Last week, after the USMNT routed Cuba 7-0, Bobby Warshaw wrote insightfully about passing patterns and breaking down The System™. It was the expected result, but more importantly, an impressive performance. It was perhaps the best case scenario for the US national team's Nations League debut.
The USMNT's 2-0 loss to Canada on Tuesday was not that.
The Americans ran into a hungry Canadian side and it showed. The end result: the first time that the CanMNT defeated the USMNT since 1985.
Once more for emphasis: The first time since 1985. Watch the highlights below:
It was always going to be a fight. Canada needed the result to continue dreaming of qualifying for the final round of World Cup qualifying – the Hexagonal. They had more to play for and more to prove and thoroughly outplayed the USMNT. And then Alphonso Davies, by far the best player on the field, gave the hosts the lead in the 63rd minute. Lucas Cavallini added a stoppage-time insurance goal, sending the crowd into a frenzy. Between those goals, Gregg Berhalter's US side never looked like they could equalize.
Canada simply had more desire, energy and competitiveness and the United States did not come close to matching it. If Canadian fans come away feeling they finally can begin to change their narrative, their American counterparts are on the opposite spectrum: It's cause for alarm.
On top of the obvious push for the inaugural Concacaf Nations League, for the USA the match was a chance to build momentum, identity and trust from a skeptical fanbase. After rolling over Cuba, Berhalter's side had an opportunity to string together a few good performances with only a couple of matches remaining in 2019. They also had the chance to quash Canada's talk of a "rivalry renewed" despite failing to beat the United States since the 1980s.
That 1985 Canada team that beat the USA (also by 2-0) was the last one to qualify for a World Cup, later that same year. The memories evoked by Tuesday's win are the sweet variety for the Canadians. But for US fans, nearly two years ago to the day from that fateful day in Trinidad & Tobago, the sick feelings are all coming back. The trip to BMO Field was the USA's first competitive road match since Couva, where they failed to qualify for the World Cup.
Progress continues to be a word oft-discussed around today's USMNT. There was not a ton on display Tuesday night (and Matt Doyle sure is not seeing it below). As for some other thoughts...
Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David up top are absolutely frightening
Is this super-fluid forward line going to be Canada's preferred set-up against the powers in Concacaf? What was predictable is that Canada looked to find Davies on every play; it was unpredictable where he'd pop up. Sometimes he came short, often he bolted in behind; sometimes he drifted left, others right. It worked really well.
It felt like a World Cup qualifier for Canada, and they treated it as such
It's a simple take, not very complex or groundbreaking, but an important one to note. Canada hoped to have a coming-out party at the Gold Cup, but then disappointingly lost to Haiti in the quarterfinals. Can this result launch the program forward?
🇨🇦 Canada has scored against the #USMNT for the first time in 436 minutes across six matches, since the 2007 Gold Cup semifinals.— Paul Carr (@PaulCarr) October 16, 2019
🇨🇦 Canada LEADS the USMNT for the first time in 1,108 minutes across 13 matches, since March 1993 (a 2-2 draw).
It should not be understated: Canada were awesome.
To put it simply: Christian Pulisic did not have a great 60 minutes
He was completely bottled up by Richie Laryea, to the point where Pulisic swapped to his less-preferred right flank for a few minutes. Laryea only started playing fullback this season for Toronto FC and wasn't signed until after the MLS season started. Soccer is a wild sport.
Pulisic was subbed off during his lackluster performance and was not happy about it. He was under the weather, but many would say his performance was reflective of the little action he's seen at Chelsea. Well, Davies has played more than 45 minutes twice since August and both of those games were in the German third division with Bayern Munich II. No rust there.
When Canada pressed, the USMNT didn't cope so well
They didn't against Mexico in their last two matches vs. El Tri, either, as the US fights through growing pains of staying committed to building out of the back. Another worrying trend.
Josh Sargent had 9 first-half touches and generally struggled to get involved
The teenage striker's plans of leaving an imprint on the game were complicated by the limited service he got as the United States struggled to hold meaningful forward possession. But Sargent didn't do a ton with his opportunities, either. Overall, a deeply frustrating night for the American attack.