It’s back to the drawing board for the Canadian MNT, the Florida rain effectively dampening their spirit, allowing the US to easily avenge their lacklustre defeat in Toronto four weeks ago.
The manner of defeat will haunt coach John Herdman who watched his side experience first-half meltdown, before rallying back into contention after the break, only to concede a fourth goal in the closing minutes.
Simply they were just not sharp enough in the key opening period of the game. Like a deer caught in the headlights or resembling a classic case of stage fright, they were leaden-footed in defending the Americans first corner of the game. David, along with strike partner Cavallini, anonymous throughout, was slow getting to what looked a poorly struck corner, Dest reached the ball first, deflecting it onto the unmarked Morris who finished with ease from six yards.
Unmarked, six yards out, in the second minute of a huge game expected to be decided by fine margins. Not good enough.
Where was the grit, determination and intensity that delighted the Canadian public in the first game?
The answer is, ‘nowhere to be seen’ and in the 23rd minute, Jordan Morris latched onto a diagonal ball from Arriola which sailed over the head of Vitoria, provided a cross into the box, and Zardes, who lost an under-par Doneil Henry all too easily, headed into the unguarded net. Goalkeeper Borjan hardly covered himself in glory either, his mad dash from the line to close Morris proving as futile as it was foolhardy.
If it wasn’t game over at that stage, it certainly was in the 34th minute. Davies, the one Canadian player the US was genuinely concerned about was playing in a left-sided defensive role. His clumsy challenge, a forward’s tackle, allowed the US a free-kick on the right-hand corner of the penalty area. Henry again lost his man on the set-piece, as Aaron Long far too easily leapt to head the ball down past Borjan’s right hand and into the net.
The US had certainly begun with more tenacity than in the first meeting, no doubt stung by the words of their coaching staff. Yet in finding themselves three goals to the good, they hadn’t really produced anything exceptional. Canada were simply poor.
Things did improve for the Canadians in the second-half, with the US less inclined to attack, and Steven Vitoria pulled a goal back on 72 minutes. It came from a corner, when a flick-on by Osorio and deflection off Zardes allowed the Portugal-based defender to steam in at the far post to convert his second-ever international goal.
Hoilett had gone close a minute before, bringing a one-handed save from Guzan which resulted in the corner from which Canada scored.
Hindsight is twenty-twenty, but how Herdman must regret the deployment of Davies as a defender, and how he must wonder ‘what if’, had he persevered with the successful back-four from 4 weeks ago, which included Derek Cornelius and Kamal Miller at left-back. Doneil Henry looked unprepared for tonight’s occasion.
Davies showed second-half glimpses why he worried the Americans most, never more so in the 84th min when surrounded by four opponents in the penalty-area, he slalomed past three of them in confined space to almost set up a chance. The Americans must have breathed a huge sigh at the outset when they discovered his deployment in defence.
Columbus Crew’s Gyasi Zardes put the icing on the US cake in the dying moments, after more indifferent defending by Canada, who were by now left open at the back as they chased the game, the ball taking a slight deflection off Cornelius as it found it’s way into the net.
Nations League hopes have now evaporated for Canada, the US needing only to defeat Cuba in Grand Cayman in a few days time to advance, and they surely will.
This was a game too far for the Canadians at this stage of the squad’s development. On the evidence presented, they still don’t possess the nous to play their way into such an important road-game as this one. Lessons will have been learned and experience gained.
There will be more bumps in the road on the journey to improvement. We may have just seen enough in the second-half to take away some positives, but tonight serves as a timely and pointed reminder of just how far Canada still has to go before being considered a genuine contender for World Cup qualification, or becoming a Gold Cup threat to the region’s heavyweights.
USA - Guzan - Dest (Boyd, 90+2), Long, Brooks, Ream - McKennie, Yueill - Arriola, Lletget (Morales, 69), Morris (Yedlin, 86) - Zardes
Canada - Borjan - Laryea, Vitoria, Henry (Cornelius, 48), Davies - Arfield (c), Kaye (Eustaquio, 62), Piette, Osorio - David, Cavallini (Hoilett, 61)
Match Officials -
Referee - Cesar Arturo Ramos Palazuelos (MEX)
Asst Refs - Christian Kiabek Espinosa Zavala (MEX), Michel Alejandro Morales Morales (MEX)
4th Official - Jorge Antonio Perez Duran (MEX)