Is Canada the favourite going into Friday’s CONCACAF Nations League League match versus the U.S. in Orlando?
Last month, Canada earned a historic 2-0 decision over the U.S. in Toronto, the team’s first victory over the Americans in 34 years. Canada is top of the group with nine points, six ahead of the U.S. (three points) and out of reach from pointless Cuba.
A victory or a draw on Friday by the Canadians, who have played one extra game than the Americans, would see them win the group and advance to next summer’s Nations League finals, bringing with it additional competitive matches crucial to maintaining a spot in “the Hex” for 2022 World Cup qualifying.
Can they do it again? If they do, here are some important factors that will need to be addressed…
Winning the ball high up the pitch was key to Canada’s win last month.
A 4-2-2-2 system saw Jonathan Osorio and Scott Arfield, behind Samuel Piette and Mark-Anthony Kaye, put the American midfield under all sorts of pressure. As covered on the Centre Circle LIVE! podcast this week, earning possession where Canada did on the pitch meant they didn’t need a hold-up or distribution option such as Lucas Cavallini. Instead, Canada could search for the piercing, line-breaking ball from their creative players to their forwards.
Look back to the opening goal. Arfield’s silky smooth poke-and-steal sent the U.S. going backwards, with only a handful of defenders back to defend. If Canada can get this weakened American side pinned like this again, watch out.
U.S. on the back foot
It’s no secret this U.S. team is a wounded one.
Who’s missing? Defensive midfield stalwart Michael Bradley and promising attacking winger Christian Pulisic – two big pieces for counteracting exactly what was mentioned above.
Wil Trapp will likely replace Bradley, leaving Weston McKennie and Christain Roldan in the middle. But without Pulisic, the side is missing a key attacking outlet in a match where they need to score in order to win and keep alive their chances of topping the group.
Mentally, the pleasure is all on the Americans, including coach Gregg Berhalter, something John Herdman has acknowledged.
“We have bigger motivations than anything that can be said down south,” Herdman told reporters late last week. “Our motivation is to win (our group) with one reason in mind: to qualify for the Hex which will take us to the World Cup.”
Davies-David the in-form dangermen
If this Canadian team has taught us anything it’s that the kids are good. Not just alright. Better than that.
Alphonso Davies is the one to watch Friday after starting four straight matches for Bayern Munich, including his first start in the UEFA Champions League. He was influential in Bayern’s 4-0 dismantling of Borussia Dortmund, too, roasting Jadon Sancho at left fullback.
Then there’s Jonathan David, Davies’ strike partner in last month’s U.S. tilt. The 19-year-old scored in back-to-back league matches (season total of eight) for KAA Gent before joining the Canada squad in Florida. David has played every minute of the Belgian side’s group-topping Europa League performance this year, potting two goals.
Canada’s dangermen are coming in at the right time against a tough opponent. Certainly a good omen.
Don’t forget: Playing in the U.S. is difficult
It’s been difficult for the Reds to win on the road against the U.S. – something Canada supporters should keep in mind
The U.S. is 14-1-3 in competitive games at home since the last “Hex” rolled around in 2019; two losses to Mexico, and one to Costa Rica.
Oh, you thought Canada’s 34-year drought against the U.S. was rough? Well, Canada hasn’t beaten the U.S. on American soil in a competitive game since … 1957. Does anyone remember the 1958 World Cup qualifying cycle? No?
Not to damper expectations, of course, but it’s an advantage worth noting for the U.S. – and a road win is a rare feat for Concacaf nations against the Americans.
Could another big Canada win be in the cards? We’ll see on Friday.