The United States Men’s National Team closes out Group B with a rivalry match against Canada at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City. Both teams have already secured advancement into the knockout rounds, but a significantly easier path awaits the first-place finisher. The loser of this match would likely have to face Costa Rica and Mexico in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, respectively.
This is the 36th all-time meeting between the two nations, with the USMNT holding a 15-9-11 advantage. Canada recently qualified for the third round of 2022 World Cup qualifying after defeating Haiti, 4-0, on aggregate. In the first two matches of the Gold Cup, Les Rouges claimed six points against Martinique, 4-1, and Haiti, 4-1. Despite calls to save the better players for the third fixture, the same general lineup was used to secure advancement.
Manager John Herdman was hired to the manager position in January of 2018 after a long tenure in charge of the women’s program. The 45-year-old Englishman has benefitted from the emergence of a strong talent base, claiming a 20-4-0 record. He is looking to continue building momentum after the performance during World Cup qualifying, hoping the group will continue to “grow and learn together.”
Canada called in a 23-player squad, split between 14 talents in Major League Soccer and nine competing abroad. Former U.S. international Ayo Akinola accepted a call-up, committing his international future. Lille attacker Jonathan David was not included because of lingering effects from an injury. Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies was held out due to a torn ankle ligament, with Cristián Gutiérrez named as a replacement.
DEFENDERS (6): Alistair Johnston (Nashville SC), Kamal Miller (CF Montréal), Steven Vitória (Moreirense), Frank Sturing (unattached), Doneil Henry (Suwon Samsung Bluewings), Cristián Gutiérrez (Vancouver Whitecaps), Richie Laryea (Toronto FC)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Samuel Piette (CF Montréal), Stephen Eustáquio (Paços de Ferreira), Liam Fraser (Columbus Crew), Mark-Anthony Kaye (Los Angeles FC), Harry Paton (Ross County), Jonathan Osorio (Toronto FC)
FORWARDS (7): Tyler Pasher (Houston Dynamo), Lucas Cavallini (Vancouver Whitecaps), Junior Hoilett (Unattached), Theo Corbeanu (Wolverhampton), Tajon Buchanan (New England Revolution), Cyle Larin (Besiktas), Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC)
Herdman traditionally preferred the 4-3-3 formation but has been experimenting with a lopsided 3-5-2 in recent weeks. The name of the game is “relentless pressure,” causing problems for opponents attempting to play possession through the middle of the field. This is one of the stronger Canadian talent bases in recent memory, centered on a flashy young group of attackers and wide players. With a spot in the knockout rounds already secured, expect some squad rotation and a bit of a mixed lineup.
First-choice goalkeeper Milan Borjan was left off the roster due to Red Star Belgrade’s participation in UEFA Champions League qualifying. Maxime Crépeau is a serviceable back-up, although far less experienced at the international level with a mere eight caps. The 27-year-old Vancouver Whitecap can stare down a barrage of shots and is decently quick when electing to leave his area.
Having started both matches, Moreirense center back Steven Vitória is a towering force on both sides of the field. The veteran is tasked with anchoring the back line, despite some mild criticism of his continued inclusion. With a decade of experience, Doneil Henry should be a familiar name. The 28-year-old Suwon Bluewings player is a physical presence and ball-winner. Kamal Miller has been a favorite of Herdman, capable of playing the hybrid role on the three-man back line. A third start would not be surprising for the high-volume attacker and disruptive nuisance. Frank Sturing, a former Dutch youth international, was added to the program and could also serve as a potential depth option. The Den Bosch defender is calm under pressure and jump-starts the attack with line-splitting passes.
One of the hottest transfer targets in MLS is Tajon Buchanan, a pacey winger that wreaks havoc in the final third. He has stepped up in the absence of Alphonso Davies, moving to the left side of the field. Richie Laryea may be called into the starting lineup again. The 26-year-old Toronto FC defender has a tendency for dribbling, often choosing to carry the ball into the box instead of passing.
Assuming squad rotation, the midfield trio could be the second-choice group. Liam Fraser, currently on loan at Columbus Crew SC, is one of the better passers in MLS, always looking to play long balls. His partner in the double pivot, Samuel Piette, has earned 53 caps with Canada. The CF Montréal player provides leadership on the field and is a decent tackler. Currently a free agent following half a decade at Cardiff City, Junior Hoilett started the first match against Martinique. He’s a tricky, creative player that will find open space in the final third, winning an astonishing amount of headers for a shorter player.
Having recently switched over from the U.S. setup, Akinola could play against the former team. The versatile 21-year-old attacker moves quickly with the ball and can be quite the composed one-touch finisher. Vancouver Whitecaps striker Lucas Cavallini is a volume finisher for Canada, scoring 16 times in 23 caps, most coming in multi-goal performances. He knows how to free up space in the final third, a clever two-footed player with an innate understanding of movement and positioning.
This is a Canada program on the rise, one that could push into the top tier of CONCACAF over the next decade. The defense remains a work in progress, a weakness that cannot be overcome by an excellent platoon of attacking talent. The depth of the USMNT will be tested, but, on paper, this should still be three points for Berhalter’s side.
The match is scheduled for Sunday, July 18th at 5:00 p.m. Eastern, 2:00 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include FOX, TUDN, Univision, and FUBO TV (free trial).