In the end, both the US and Canada got what they deserved.
Canada did their homework and executed their game-plan to perfection. The Canucks were very well organized defensively, took away the central triangle of Mix Diskerud, Joe Corona, and Jared Jeffery, and took their chances when presented to them.
The US never found their flow. The home side was sloppy, predictable and looked nothing like the CONCACAF giants that won 6-0 against the Sunday league team from Cuba.
US head head coach Caleb Porter came to similar conclusions after the match.
"Credit Canada again they were organized," Porter said within in minutes of his press conference. "We never really got into a rhythm. On the ball we weren't as sharp as we needed to be. We didn't use the width," he added as if to list the root causes of the loss.
The US possessed well in the first half, but against Canada’s compact defense, everything was down the wings. Even after it became apparent that the US was not going to score off a cross, the red, white, and blue continued to attack down the same two avenues that Canada was giving them with the men in red knowing full well they would repel everything sent into their box.
"They set up in a Christmas tree: 4-3-2-1," said Porter when describing Canada's formation that stunted the Americans attack. "That's a shape you really use to stop a team, essentially it was 3 vs. 5 though the middle."
"It allowed us to have a 2 v. 1 advantage on the flanks," Porter added. "I didn't think we exploited that well enough."
Porter was right Canada's formation completely blew up the US gameplan. However, the US SHOULD have taken advantage of their 4-3-3 formation as it is set up perfectly for quick combination play which is designed to carve open the tightest of defenses such as the compact midfield Canada trotted out there. Think Barcelona breaking down teams that keep 10 men around the top of the box. While the U23 version of the Stars and Stripes are of course not Barcelona, they never even gave themselves a chance. The middle three were never close enough to each other to work any sort of passing movements, making it easier for Canada to defend.
Meanwhile Shea and Adu seemed so preoccupied with using the space that Canada was intentionally affording them on the wings that they forgot to come inside every once in a while. This did two things:
First, it kept them from trying to combine with Teal Bunbury, leaving the Canadian born forward isolated up top. Not that it mattered though as Bunbury either stayed stationary or picked the wrong runs.
Secondly, by keeping so close to the flanks, it closed down the lane for the outside backs to overlap and meant that there was no one available to make runs into the inner channels.
Caleb Porter tried to remedy this particular situation in the second half by bringing on Joe Gyau for the ineffective Corona and slid Adu into the center to see if the former Benfica man could control the rhythm and influence the game.
Adu didn’t get enough touches on the ball and Gyau only showed his ability in flashes. At least he was willing to cut inside from the wings. Then, 10 minutes into the second half Terrence Boyd came on for the ineffective Bunbury, but he barely had a sniff of the ball.
Canada meanwhile not only stuck to the script and defended well as a team, but they weren’t afraid to get forward with numbers. The attackers also looked comfortable trying to take US defenders on one v. one in the offensive half of the field. Porter made a point that this counter-attack style rattled his squad.
"I just don't think we ever got comfortable on either side of the ball. When they launched counter-attacks we were vulnerable and that in some ways rattled us psychologically and then going forward we never got comfortable," said the man in charge of the Yanks stunning loss to Canada.
The northerners were rewarded for their efforts on 58 minutes as Phillippe Davies swung in a corner, US goalkeeper Bill Hamid came out and hesitated, allowing Doneil Henry to get in front of him. Hamid barely jumped as Henry prodded home with his head. A horrible mistake for the goalkeeper.
Even when the US were able to grind out chances, such as Adu’s effort in the 65th minute (the US’ BEST COMBINATION of the match), Canadian shot stopper Michal Misiewicz came up with a string of fine saves.
Canada continued to grow in confidence as the US were unable to string simple passes together. The knockout blow came in the 83rd on a cultured diving header from Lucas Cavallini. Once again, Hamid hesitated. It seemed as if Canada just had more energy than the Americans which Porter also hinted at after the match.
"Credit to Canada they put some fresh legs in there and they sat in and made it difficult on us and I thought they had some pace on the break that made it difficult for us."
It was the perfect ending to a well executed game plan for Canada and a sucker punch which nicely summed up the Americans' night.
For the US, there is plenty to ponder. The loss of Juan Agudelo certainly seems a lot more potent than it did at the beginning of the day and Perry Kitchen remains a liability at the back. Other than those two question marks, however, I still think the right personnel is on the field. For me, its about tonight’s starters picking up their game and using the 4-3-3 system the way its meant to be played. The wide-men need to come inside more and the middle triangle needs to work harder to find the ball and then make runs off it.
The defense will need to be aware because while El Salvador’s defense won’t be as good as Canada’s, their offense (and their ability to counter) will be even better. However this terrible result can quickly be erased with a emphatic win over the aforementioned El Salvadorian side and like coach said all is not lost.
"This isn't the end of the world. This isn't the way we wanted it to play out but everything is still in our hands. If we beat El Salvador than we're through."
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