The United States men’s national team (USMNT) faces a must win situation at home against Canada on Friday in a critical CONCACAF Nations League match.
The Americans must win their final two games and make up a goal differential deficit against Canada in order to win their Nations League group and progress to the semifinal round of the competition next year.
USMNT Seeks Revenge After Stunning Loss Last Month
The USMNT was put in this situation after a historic 2-0 loss to Canada last month. That game marked the first time since 1985 that Canada had defeated the United States in men’s soccer, ending a 17-match winless streak for the Canadians.
That put Canada in control of its own destiny in the three-team group, which also includes an overmatched Cuba side that will be dropped to League B barring a miracle. Even a draw against the United States will give the Canadians a ticket to the Nations League semifinals.
But for the USMNT, this match is about more than just where they stand in the CONCACAF competition. The loss was another blow to the tenure of new head coach Greg Berhalter, and raised further questions about the direction of US Soccer.
According to Berhalter, his team will be thoroughly prepared to treat this match with the importance it deserves.
“When you look at the history of US Soccer, we’ve been in games like this before,” Berhalter told reporters. “In the pre-Hex groups we’ve been in must win situations. In the Hex group we’ve been in must win situations. And this is what builds the team. This is what makes the team strong. We absolutely need events like this to help the team grow.”
Speaking of the Hex, qualifying for CONCACAF’s primary World Cup qualifying group is a primary goal for Canada. Only the top six ranked teams in the region will get to play in the Hex this cycle – there will be no pre-qualifying – with the top three finishers in that group earning direct entry to the World Cup.
Nations League Secondary to World Cup Qualifying for Canada
Everyone else in CONCACAF will be forced to play off for one chance to play a two-game series against the fourth-place team from the Hex, with the winner facing another playoff against a team from another region to get into the World Cup.
At the moment, Canada sits precariously in sixth position among CONCACAF teams in FIFA’s rankings, just behind Honduras and narrowly ahead of El Salvador. So while the Canadians may be miffed by US Soccer’s embarrassed reaction to losing to them last month, manager Herdman says that the real focus is on getting into the Hex.
“I think whatever is happening south of the border is their business for them to deal with,” Herdman said, via CanPL.ca. “We want to be driven by internal things like getting better every camp we come in, and that getting better takes us all to a place we want to be that we know can change our country forever, which is that qualification in the Hex and hopefully into the World Cup.”
The United States will be without both Christian Pulisic and Michael Bradley due to injury. But despite those absences, the USMNT will still come into Friday’s match as a favorite. FanDuel Sportsbook sees the Americans as a -160 favorite over Canada (+360), with odds of +280 available on a draw.