The Canadian men's national team had a chance to make history Sunday night. But their first continental trophy since 2000 will have to wait a bit longer as Les Rouges fell to the US men's national team in the Nations League Final at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Because of red card suspensions in the USMNT's semifinal win over Mexico, the argument could be made Canada were favorites in the final. But their possession edge rarely led to dangerous chances as the US celebrated a second straight Nations League crown via a comfortable 2-0 victory.
Here’s how John Herdman’s squad fared in the Nations League Final defeat.
The veteran goalkeeper wasn’t to blame for either US goal, and Borjan displayed his footwork with a cheeky touch to avoid an onrushing Folarin Balogun and got a finger on a Tim Weah shot off a quickly-taken free kick by Christian Pulisic. He made five saves in the defeat.
It was an eventful shift for Kennedy, who was solid early in battles with Folarin Balogun, but the center back gave the new USMNT No. 9 a step that led to his first national team goal. His backward header off a long Matt Turner goal kick nearly led to an own goal, then Kennedy made an important goal-line clearance on another Balogun before being subbed off.
The Celtic defender wasn’t much of a threat going forward like he's been in the past with Nashville SC and CF Montréal. Chris Richards rose over his back for the first US goal, but Johnston was solid to block a Christian Pulisic cross attempt for a US corner before being subbed off five minutes later.
It was a tough day at the office for the veteran Toronto FC midfielder, who lost Gio Reyna in the buildup to the second USMNT goal. Later, Osorio, who didn’t have much of an impact in the attack despite completing 91% of his passes, was put in the spin cycle by Reyna. Osorio was subbed off in the 61st minute.
Koné was dangerous early, taking on Jedi Robinson and serving a well-weighted ball to Cyle Larin for a shot on frame inside the opening 10 minutes. The Watford midfielder, who created a pair of chances, also took an ambitious attempt on frame for an easy Matt Turner save early in the second half.
Canada’s string-puller had some positive moments, including a good ball-winning tackle and a quick shot that forced Turner into a diving save. He played a dangerous corner late in the first half, but his service lacked quality in the second half with another corner going begging and a poor ball played in on a free kick that let Pulisic spring a counter.
The Toronto FC defender did well to wriggle out of a double-team to keep a sequence alive early that led to a Eustáquio shot on frame, but he was victimized by Pulisic late in the first half, resulting in a booking. Laryea completed 81% of his passes and created one chance.
Canada’s danger man throughout, Davies energized the Canadian crowd with every touch in a 90-minute performance after a huge showing off the bench against Panama in the semifinals. After failing to do much on a switch to the right side in the first half, the Bayern Munich left back split defenders and gave Joe Scally headaches throughout, but his penetrating passes were often picked off by the suffocating US defense.
After scoring in a semifinal win over Panama, David was largely silent in the final. He had a strong shot on frame parried away by Turner in the first half and then served a quality ball into the box trying to find Larin, but the ball was cleared away. The Lille forward turned into space in the second half, but took a speculative shot from distance.
It was a final to forget for Larin, who wasn’t able to get on the end of crosses by Davies and David, and then had a blunder defensively when his attempted clearance off a corner popped straight up and was stuck off the crossbar, nearly leading to a third USMNT goal. The Real Valladolid forward’s best chance came in the second half when his first shot was blocked and his second sailed harmlessly over the crossbar.
Because of the short turnaround, Herdman said there would be squad rotation ahead of the final. So maybe the moves were forced because of that, but two of the three changes he made to the starting XI (Scott Kennedy and Jonathan Osorio) were largely ineffective. Interestingly, he reversed course on all those moves as part of a triple substitution near the hour mark, almost an admitted mea culpa.
It was a relatively disappointing Nations League final for Buchanan, who came off the bench for the final half-hour, but only managed five passes and didn't create a chance or take a shot.
Vitoria, who was solid as a starter in the 2-0 win over Panama, came on for Scott Kennedy in the 61st minute. With the USMNT largely packing things in defensively at that point, the center back didn't have much to do defensively.
Adekugbe was the most impactful sub for Canada, with strong efforts on both sides of the ball. The Galatasaray defender, on loan from Turkish side Hayatspor, entered the match just past the hour mark and had a good cutback to Larin, but the former Orlando City SC striker wasn’t able to capitalize. Adekugbe also had a key sliding tackle to snuff a Pulisic chance and then made a ball-winning tackle to set up Davies.
The former Vancouver Whitecaps FC target man was quiet in a 14-minute substitute appearance.
The Reading forward came on in the 89th minute for Eustáquio.