Well, this feels a bit like deja vu.
The United States Men’s National Team played Canada for second time within a month. For this game, interim coach B.J. Callahan elected to make one swap from the line up that we saw in the 6-0 rout over Trinidad and Tobago, swapping in Julian Gressel for Cristian Roldan. The match started off with a decidedly unusual incident. In the opening seconds, Kamal Miller cleared the ball right next to the endline... and straight into the linesman’s face. The game was suspended for about ten minutes while the referee team first responded to the bleeding, injured linesman.
Once play actually started, the actual game proved a bit tepid, at least at first. Canada essentially forfeited possession and couldn’t get into the US’s final third. On the other hand, the USMNT were often sloppy and slow, missing passes or playing the ball into Canadian defenders while under limited pressure.
Things started to turn after the 30 minute mark.
The US did burst into the box in the 33rd minute through DeJuan Jones, but the resulting corner led to naught. Canada eventually managed to work their way down the USMNT’s right side and got a freekick, but the American defense held firm. The US was able to play out of pressure with a slick little sequence before forcing a foul around the halfway line. After recycling play, the US was able to build back up to attack the Canadian goal in the 38th minute. While they didn’t manage anything that directly troubled St. Clair, they did manage to retain possession. It was clear the young American side was starting to find their grove. Canada tried to disrupt it with a dangerous foul in the 41’ with Lucas Cavallini awarded a yellow card for snagging Sands in the back of his ankle.
Canada’s most threatening moment of the half came in the 47th minute, with Bryan Reynolds misplaying a cross in behind the US backline. The US lucked out and avoided an own goal. The resulting corner got cleared out, but Canada appealed for a handball off of Miles Robinson. As it turned out, the ball did look to hit Robinson’s hand while he flailed it towards the ball. But, upon review, the referee decided that Busio was fouled just moments prior, resulting in a free kick instead of a penalty.
In the 56th minute, the US was able to get into the box off of a free kick, but they could only manage a meek bouncing shot from Ferreira that was easily picked up by St. Clair. The half (finally) ended with a bit of a scrum, with the Americans upset after the referee ignored two consecutive moments at the very end of the half where Canadian players tried to hack down Alejandro Zendejas.
The second half began with the US again dominating on the ball. Jones was able to win a threatening free kick on the left side of the Canadian penalty box, close to the byline. Gressel converted it into a shot on target, but St. Clair punched it away.
Canada continued to resort to hacking down American players, with another yellow awarded in the 56th after Alejandro Zendejas was cut down in midfield. The kick was taken quickly and played down the right side, where Busio was lying in wait. However, there were no runners in the box when Busio’s cross fizzed in.
In the 57th minute, Canada fouled Busio at the very top of the Canadian penalty box, earning Kamal Miller a yellow card. Busio took a shot off the free kick, but the Canadian wall rose to clear it well above the crossbar.
In the 61st minute, the US was able to play down the left side thanks to some slick combination play, particularly from Ferreira. He was able to thread the ball to Zendejas, whose shot was blocked and cleared. The US was able to recover on the quick Canadian attack, but Neal gave away a loose ball in the final third, restarting the Canadian attack. That quickly broke down, but not without giving the US a scare.
In the 68th minute, Gressel put in a cross into the box, but wasn’t able to find an American head to put it on target. The US was able to recover within the box and find Busio, who put in a shot that was well saved by St. Clair. On the restart, the US recovered quickly. Cade Cowell, who came on a few minutes prior for Zendejas, single handedly drove from the midfield into the Canadian final third, but his shot was limp and well wide.
In the 73rd minute, FC Cincinnati players Brandon Vazquez and Matt Miazga came on, to the delight of the local supporters (for Mihailovic and Neal, respectively).
74th minute, Cade Cowell got onto a long ball at the top of the box, but St. Clair calmly swept it into his arms. Just a minute later, Cowell found Vazquez at the top of the box, but Vazquez couldn’t manage to put his shot on target. Vazquez put in another shot in the 77th minute, but Gressel was well offsides in the build up.
