U.S. Men’s Soccer Eyeing Quarterfinals After Squeaking Past Canada

One of the most famous sayings in sports is “a win is a win” and what we saw on Sunday as the U.S. defeat of Canada 1-0 really echoed this claim. The Americans struck first in lighting fashion as Shaq Moore slammed home a pass across the box from Sebastian Lletget. That 20 seconds between kickoff to Moore’s goal was all it took to take down Canada.

The second half was a lot of bend but don’t break, as the U.S. seemed to be playing completely on their heels. Other miscues and bad passes in the offensive half kept giving the Canadians counter attacking chances which they were luckily able to stifle. In the words of Julius Campbell in Remember the Titans: “we play like this against Groveton, we’re going down.”

This could easily be said about the Americans going against Jamaica, as they pose a real threat of team speed. Their only loss of the group stage was to Costa Rica, and even though they didn’t net nearly as many goals as Canada did in the group games, they still pose a threat. Turnovers in the defensive half will surely turn into shots by the Jamaicans, who can run as good as anyone in the tournament, and it’ll be on Matt Turner’s shoulders to fend off the barrage.

Will the U.S. Look Better Against Jamaica?

I believe so because I think the quickness of the goal kind of rattled both sides. Obviously the Americans rejoiced because they were ahead, but they also realized that at that point only 20 seconds into the full 90 minutes, they were sitting on the result they needed. That’s why there wasn’t a ton of attack, because they didn’t want to risk losing the lead by pushing too many people forward.

Manager Gregg Berhalter got to see a ton of resilience from his guys on Sunday, and going forward he’ll likely allow them to play more aggressive even with the lead. He’s not oblivious to the fact that the whole second half was hard to watch because the Canadians dominated the ball and were constantly on the attack. This current roster plays at its best when they’re allowed to push up and get those wing backs involved.

Has Anyone Solidified Their Spots for World Cup Qualifiers?

Three players have, for sure: Moore, Gianluca Busio and Daryl Dike. Moore and Dike are putting the ball in the net and Busio is playing exactly how Berhalter envisioned when he made the switch in formation. For Lletget, I’m not going to say it’s 100% confirmed he’ll be there, but I have a strong sense that he’s performed well enough thus far to give him that chance.

Back to Busio though, because in my primer piece for the Gold Cup, I mentioned that this stage could be used as a stepping stone to get players out of MLS. He has been terrific and will be doing just that as he will be leaving Sporting KC and heading to Italy to play in Serie A for Venezia FC. At only 19 years of age he has a real shot to become a superstar in the sport and a centerpiece for the USMNT going forward.

If the U.S. Beats Jamaica, Who Comes Next in the Semifinals?

Due to how the quarters are laid out, the U.S. will play the winner of Qatar (who isn’t a CONCACAF team but was allowed to play in the Gold Cup) and El Salvador. Qatar has looked strong and actually won their group, scoring nine goals and conceding only three in group play. El Salvador placed second in their group by beating Trinidad and Tobago and Guatemala, then playing Mexico tough to a 1-0 defeat.

Due to Mexico winning their group, the U.S. won’t see them until the final. That’s if they both make it, of course. In the 2017 Gold Cup Jamaica stunned Mexico in the semis, and the U.S. ended up taking down the Jamaicans 2-1 in the final. Mexico got redemption in the 2019 installment and defeated the Americans in the final 1-0 by way of a Jonathan dos Santos goal in the 73rd minute.

Final Thoughts

If the two sides play at their best then we are almost certainly looking at a collision course in the finals between the United States and Mexico. Obviously things can change in an instant on the pitch and it’s possible both teams could get bounced, but if history has taught us anything, the Mexicans are looking to get that sour taste out of their mouth. Unlike Berhalter bringing in a ton of new faces, the Mexico side carried over a ton of experience with the hope of getting another shot at the Americans to alleviate their CONCACAF Nations League defeat.

Be sure to tune in at 9:30 PM ET Sunday night as the U.S. tries to make a statement against Jamaica.

Derek Worley

Sports Analyst

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