CanMNT’s Herdman on USA draw: ‘This is a talented squad desperate to go to a FIFA World Cup’

The Canadian men’s national team drew 1-1 with the United States in their second match of the Octagonal stage of World Cup Qualifying on Sunday night, as a tap in from Cyle Larin just after the hour mark cancelled out a goal from Brenden Aaronson.

After the 2019 win over the United States at BMO Field, and coming agonizingly close to picking up big results against the States and Mexico at the recent Gold Cup, Canada believed they can beat any team in Concacaf, and on Sunday night that was no different.

Canada were solid defensively, and had several chances to win the match after equalizing, but ultimately had to settle for a second consecutive draw. There were a couple of instances where Canada would play a low cross into the box, but nobody was able to run onto it for a shot at goal from close range — chances that may have won Canada the match had they been converted.

“We’re content, but not happy,” Canada head coach John Herdman said after the match. “When those opportunities present themselves, there were three points staring us in the face. As we get better, as this team keeps improving, I think we’ll take those moments in tough places like this.

“I think the lads will come away content, but there will be that little irk there tonight when we’re trying to switch off that it could’ve been three.”

While slightly frustrated about the result, Herdman still seemed the happier of the two managers after the match. His side were content with a draw, but United States head coach Gregg Berhalter was not.

“[We’re] disappointed with the performance, the performance wasn’t up to what we expect,” he said after the match. “Keeping it in perspective, we knew it was going to be a difficult road, we knew there were going to be tough games, and we’re getting into it — we’re finding out that there are tough games, that’s something that we have to deal with.

“Our success is going to depend on how we deal with that as a team. There’s ups and downs, and bumps in the road, we just have to keep responding when we’re called on.”

Berhalter called on his side to bounce back in their next match in Honduras on Wednesday.

“We can do two things. We can feel bad for ourselves, or we can continue on with a positive attitude and try to get a positive result in Honduras, which we’re gonna do.”

His side finished the match with over 70% possession, but that didn’t reflect the scoreline, or the chance-creation. Both sides had two shots on target in the match, and both scored on tap-ins from right in front of the goal.

Herdman’s side played with an intensity that he expects from his team, an intensity that they will need to keep up for the remaining 12 World Cup Qualifiers.

“I asked for heart. I asked for each man to bring a level of intensity and to show they’re brothers,” said Herdman. “We had to make sure the USA never got comfortable. I think we were able to control without the ball a lot of the game.

“Game by game we’re getting tighter, and getting more chemistry. We’re showing that this is a talented squad from one through 23 that are desperate to go to a FIFA World Cup. This is a tough grind. Every game is an absolute battle. It’s like a 14-game war that we’re going through.”

Canadian left back Sam Adekugbe was also pleased with his side’s performance, but acknowledged that they perhaps should have had a more favourable result.

“We were tactically sound, we knew what our game plan was coming into the match, and we think we executed it well,” said Adekugbe. “We thought we could have got the three points tonight and are disappointed not to get them.

“We will take this point, but that’s not the mentality of this group. We felt we had the better chances. I think the national anthem and the way that we sing, it shows the passion that we bring to the field.”

American attacker Christian Pulisic admitted that his team were unable to break down a resolute Canadian backline on the night, and ran out of ideas at times on how to break them down.

“We didn’t test them enough, whether it was not being direct enough, or I’m not sure,” he said. “We couldn’t break them down.”

That was part of Canada’s gameplan, according to Herdman — who said that Canada looked at what the Americans were saying in the media about their tactics, and set up their side accordingly.

“We analyzed the media, we analyze what was being said from the US camp, trying to understand their psychology coming into this game and what was said about needing to score goals,” he said. “For us it was: can we nullify those things?”

Canada turn their focus to El Salvador next, who they will play on Wednesday night at BMO Field in round three of this “Octagonal” World Cup Qualifying cycle.