After a shocking loss in Toronto last month, the U.S. Men’s National Team responded with a big 4-1 win against Canada in Orlando on Friday evening. Columbus Crew striker Gyasi Zardes scored twice to lead the Americans to the edge of advancing in Nations League play.
The team was missing the playmaking dynamics of Christian Pulisic and Zack Steffen, both withheld due to injury. It did mark the first start for Sergino Dest in the Nations League, cap tying him to the U.S. after his switch in October.
The goals came early with the Seattle Sounder attacker Jordan Morris getting on the board in the second minute. Paul Arriola sent in a corner to Dest. The Dutch right back’s shot was clipped and fell right to Morris, who swept it home from close range.
After the uninspiring performance last month, it was the boost that the U.S. needed.
The Canadians tried to level the score, but the Americans matched the intensity and the game settled into a midfield battle with neither team creating great chances as the first half wound on.
In another change from last month’s debacle, the next U.S. score would come through an attack at pace. After recovering a long goal kick, Arriola drove up the right flank and unleashed a long cross field ball to Morris. He whipped in a left footed cross that Zardes nodded home to extend the lead to 2-0 in the 23rd minute.
The Americans weren't finished with another score coming ten minutes later. After a foul drawn by Sebastian Lletget, Tim Ream fired in an out swinging ball and Aaron Long powered a header to make it 3-1 11 minutes before halftime.
The second half was played mostly under cruise control. The United States limited the Canadians, but were flat going forward.
The Canadians got on the board in the 72nd minute off a corner routine. The ball was driven near post and Jonathan Osorio flicked the ball across the goalmouth. It was an easy header from Steven Vitória from two yard out to get the goal.
The goal re-energized the Canadians briefly as the visitors threw players forward in an attempt to close the gap, but the American defense held fast against the sporadic attacking incursions.
With Canada chasing the game, the U.S. were killed off the game with a direct attack and a fortuitous bounce. Deandre Yedlin tracked down a long boot forward and fired in a cross. The ball was cleared to the side of the six-yard box. Zardes took one-time shot from a tight angle and finished with a shot in the opposite corner to re-establish the three goal margin.
Dominant, but not perfect
It was a big American win, but wasn’t a perfect performance by any stretch. The team found the intensity they lacked last month and it showed in the scoreline. However, the team had several sloppy passes, including an early Guzan pass that was easily intercepted and nearly gave the Canadians a free look at goal. The turnovers and lack of fluidity on the ball suggest the result would be different against stiffer competition.
Win and in, as the United States faces Cuba on Tuesday evening. With the 4-1 win, the Americans move to six points through three games in group play and a +8 goal differential. The group leading Canadians finished on nine points and a +6 goal differential. Three points against a weakened Cuban squad playing a “home” game in the Cayman Islands put the U.S. through to the Semi-Finals next June.