ANALYSIS – It was just not to be for Canada yet. After a strong World Cup Qualifier where they finished top of the table, the expectations were high going into this Nations League tournament, with the hope of finally getting a trophy after 23 years higher than ever. However, the CanMNT was humbled in the end by the USMNT at Allegiant Stadium, as the US proved to be the top dog once again. In a game full of missed chances, tactical blunders, and US dominance, here are the three takeaways
Three Takeaways: CanMNT fall to USMNT in Nations League Final
#1: CanMNT Final Nerves Spell Disaster
With so much excitement and confidence on the Canadian side going into this match, it was a real letdown to see how Canada began this match. You could tell that the side was still a bit nervy and rusty in how they were playing, even though they were playing in the 3-5-2 formation that many were calling for after the semi-final win vs Panama. Certain players like Scott Kennedy, Alistair Johnston, and Milan Borjan didn’t look up for the fight, with both of the defenders at fault for the US’s two goals while the experienced goalkeeper could have done better on both.
On the other hand, it felt like Canada was relying on their stars a bit too heavy after the poor start, hoping that the likes of Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David could pull the team through when they were not playing well. But in the end, those players either tried to do too much, like Davies across the pitch, or they disappeared entirely as David did throughout the majority of that match. Overall, it felt disjointed and scrappy from the Canadian side, who were thoroughly outclassed by a well-organized US team.
The upcoming Gold Cup will hopefully give CanMNT head coach John Herdman some room to give certain players more time and experience so that, next time they reach a final, they can have a stronger mentality and more cohesion against a top team like the US.
My FT Takeaways!
The USMNT deserved this
Davies was trying way too much
Kennedy is not Vitoria’s future replacement
The big players were not clicking
Nerves got to the players
USMNT let Canada have the ball & we did nothing with it
Very disappointing result, we didn’t show up
— Josh Deming (@tv_jjd) June 19, 2023
#2: Herdman Outcoached & Outclassed by Callaghan
It is not a great look for Herdman to be so outcoached by interim US manager B.J. Callaghan in what is his last game in a very short tenure. But, the truth of the matter is that Canada played directly in the US’s hands. The US was excellent in their game plan to pressure Canada, suffocate the midfield, but hold a deeper line so that they can’t play those direct balls that always serve as a Plan B for Canada.
In the end, it felt simple from the US: Cut off service to the likes of David, Larin, and Davies by making the lives of the midfield three extremely hard. Without that, Canada had to rely on the likes of Miller and Vitoria, when he came on, to ping those long balls to the onrushing wing-backs, but the US had planned for that as well. The US was meticulous and patient in their defence, dropping a good 10 or 15 yards deeper than expected so that they could deal with those long balls more effectively. By full-time, the US allowed only four shots on target from Canada, with three of them coming in that first half.
It was always going to be a tough ask to be able to contain a US side with so much quality, with the likes of Gio Reyna, Joe Scally, and newcomer Folarin Balogun stepping up in this match, but it felt like Canada surrendered themselves to them without that much of a fight. Herdman will have to go back to the drawing board and try to figure out a way for his team to compete more and not fall into such simple traps like those the US set up throughout this game.
Especially when they went down 1-0, it felt like the game was over. That’s not what you want to see in a final
Felt like were just not winning 50-50s, and weren’t adjusting. That’s also frustrating to see in a game of this magnitude, as that’s what you can control#CanMNT
— Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic (@AlexGangueRuzic) June 19, 2023
#3: CanMNT Future Resting On A Knife Edge?
Throughout this competition, Herdman has been reiterating that his side is not up to the quality of other teams because they either lack the experience against “Tier 1” teams, or the necessary resources to be able to prepare properly for these matches. While it might seem like a bit of a lazy excuse given the way that Canada performed, there is a nugget of truth in his words. Canada needs to be better at trying to convince dual nationals to sign up for Canada instead of their alternative country. We have already seen the likes of Aidan Morris choose the US over Canada. And after a performance like that on Sunday, one can’t blame him for doing so.
This current crop of players is quickly being dubbed the “Golden Generation” after qualifying for the first World Cup in 36 years and reaching a final after 23 years. The concern now is that this side is perhaps being wasted by not being properly supported by their federation, after a slew of dramatic scandals, stand-offs, and more. With so many great competitions on the horizon like the Gold Cup, the Copa America, and the World Cup on home soil in 2026, it is a case of now-or-never for Canada to assert themselves and push beyond their usual standards, but they cannot do so without a proper support system.
This is not to excuse Herdman’s decisions in this competition, for he is as to blame as any in the defeat of this match, but his comments do speak to a grander issue in the soccer sphere for Canada right now, and if that is not addressed, then the risk of slipping back into obscurity looms large.
John Herdman after 2-0 loss to U.S. says repeatedly the Canadian men’s national team is underfunded and needs more resources for longer training camps.
Herdman: “We brought a World Cup to our country and we’re not serious about winning it… We’ve got to get real, and quick.”
— Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) June 19, 2023
Photo Credit: Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports, of a Kamal Miller Headshot and a Folarin Balogun Headshot, on June 18, 2023.