The United States did what was expected by thrashing Cuba on Friday but face a tougher task on the road to Canada in their second CONCACAF Nations League soccer match at BMO Field in Toronto (7:30pm ET Tuesday, live on ESPN 2 / Unimas).
Friday’s match was over almost as soon as it got underway. Weston McKennie had the US a goal up within 30 seconds. By the 13th minute, the Schalke midfielder had completed his hat trick, the quickest from kick off in national team history.
Jordan Morris had also got in on the scoring between Mckennie’s third and fourth goals, and the US added a further pair of strikes to their tally before the interval thanks to an own goal and then a crisp finish from Josh Sargent. A Christian Pulisic penalty in the second half made the final score 7-0. It could easily have been more.
Such was the team’s first half dominance that coach Gregg Berhalter had the luxury of removing McKennie and Morris, who provided three assists in addition to his goal, at half-time in order to save them for the trip north. “If I could’ve written the game up, it would have been exactly like this,” he said afterwards. “Score early. Score many goals early and then cruise.”
In truth, it was not a match from which a great deal could be gleaned. Canada likewise dispatched Cuba 6-0 in their home match against them (before winning 1-0 away). The flaws that the USMNT still need to work on and improve were never going to be thoroughly tested by such outmatched opposition.
Berhalter expects a more difficult encounter on Tuesday, in the first match of his tenure to be played off United States soil. “We are going to learn a lot about our group,” he said. “It is going to be a potentially difficult environment and it’s going to be a very motivated opponent.”
Canada’s motivation comes not just from their geographical proximity to the US but from their need to secure a good result to aid their bid to qualify for their first World Cup since their sole appearance in 1986. CONCACAF recently announced that all six teams in the final hexagonal qualifying group for Qatar 2022 will be parachuted straight there, without having to go through earlier qualifying rounds as before, in line with FIFA rankings at June 2020.
In the last update of those rankings, Canada were seventh in CONCACAF. That would see them miss out and instead have to embark on a long and labyrinthine path to earn a playoff encounter against a team from another confederation for a World Cup spot. That is clearly the much less preferable route.
The way for coach John Herdman, moved over from the country’s women’s national team in early 2018, to avoid it is to secure sufficiently strong results against the United States. That includes in the return game next month. He needs to gain some more ranking points immediately and also top their three-team group so as to progress to the semi-final stage of the competition next year, where further points will be on offer.
The team have a solid record under Herdman, having won nine of their 11 internationals, although they were disappointed to go out to Haiti in the quarter-final of the Gold Cup in the summer. They have a 10-strong MLS contingent and three good forward options in Lucas Cavallini and the teenagers Alphonse Davies (Bayern Munich) and Jonathan David (Gent).
Canada’s only previous match against a team ranked above them since Herdman took over was a 1-3 reverse against Mexico in the Gold Cup group stage, but they have a better chance of getting a result on Tuesday.
Our Betting Preview’s Canada vs U.S. Predictions & Picks Verdict
Team USA are the American online bookies‘ slight favorites given a generally higher talent level across their starting XI and should certainly not be discounted from taking victory.
If Canada can quickly move the ball forward in transition to their rapid forwards, they will create opportunities against a US team still in need of refinement. If their finishing is on point, a home win or a draw isn’t out of the question. So this is our Canada vs United States Nations League soccer match preview’s betting pick:
- Bet on Canada +0.5 of a goal @ -111 with Bookmaker.