Canada 2, USMNT 0: Takeaways from Americans first loss to northern neighbors in 34 years

Jonathan David (20) and Canada were the better side throughout their 2-0 win over the USMNT in the CONCACAF Nations League on Tuesday. (Getty)
Jonathan David (20) and Canada were the better side throughout their 2-0 win over the USMNT in the CONCACAF Nations League on Tuesday. (Getty)

TORONTO — Canada beat the United States for the first time in 34 years on Tuesday, and it was no fluke. Alphonso Davies scored the goal that stood up as the winner in the 63rd minute, and second-half substitute Lucas Cavallini put the 2-0 result beyond doubt in stoppage time.

Here are three quick thoughts on Tuesday’s match.

Canada deserved its victory

Canadian coach John Herdman promised “blood, guts and thunder” from his team before the match. When it kicked off, that’s exactly what he got.

Les Rouges were all over the U.S. from the opening whistle. They didn’t even miss a beat when central midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye — an MLS All-Star this year with Supporters Shield winners LAFC — was forced off with an apparent hamstring strain less than eight minutes in.

It was 18-year-old Bayern Munich winger Alphonso Davies who posed the biggest attacking threat for the hosts, and he scored what proved to be the game-winning goal in the 63rd minute:

The Canadians’ best chance of the first half came when U.S. midfielder Cristian Roldan played a sloppy back pass toward Steffen. The ball went straight to the feet of Canadian striker Jonathan David. Steffen did superbly to rush off his line and smother the shot, and David sent the rebound just wide of the far post.

David missed another golden scoring opportunity just after the break, but it was clear the visitors were in for a long night long before that.

Pinned in their own half for long stretches, the USMNT looked far from convincing on the rare occasions they were able to get up the field. As was the case in last month’s 3-0 friendly loss to Mexico, they relied on Christian Pulisic to dribble the ball though the midfield. But once again there was no support, with Pulisic often facing up five defenders on his own with nary a teammate in sight.

Target man Josh Sargent kept dropping deep to help out defensively, leaving the Americans without an outlet to hold the ball up for fellow forwards Pulisic and Jordan Morris to run onto. They were a bit better in that regard in the second half. Morris found a wide-open Pulisic in the 51st minute, but the 21-year-old U.S. poster boy had his shot well saved by home keeper Milan Borjan:

That’s how it went for Gregg Berhalter’s team, which was lucky not to concede a backbreaking second goal in the 71st minute when Junior Hoilett forced another top-class save out of Steffen. Still, the U.S. has now lost three of its last five games.

Alphonso Davies was the best player on the field

Despite playing north of the border, the U.S. came into the contest as the undisputed favorites. They had the edge in experience. They had the deeper roster. But Canada had the best player on the pitch on Tuesday in Davies, who has consistently made the bench for mighty Bayern in his first full season since leaving the Vancouver Whitecaps for an eight-figure transfer fee last year.

His speed — Davies was clocked as Bayern’s fastest player during the preseason — was on full display all night. The teenager elicited oohs and aahs from the home crowd at BMO field on multiple occasions well before his goal. For all his flair, Davies displayed guts on the decisive strike, crashing the far post ahead of retreating U.S. defenders Aaron Long and DeAndre Yedlin to poke the ball past Steffen and over the line.

Davies had been limping noticeably beforehand, and with his team in the lead Herdman quickly substituted his star player, who received a standing ovation from the Canadian fans. The switch came six minutes after Berhalter pulled Pulisic — who struggled to make any impact — on the hour mark, a move Pulisic didn’t look at all happy about.

It was hard not to notice the contrast, at least on this night.

What next for the USMNT?

For a program still in desperate need of good news more than two years after its colossal failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Tuesday’s loss was yet another body blow. The defeat was easily the worst for the Americans since that disaster in Trinidad in October of 2017. With qualifying for the next World Cup in Qatar set to begin in less than a year, it will only reinforce the idea that the program is still in a dark place.

If there’s any silver lining for Berhalter and Co. — and honestly, it’s hard to find one after such a dreadful performance — its that this loss didn’t come in the now-defunct semifinal round of qualifying, a six-match sprint that offers significantly less margin for error than the final, 10-game “Hexagonal.”

There is still time to get things right. But this is an inexperienced team, with an inexperienced coach, that is taking its lumps with alarming frequency 24 months after it supposedly hit rock bottom. As of now, somehow, this team looks even worse.

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