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USA vs. Canada, 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal: Scouting Canada

The USMNT faces the neighbor to the north for the second time in less than a month.

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Canada v Cuba: Group D - 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images

As predicted, the United States Men’s National Team claimed first place in Group A based on goal differential at the 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup, advancing to the knockout stage. After overcoming an opening hiccup draw against Jamaica, interim manager BJ Callaghan led his squad to consecutive 6-0 victories over Saint Kitts & Nevis and Trinidad & Tobago. The quarterfinal round opponent is none other than Canada, a sooner-than-expected meeting between the rivals that was penciled in for the tournament’s conclusion. The match is scheduled for TQL Stadium, a 26,000-seat soccer-specific stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio that opened in May of 2021.

This is the 40th all-time meeting between the two nations, with the USMNT holding a 17-10-12 advantage and claiming the most recent duel in the final of last month’s CONCACAF Nations League. Ranked 45th internationally by FIFA, Canada qualified for the Gold Cup by finishing atop League A Group C in the Nations League with a 3-1-0 record, requiring a 4-1 victory over Honduras on the final match day. In the current competition, the Canucks endured a somewhat rough run in Group C, opening with consecutive draws against Guadeloupe (2-2) and Guatemala (0-0) before clinching second place with a 4-2 win over a Cuba side weakened by multiple defections.

The team continues to be led by John Herdman, the 47-year-old Englishman who was appointed in January of 2018. The “mad genius” has compiled a 36-14-7 record during his tenure and led the program to new heights, including the “first men’s international final in 23 years.” He is under contract through the 2026 World Cup, at which Canada will serve as a co-host.

Herdman named an initial 23-player roster for the Gold Cup, an experimental group that features several members of the A-squad and seven previously uncapped internationals but lacks some of the biggest stars. Stephen Eustáquio and Samuel Adekugbe were initially expected to compete but were replaced by Jayden Nelson and Liam Fraser. Ten of the inclusions compete in Major League Soccer, while another 10 are based at European clubs. Goalkeeper Milan Borjan was ruled out following the second group-stage match with an “undisclosed injury.”


GOALKEEPERS (2): Dayne St. Clair (Minnesota United), Tom McGill (Brighton & Hove Albion)

DEFENDERS (9): Zachary Brault-Guillard (CF Montréal), Kamal Miller (Inter Miami), Steven Vitória (Chaves), Dominick Zator (Korona Kielce), Moïse Bombito (Colorado Rapids), Zac McGraw (Portland Timbers), Ali Ahmed (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Richie Laryea (Toronto FC), Scott Kennedy (Jahn Regensburg)

MIDFIELDERS (5): Liam Fraser (Deinze), David Wotherspoon (Unattached), Liam Millar (Basel), Victor Loturi (Ross County), Jonathan Osorio (Toronto FC)

FORWARDS (6): Jayden Nelson (Rosenborg), Lucas Cavallini (Tijuana), Junior Hoilett (Reading), Jacob Shaffelburg (Nashville SC), Jacen Russell-Rowe (Columbus Crew), Charles-Andreas Brym (FC Eindhoven)


Herdman alternates between 4-4-2, 3-4-3, and 3-5-2 formations and has stuck with the traditional three-player back line at the Gold Cup. While deploying athletic players, Canada never engages in an “all-out” push forward, as maintaining the overall team shape is considered a priority. According to Total Football Analysis, the second-striker serves as a creator and “looks to exploit space between the lines” while freeing up the wingers. As of late, the back line has been described as a problem area, notably when dealing with set pieces, long balls, and pacier attackers.

Projected Canada Starting XI (via

With Borjan out, Dayne St. Clair stepped in for the third group-stage match, perhaps cementing his role as the country’s heir apparent. The 26-year-old assumed the starting role at Minnesota United last season, earning an MLS All-Star Game selection and claiming the showcase’s Most Valuable Player Award. He “enjoys” one-versus-one situations and uses his 6’3” size to “close down angles,” utilizing his agility to surprise attackers by appearing in their space. His typical behavior is to stay on the line instead of coming out to handle crosses, while distribution is considered a work in progress.

Perhaps the most valuable asset on the three-player back line is Kamal Miller of Inter Miami, a defender who mixes technique, pace, and strength to shut down all manner of attackers. The 26-year-old takes an active role in the build-up with his aggressive passing and occasional chance creation. Patrolling the center of the box is the towering presence of Steven Vitória, who is always looming as a threat to win headers or lodge his long limbs in for a tackle. He completed a surprisingly productive season with Chaves in Portugal’s Primeira Liga with eight goals in 33 combined appearances, serving as both target and taker on set pieces. Completing the trio is program newcomer Moïse Bombito, a tall Montréalais on a rocket’s trajectory over the past few years – a journey that includes brief stops at Iowa Western Community College and the University of New Hampshire before being drafted third overall by the Colorado Rapids in the 2023 MLS SuperDraft. Burgundy Wave describes him as possessing a “variety of skills” while being dangerous in the final third and “comfortable on the ball,” with previous experience at fullback shaping his suitability for the outside role.

Another recent addition to the national team setup is Ali Ahmed, a versatile midfielder-defender who seized a starting role with the Vancouver Whitecaps. The 22-year-old contributes on both sides of the game, whether racking up tackles or creating with his daring passing in the final third. Despite being a late inclusion on the roster, Liam Fraser has played in all three matches at the Gold Cup, starting twice. He brings “an incredible work ethic” and is known for his distribution, impressing with the occasional “laser.” The advanced position is occupied by Jonathan Osorio, now in his 11th season at Toronto FC. His pressing and attacking statistics are among the best in MLS at his position, although his impact needs to increase if Canada is going to test the USMNT.

After enjoying a strong debut year in the Swiss Super League with Basel, Liam Miller saw his production drop off precipitously last season. The former Liverpool winger can be an absolute marauder on the left side of the field, driving at defenders to set up the right centering pass or cutting inside for a shot. On the other end of the formation is Richie Laryea, perhaps temporarily of Nottingham Forest, a “dynamic, fantastic dribbler and real competitor.” He uses his pace to stretch the field, often lulling the opponent into a stupor with a hesitation move or complete stop before accelerating into the final third and hitting a cross.

One of the veterans of the squads is “ultimate professional” Junior Hoilett, who is set to be a hot transfer commodity this summer after two seasons with Reading as a winger and wing-back. The 33-year-old Ontarian can play the role of the off-ball striker, darting around the field and popping up in busy attacking areas to find the occasional goal. Tijuana’s Lucas Cavallini is supposed to provide the main scoring threat at the Gold Cup, which has yielded a single finish against Guadeloupe — his production must increase or the campaign ends in the quarterfinal. He “knows how to open free spaces” and “displays an excellent control that allows him to be in a great position,” looking to the left side to free up his powerful shot.

After spending the past year being trumpeted as the new class of CONCACAF, Canada has enjoyed a series of misadventures, from a disappointing showing at the World Cup to failing to claim the Nations League and now limping to a mediocre showing in the Gold Cup group stage. Programs must be stronger than the star players, but this A/B-team has failed to impress. However, judgments are delivered at the end of tournaments, and a victory over the lead-dog USMNT could play some fortissimo notes of harmony to push back against the current melancholy tenor.

The match is scheduled for Sunday, July 9th at 7:30 p.m. Eastern, 4:30 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include FS1, Univision, TUDN, and FUBO TV (free trial).