After a hard fought but underwhelming 0-0 draw in San Salvador, the USA took on Canada looking for the first win of the hex mas dos. The Americans responded by once again not playing well enough against a lesser opponent and getting yet another underwhelming draw. Worse still, this one came at home.
When the rosters came out news followed that the team would have to find three points without Gio Reyna and Weston McKennie. GR7 suffered a hamstring injury against El Salvador and Weston McKennie was out due to violating the team’s Covid policy. McKennie seems to get suspended for Covid protocol violations as often as Josh Sargent scores a goal. Speaking of, Jordan Pefok started up top with Kellyn Acosta taking over for McKennie and Sebastian Lletget starting in central midfield with Brenden Aaronson playing for Reyna.
Canada lined up in a 5-4-1 essentially setting the tone for the opening of the game. This seemed to have “tricky fixture” written all over it as Canada has a good keeper, solid back line, maybe the best player in the region and a manager used to having to try to hold it together against an onslaught from a US side more talented than his.
Would the American attack once again be frustrated by a defensive minded team just hoping to do enough to disrupt the attack and not lose, or would the US put it together? In the end, Canada pulled off a classic strategy that every Canadian who has ever faced a bear or moose or something knows - play dead and then spring your attack. And... it worked.
Look, I don’t like typing out what happens in the games, usually it means it’s not good because I’m giving detail about why it’s not good rather than showing little movies about good things happening - so here’s lots of words
Canada lined up in a way that was hard to play against. The team sat in a low block and waited. They kicked Pulisic, give the US all the possession and dared the home side to break them down while hoping to do something good on the counter.
Good things happened for them on the counter. In the 15th minute a long ball found Alphonso Davies who ran past Sergino Dest like he wasn’t there and nearly set up a goal for the Canucks except for a fantastic save by Matt Turner on what was probably a shot with a .9 xG or whatever.
The US kept searching for a seam in the Canada defense and the team dressed as undertakers did not oblige, though Scott Kennedy did almost score a fantastic own goal.
In the 40th minute, the US had their best scoring chance that wasn’t created by Scott Kennedy when when Lletget scooted a ball to Aaronson, the winger sent a ball to the top of the 6 yard box, but the shot from Pulisic hit the post.
Following the chance, Dest came off with an apparent foot injury for DeAndre Yedlin. This would perhaps be a nice chance for the Stars and Stripes as Dest seemed to fall right into Canada’s trap of - it’s easy to score against us, just dribble past 6 guys in the 18, while Yedlin is a bit more well suited to trying to work chances from out wide.
I mentioned the second half against El Salvador being the same as the first but harder and faster... the second half against Canada started like that too, except Canada starting coming forward more and the USA did not expect it and wasn’t ready... Except that it opened a lot of space in the back and Aaronson scored a goal.
Let’s hear how it sounded in Canadian:
Aaronson gives USA the 1-0 lead 54 minutes in. pic.twitter.com/kl90egV7V7— TSN (@TSN_Sports) September 6, 2021
Sadly Canada scored not long after when a former Whitecaps player set up a former Orlando City player for the equalizer. Let’s hear how it sounded in American:
And just like that Canada ties it!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) September 6, 2021
Davies finds Larin to level the score in Nashville pic.twitter.com/H7y6tFj7Xj
The Yedlin sub did not in fact turn out that well for the USA.
With Canada once again level they went to the bench to bring on Jonathan David for Cyle Larin and Tajon Buchanan entering for Junior Hoilett. Davies would come off about 10 minutes later for Jonathan Osorio when Atiba Hutchinson entered for Mark-Anthony Kaye. Almost immediately Buchanan began working down the right side and sent a cross into the zone of uncertainty, or as it’s referred to in this match, the longest undefended border in the world.
Needing a goal, at home against a team made up of players in MLS or on the fringes of European soccer the US went to the bench for the first non-injury subs of the night in the 83rd minute when Aaronson, Lletget, and Pefok came off for Konrad, Cristian Roldan, and Josh Sargent. For the remaineder of the match, the USA failed to create much of anything that would bother the Canadian defense and Canada even sent another ball through the longest undefended border in the world again. Neither team broke the deadlock and it ended 1-1.
It is inherently difficult to break teams down in a low block. If it wasn’t weaker teams wouldn’t use the tactic to try and level the playing field against more talented sides. It’s pretty predictable that Canada would play like this at the start, but the US really didn’t look to have any ideas outside of keep running it into the 8 defenders in the box and see if something good happens. More odd still, when Canada began going forward, the Americans were caught completely off guard. Eventually they got a goal, but it was clear that Canada would keep pushing forward and the US couldn’t respond either by attacking with possession or tightening up defensively. Once that weakness was shown, John Herdman essentially took the breaks off his team and let them hit the gas whenever they wanted.
It all added up to a game where Gregg Berhalter was out coached and the individual talent on the field wasn’t enough to stop the team from being embarrassed at home.