The last time that Canada and the USA faced off it was in the Nations League following a shocking loss in Toronto for the Americans. That was followed up by a turnaround victory at home and eventually the USA went on to claim the title of best team in Concacaf as far as the Nations League goes.
Both teams are a few years wiser and more experienced with Canada even growing a bonafide Golden Generation since the last meeting. Alas, that wisdom was woefully absent from the USA in the game. After a first minute goal, the Stars and Stripes struggled mightily against what was not even a strong press from Canada to do much of anything to organize the midfield. This was an obvious problem through the first half and was never addressed as the game went on. Luckily, the defense did enough to hold on in a performance that was eerily similar to the poor showing against Haiti.
The USA lined up in a 3-4-3ish 3-5-2ey thing because if you don’t have wingers, just use wingbacks.
ALL ABOUT THE THREE POINTS!— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) July 18, 2021
Here's YOUR #USMNT Starting XI for today’s Group B decider vs. .
LINEUP NOTES: https://t.co/VrRCBhzu6o #USAvCAN | #GoldCup21 pic.twitter.com/FYzlJXrj4G
Meanwhile, Canada sent out their first line in a similar setup with three central defensemen, two winger defensemen, three centers and two forwards.
Starting XI— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) July 18, 2021
: Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City
⏰: 17.00 ET | 14.00 PT
#️⃣: #CANMNT #GoldCup21 pic.twitter.com/32hXsgY8RG
Not many gifs of highlights and pithy comments about the game
Suffice it to say, that escalated quickly. The USA scored in less time that it’s taking me to write this sentence thanks to some really pretty passing inside the 18 leading to a Shaq “Joe Max” Moor goal set up by Sebastian Lletget.
Twenty seconds in, and the USMNT lead Canada 1-0— B/R Football (@brfootball) July 18, 2021
( : @FOXSoccer)pic.twitter.com/vSi0RqGGQC
With the first goal settled, Canada searched for an equalizer while the US had the luxury of trying to exploit their mistakes. Gregg Berhalter was forced to go to his bench early when Walker Zimmerman sustained an injury in the 15th minute and couldn’t continue, being replaced by Donovan Pines. After scoring the US looked very comfortable with the lead, complacent even, you might even say they would be devoid of ideas for how to score again and unable to play through the midfield.
As far as the rest of the half... it was a hot afternoon in Kansas City and between that and the US already having a lead, neither side really put together anything threatening. Though, Canada did have a penalty shout that went uncalled.
The American midfield was especially troublesome with Acosta, Busio, and Lletget having difficulty moving the ball past the sticky, thick, (do you know where I’m going with this yet), sweet, (yeah, I’m going to do it), maple syrup-like Canadian defense.
In fact, the Americans defenders were the true high point of the first 45 with Sam Vines breaking up attacks on the left and Pines filling in adeptly for Zimmerman.
With the start of the second half, the USA switched to... no they didn’t switch to anything, in fact it was still bad and the team, if anything, just tried going over the top more rather than work through midfield and this recap began starting to make curling jokes, lucky you.
Aside from Miles Robinson stuffing Tajon Buchanan on a one v. one and stopping him from from getting to the hog line and doing something dangerous, there weren’t many highlights. The tedium trudged on and the USMNT midfield didn’t do anything to fix the things it wasn’t doing in the first half. Naturally, Gregg Berhalter saw this and went to his bench to bring in Reggie Cannon for Moor.
I tweeted a tweet about the midfield.
For all my griping about the USA's midfield play the bench is Roldan, Williamson, and Yueill - these are fresher but not exactly huge upgrades to what's on the field right now— Parker's substack - fyrealexilalas.substack.com (@AekprrAcdeellnv) July 18, 2021
With the exception of Yueill, who - no thanks, the bench options were basically one for one replacements for Lletget and Acosta, still Berhalter could have even abandoned his 5-3-2 and opted for a 3-5-1 or even just pushed Sands into midfield and played a 4-4-2... Sadly, this isn’t Football Manager and what I push on my keyboard didn’t do anything to help in this game.
Then there were a bunch of subs.
74' | #USMNT Subs:— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) July 18, 2021
➡️ Jackson Yueill, Matthew Hoppe, Cristian Roldan
⬅️ Gianluca Busio, Kellyn Acosta, Gyasi Zardes
1-0 | x | #USAvCAN
That didn’t change much, it was still pretty hard to watch the game. As the match wound down, it was clear that the Stars and Stripes were fully out of ideas and would just try to hold onto a win and hope that Tajon Buchanan didn’t do a madness and get the draw that Canada arguably deserved. In the end, the guards that the USMNT arranged around the house kept the Reds from dislodging their shot rock.