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USA vs Canada

by Sam Hazelwood about a year ago in world cup
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An in-depth look at both teams and their play from Saturday’s game.


Going into Saturday’s matchup both teams knew that the outcome would be a statement to all of the progress one nation or the other has made going into the final stages of World Cup Qualifying. The choice to play such a highly important match at 4pm local time in Kansas City is questionable at best. Especially considering the temperature was predicted by to be 85F and humid. Some like myself might of thought it would be better to push it back till 7pm when the heat would play less of a factor but that’s just the way of things.

Regardless of my musings or others about the heat or time slot the game kicked off. Each team with a point to prove. Canada trying to prove to everyone and themselves that they are in fact capable of qualifying for their first World Cup in 35 years.

On the other side, The United States Mens National team has been heavily ridiculed for its lackluster performances and style of play. The overall sense is that the team lacks a definable tactical identity and cohesion. A concerning development for theirability to perform against the most trying of opponents.

So on a Saturday night in Kansas City the two titans of CONCACAF locked horns with the chance to claim the honor of “Group Winner” on the line. The USMNT wasted no time in finding the bet. Scoring in the first 30 seconds of the game. It followed a quick build up play on the left side of the US attack. A chipped cross from Kellyn Acosta who was positioned in the center of the upper eighteen found Sebastian Lletget on the left wing. Lletget took the ball and in one fluid motion pinged the ball across the face of goal to the opposite back post where Shaq Moore was waiting and he clinically buried it into the net. Sending the stadium into pandemonium.

However, that would be the last time the US would look competent or truly threatening in the attack outside a handful of half chances. Over the next 44 minutes the games tempo mirrored that of a pinball game. Each team possessing the ball for a matter of a few touches or maybe a string of a handful of minutes before turning it over to their opposition.

In the 9th minute tensions ran high when Richie Lareya picked up a pass from Junior Hoilett only to be torn down by Walker Zimmerman. In what appeared to anyone with a working pair of eyes to be within the box. Yet, no foul was called despite Zimmerman falling into Lareya’s thigh in a clear attempt to stop Lareya from turning towards goal. In the end, Zimmerman would be subbed off with an apparent injury. But this wouldn’t be the last controversial event of the afternoon.

Five minutes later Ayo Akinola went down clutching his knee after his foot was clipped by a defenders trailing leg in a successful attempt to prevent Akinola from turning lose on the US goal. The diganoisis later confirmed that the play resulted in an unfortunate season ending ACL tear.

The rest of the match saw well played passes from players to one another only to be followed up by errant ones from the receiving player or mishandled balls/poor decision making cripple an otherwise optimistic attack from forming. In the e the US was out shot by Canada 14 to 6 but still held on to the win despite the lopsided stat.

In the end both Canada and the USA left a lot to be desired. For the Canadians the big question marks come from the attacking play of its forward and wide men. They lacked the lethality needed to confirm their position as a true contender for silverware in this year’s edition of the Gold Cup. Players like Larin and Hoilett showed flashes of quality but overall we’re lacking with their finishing and passing skills. Hoilett especially seemed to be feeling the effects of a long season or what have you.

However, on the positive side the Canadians appeared the more capable side within the midfield and from an organizational stand point. This being especially true whenever the team turned over the ball. They were more equipped to recover their shape and faster to regroup than the Americans.

A fact that amazes me that this far into a tournament the USMNT is still not quite as consistent in their passing or their on field organization. I say this even despite an amazing opening goal which was everything a USMNT fan could ask for or want to see.

In that opening minute we got to see the potential style and flow of play we have been yearning to see. Yet, when asked to add to that or improve upon it the team fell flat.

Still I hold out hope that the current squad will begin to show signs of cohesion by way of positioning and intuitive passing play. But that dream has seemed distant all tournament long. The Achilles heel being the disjointed nature of their transition play being my greatest concern for the team.

For instance, multiple occasions US players lost the ball in and around midfield or further up the field. And no matter who the oppositionhas been the opposing team are able to make three or four passes before they are in or around the US eighteen yard box. Which is concerning given the fact that the teams in this tournament are nowhere near the we quality or have near the number of star studded cast of the major competition the US will find should they qualify for the World Cup.

Regardless, I know that this tournament is really only truly used as a way to weed out players from the respective international pools. A way to find who can be called on to back up or fill in should one of the big stars get injured. At the end of the day these squads fielded by the US and Canada will not be the final selections for World Cup qualification games or for the World Cup should ether qualify. But even still there’s much that needs to be improved by both nations both tactically and stylistically if they want to taste the world’s biggest stage again.

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About the author

Sam Hazelwood

Avid traveler. Father. Weekend hiker. I enjoy almost every sport but football is #1. My other passion is to write historical fiction. So be on the lookout for my book. Thanks for reading!

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