Cade Cowell had a shot in the 85th minute after the US forced St. Clair into a sloppy pass out of bounds, but the shot was from way too narrow an angle to actually threaten the goal.
In the 86th minute, the US was able to throw numbers into the box and find Busio wide open on the left. However, the cross was cleared out by the Canadian defense before the ref awarded the defense a foul. Finally, the USMNT found their break through. From deep in midfield, DeJuan Jones put a stunning curling ball that found Brandon Vazquez. Vazquez, playing in his club team’s home stadium, smashed it into the goal.
Things looked sealed, but a second VAR review discovered a second Miles Robinson handball within the penalty box. And this time, the referee pointed at the penalty spot. Steven Vitoria made no mistake and buried the ball into the back of the net. And just like that, back to level. Vazquez managed another headed shot in the 97th minute, but it wasn’t enough to prevent things from slipping into added time.
94th minute, Canada took advantage when the USMNT’s pressure slipped a notch. Canadian substitutes Jacob Shaffelburg combined with Jane Russell-Rowe to create a chance, but Russell-Rowe’s shot whizzed over the bar. Shaffelburg was able to continue to use his speed and fresh legs to blaze past Bryan Reynolds on the US’s right side
In the 96th, the US was able to get back in the attack, but Canada cleared, with Cade Cowell awarded a rather bizarre yellow card for the play.
As the first half of added time wound down, the US was able to get headed shots from Matt Miazga and Busio, but couldn’t break through. Cade Cowell similarly had a shot blocked, forcing a corner. Off of that corner, Matt Miazga managed a headed shot that forced a strong reaction save from St. Clair.
The second part of added time saw no break with the US’s attacking play. Busio immediately got a shot saved after a second ball was played towards Vazquez and the Canadian backline. But Canada got the breakthrough, with Shaffelburg blowing past the US’s team and slipping a ball through Miazga’s legs and past Turner.
The US could continue to push. Jesus Ferreira tried for a headed shot (excuse me?!!) and Cristian Roldan came on for a little more creativity. And then a second American breakthrough came. Matt Turner put a hoping ball into the box, which eventually found Busio. Busio nailed it straight at the keeper who swatted it away... straight into his own defender, and back into goal. Goal, Scott Kennedy, 2-2.
The USMNT continued to push, with a few dangerous corners whipped in by Jesus Ferreira, but couldn’t manage a shot. At the death, Matt Miazga got a yellow card for bungling into the ref, but that wasn’t going to stop the game from going to a penalty shootout.
The Matt Turner and Steven Vitoria fought over the coin toss. Then, the teams fought over where they could stand during the shootout, all while Vitoria stood awkwardly with the ball in his hand. Perhaps that was difference, perhaps it was something else. But either way, Matt Turner swatted that first shot away.
US advantage... which was then thrown away with Brandon Vazquez skying his shot.
Liam Fraser stepped up and drove his shot to the right... and Matt Turner dove to the right, saving the shot.
Cade Cowell stepped up to the spot and smacked the ball straight.
Kamal Miller’s turn, and he makes no mistake, getting Canada on the board on the third attempt.
Gianluca Busio stepped up, cool as a cucumber, and put it in to the top corner, basically a perfect corner.
Jacen Russel-Rowe approached the spot, took a deep breath, and put Turner the wrong way.
Jesus Ferreira took the US’s fourth shot. St. Clair guessed the right way, even got a hand to it, but couldn’t keep the shot out.
Charles-Andreas Brym stepped up for Canada’s fifth penalty kick, with the knowledge that, if he missed, Canada would lose. And then we saw the ball smash off the under side of the cross bar and out of the goal.
The USMNT win, Canada goes home.
Next for the USMNT will be a semifinal v. Panama in San Diego on July 12th.