The United States Men’s National Team enter tomorrow’s CONCACAF Nations League match against Canada with their backs against the wall. Nothing less than a win is acceptable in their quest to get 6 points and a +4 goal differential from this window to win the group and advance to the Nations League Playoffs. Will they get the win they desire? Or, will an upstart Canada once again outplay them, this time on American soil, to win the group and leave the USMNT wondering where to go from here?
L (0-2) - Canada - CONCACAF Nations League Group A
W (7-0) - Cuba - CONCACAF Nations League Group A
D (1-1) - Uruguay - Friendly
L (0-3) - Mexico - Friendly
L (0-1) - Mexico - Gold Cup Final
W (2-0) - United States - CONCACAF Nations League Group A
W (1-0) - Cuba - CONCACAF Nations League Group A
W (6-0) - Cuba - CONCACAF Nations League Group A
L (2-3) - Haiti - Gold Cup Quarterfinals
W(7-0) - Cuba - Gold Cup Group A
What to watch for
Fire and passion. On October 15th in Toronto, Canada had it and the USMNT didn’t. A month later in Orlando, the USMNT must have all of the fire and bring it out in their play. They can’t be lacking in this department, because to get back to the basics of doing what American soccer was once known for, that fire and passion must be present all over the field and on the bench. If the team wants to reinspire the fans and make them believe that they can do this, that fire and passion must be at level 1,000,000 from the time they step on the field for warmups.
Grit and determination. On October 15th in Toronto, Canada had it and the USMNT didn’t. This is what American soccer’s reputation was based on, and the USMNT must bring it back tomorrow in Orlando. They should be attacking the Canadian defense, winning every 50/50 ball, fighting to keep the ball out of their defensive third, and leaving it all on the field. There can be no quit. They can’t give up. The grit and determination of the USMNT must resurface tomorrow night. Canada’s going to have it, so we can’t just match it. We need to exceed it exponentially.
Execution. You’ve probably heard this before, but on October 15th in Toronto, Canada had it and the USMNT didn’t. The USMNT won’t have their best player on the field, so they’re going to have to really execute their game plan without failure if they want to win. Passes need to be crisp, through balls on point, crosses should have precision, and shots should be on frame and with purpose. The USMNT will need to not just win, but also score some goals in the process. Execution is the key to that.
USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter is missing his best player (Christian Pulisic) and his #1 goalkeeper (Zack Steffen), so who does he turn to in order to provide the offensive attack and bring the energy that is necessary to get the win? Fans should expect his lineup to look similar to his previous ones, but with just a couple of additions:
With Zack Steffen out, Brad Guzan will get the start in goal for the USMNT. His backline will see the return of Sergiño Dest and John Brooks to the lineup, with Tim Ream occupying his natural position of centerback and DeAndre Yedlin at right back.
In the middle, Berhalter will opt to have Alfredo Morales in the center to have more purposeful possession and to have another guy there that will fight to keep the attack moving forward. Weston McKennie will be on the left doing the same thing, while Sebastian Lletget replaces Christian Pulisic on the right.
Up front, Paul Arriola will once again hold down the left wing, while Jordan Morris will do the same on the right. Josh Sargent will be the striker up front, but each of those three will be called upon to send shots flying at the goal and finish scoring opportunities.
This is going to be a match where fans will have to wait quite a while to see some fireworks. The defense will be much better, but the offensive chances will go lacking. A Josh Sargent goal in the 65th minute will prove to be the difference in a 1-0 USMNT victory, leaving the match against Cuba as an important match not just for points, but for goal differential.