Sandor: Americans could find new soccer rival in CanMNT

Admit it. It’s OK. It’s not like they won’t let you go on your Hawaiian vacation because of it.

The second you found out that the Americans had failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, thanks to a loss to already-eliminated Trinidad and Tobago, you did a happy dance. You may have told all your American friends you felt bad for them, but, really, you didn’t. Not at all.

That feeling is what the experts call schadenfreude, when you take pleasure in the misery of others.

But, watching the Americans crash and burn in their bid to qualify for the 2018 World Cup revealed everything that’s been wrong in Canadian soccer for the previous three decades. When it comes to men’s soccer, Canadians can’t really celebrate any triumphs over the Americans on the field. The best we can do is celebrate when other teams do it for us.

Could that all be about to change, though? Wednesday’s CONCACAF Nations League draw saw the Canadian national side drawn into Pool A with the U.S. and Cuba. That means coach John Herdman and his crew of young players will get a chance to do what many generations of Canadian players who have come before have failed to do — give the Americans a CONCACAF archrival other than Mexico.

(L to R) Jonathan David, Atiba Hutchinson and Lucas Cavallini celebrate a goal during Nations League qualifying. (Canada Soccer)
(L to R) Jonathan David, Atiba Hutchinson and Lucas Cavallini celebrate a goal during Nations League qualifying. (Canada Soccer)

Truth is, in men’s soccer, we don’t really have a recent soccer history of note when it comes to the Americans.

Because of early exits at Gold Cups and failures to get to the final stage of World Cup qualifying, the Canadians haven’t faced the Americans all that often. Only nine times over the previous 17 years. And, in those nine games, Canada has zero wins and scored only once.

The goal-scorer? Iain Hume.

And that came in maybe the only truly fiery men’s game the two countries have contested in the 21st century. That came in a 2007 Gold Cup semifinal, which Canada lost 2-1. Canada roared back from a 2-0 deficit and, pretty well everyone in Chicago’s Soldier Field (and watching on TV) thought that Atiba Hutchinson’s late effort had tied the game. But Hutchinson, despite replay after replay showing otherwise, was ruled offside.

The #AtibaWasOnside game is so ingrained in the lore of Canadian soccer, that fans on this side of the border were using that hashtag to taunt the Americans when they failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup .

But, the Nations League is an opportunity to turn that around. Maybe Hutchinson will hang around long enough to play against the Americans a couple of more times. And, with young players like Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David, we’ll be actually be able to change the subject when our American friends go on about “Christian Pusilic this” and “Christian Pusilic that.” With a striker like Lucas Cavallini, who has experience scoring goals in Liga MX, Canada has a legitimate threat who understands CONCACAF pressure games.

Canadian supporters at Vancouver's BC Place. (Canada Soccer)
Canadian supporters at Vancouver’s BC Place. (Canada Soccer)

And, would it be too much to ask that, when Canada plays its road game in the United States, that we can gather up enough of our travelling fans and expats to paint the stadium red?

Ryan Reynolds, I’m looking at you. Get on that. I mean, we all saw that Canada soccer jersey in that Deadpool commercial.