dominated historically by the States (3-0-0) in past competitive fixtures.
Needing just a tie to secure top spot in Group B, it was the worst start possible for John Herdman’s side. Before you could even blink, the home side would take the lead, as right off the kickoff, the ball was eventually played out wide by the States, and crossed into the middle where Shaq Moore would open the scoring—just 20 seconds into the match. A picture-perfect start for the States.
Things went from bad to worse for Canada quickly, as it appeared that Richie Laryea was taken down in the box by Nashville SC defender Walker Zimmerman, but no decision was given by the referee.
That no-call had many Canadian soccer fans upset, including Alphonso Davies, as it really appeared as though Zimmerman made no attempt at playing the ball, hauling down Laryea while he was falling to the ground.
Laryea would stay down injured for a few minutes following the play, but he was able to shake it off and play out the rest of the match. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for fellow Toronto FC teammate Ayo Akinola.
In the 18th minute, Akinola appeared to tweak his knee, going down in obvious pain, beating his hand against the ground in clear discomfort. After receiving treatment, Akinola—who was making his first career start for Canada against the nation he turned down—surprisingly managed to walk off on his own and even tried to play through the injury. However, two minutes later, Akinola would go down again, signalling the end of his afternoon early.
Jonathan Osorio would come on for the attacker, and the team shifted back into its familiar 3-5-2 formation that has worked so well this tournament. From that point on, Canada would dictate play. And although they had a strong finish to the half, including a spell of great possession that lasted almost 10 minutes, the team would have nothing to show for it heading into the break, with the US still leading by one and in pole position to finish atop Group B.
A positive sign for the Canadians is that they would keep their foot on the gas pedal in the second half. Two quick chances orchestrated by in-form striker Cyle Larin kept the pressure on the US, who were playing a stingy low-block that was ever-so-difficult to break down.
In the 60th minute, the injury bug continued to haunt Canada as Larin would go down injured. He’d leave the match with Lucas Cavallini checking into the game, leaving the status of Canada’s leading scorer up in the air for the rest of the tournament.
Shifting back to the game, Canada, who out-possessed the US 55 per cent to 45 per cent on the evening, controlled the tempo the rest of the way, pushing more attackers forward and quickly putting out fires at the back before any sign of real danger.
By the 65th minute, the visitors took the life out of a rather lively home crowd, a testament to just how strong of a performance the Canadians put in this afternoon.
Canada’s best chance came in the 79th minute when Tajon Buchanan found himself in a 1v1 on the left wing. The New England Revolution wingback would cut in onto his right foot, and wrap his foot around the ball, hoping to find the far post. Much to his despise, the ball would go just inches wide of fellow Revs teammate Matt Turner’s goal, as the New England keeper looked beaten on the play.
Canada would keep the pressure on the rest of the way, but never really threatened the US goal. When all was said and done, the game would end 1-0, with the opening 30 seconds being the difference. Safe to say, the final score line did not reflect the overall feel of that match.
“I think there’s pride in the effort from the guys as they showed some good adaptability, but we’re disappointed because there was a big chance to beat the US in their home and go top of Group B,” said Herdman, Men’s National Team Head Coach in a press release. “We have seven days until the quarters, so we’ll recoup and get these boys ready for whatever opponent comes next.”
John Herdman: "I'm pissed with the result, but happy with the performance." #CanMNT— Joshua Kloke (@joshuakloke) July 18, 2021
“We played a good game,” added Laryea. “I thought we got into dangerous places and we should have capitalized on some of our opportunities, but, after going down so early I think we fought very well and we created a lot of opportunities for ourselves.”
For a team that has never beaten the US on home soil nor in the Gold Cup, Les Rouges can hold their heads high after this one and feel confident heading into the quarter-finals of this competition.
They’ll take on the winner of Costa Rica and Jamaica, who play later Sunday evening. That win-or-go-home match will take place in one week’s time, on Sunday July 25 at 7 pm ET.