Canada admit early USMNT goal in loss was "worst thing that could have happened"

ORLANDO, Fla. –  Canada’s dreams of humbling the US men’s national team for a second time in as many months were thrown out the window under two minutes into Friday night’s meeting at Exploria Stadium.

Jordan Morris finished at the back post following a corner kick, and that set a 4-1 win in motion. It was a gut punch of sorts, according to Canada midfielder Samuel Piette.

“That was the worst thing that could have happened to us,” said Piette, who plays for the Montreal Impact. “When you concede the first goal, it’s always hard mentally and psychologically. That was the worst thing that could have happened to us.”

Before the encounter, Canada spoke proudly about the potential impact on the program’s hopes in the Concacaf Nations League. More pointedly, they reflected on how the result could impact their quest to make the World Cup qualifying Hexagonal and have a more straightforward path to qualification for the 2022 World Cup.

But, as has proven to be the case before, the thought of Canada just needing a draw was a death knell. They held the advantage in possession (63.6% to 36.4%) and passes (520 vs. 301), but Canada faced a resurgent American side that had their pride hurt a month ago in Toronto.

“I think their approach was different,” said Piette. “They all came back and basically played a deep block, and it was hard for us to find the space in behind. They let us have the ball more than the previous game, and I think we managed the ball well. In the final third we couldn’t create anything.”

Morris’s early goal put Canada on the back foot. They clawed a goal back in the 72nd minute via Steven Vitoria off a set piece, but that only made it 3-1 before Gyasi Zardes volleyed home to complete his brace.

“We came in here to get a result,” said head coach John Herdman. “We didn’t dump it down, we came in on the front foot, we pressed them for 90 minutes. We controlled the game for periods of time and I think there were a lot of positives. We just weren’t clinical. They were very clinical.”

Qualification in tournaments like the Nations League and World Cup often comes down to away form. But for all the talk of a reinvigorated Canadian program, that old demon haunted them once again.

“We tried playing a style today which was different from what we did in Toronto, but it felt a bit forced,” said Derek Cornelius, who came on for the injured Doneil Henry in the second half. “I think that’s what played into their hands in the first half. A lot of what we wanted to do, we tried to force it when it wasn’t on and just gave them opportunities from nothing.”