The United States was clearly second best after a 2-0 defeat to Canada north of the border that left the USMNT with plenty of work yet to do to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.
But head coach Gregg Berhalter did not share the same assessment at the end of the 90 minutes in Hamilton, Ontario and with four games left in the qualifiers.
The USMNT chief believed that the United States “dominated” the fight against Canada and that it only lacked the end product. He shared his analysis with the media after the match with several points that will definitely have fans talking.
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What did Gregg Berhalter say after the loss to Canada?
Gregg Berhalter was directly from the start of his press conference after the match and highlighted what he thought was the positive thing about the performance.
“I think it was a whole team effort that was unique,” Berhalter said in his introductory remarks. “We asked them to be dominant, we asked them to embrace the conditions, to embrace the physical characteristics of the opponent, and I think we did, and more.
“It’s hard for me to remember a more dominant performance on the road that did not yield a result. The result hurts. The performance does not hurt. I am proud of the boys and the way they competed.”
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“It was a dominant away performance without a win.”
Canada seemed to claim their physical and tactical dominance on the match, absorbing the pressure to some extent, while Jonathan David and Cyle Larin responded with lightning outbursts as the space became vacant. They bullied Christian Pulisic, Sergino Dest and all American ball carriers when the referee let the teams play.
But again, that’s not how Berhalter looked at it.
“They could not handle our physical characteristics, it’s quite simple,” Berhalter continued when asked about the physical playing style of Canada. “We drove them all over the course. When you look at won duels, when you look at our pressure, they had a very, very hard time dealing with what we gave them.”
Unfortunately, looking at the duels does not support Berhalter’s statement. The USA had a full 64% possession, but thus they only achieved success in 69/139 duels, including 19/43 air duels and 15/28 dribbles, and the USA still managed to make 15 mistakes for Cnaada’s 12. All in all, Canada succeeded on a somehow producing four shots on target for three for the United States. It’s anything but “dominance” everywhere on the field.
While Berhalter recognized the quality of Canada’s players in attack, he separated their effectiveness from the overall game exhibited by Les Rouges. Here was Berhalter’s bid for the game from his opponent, who was physically and tactically superior in large stretches of the match:
“I don’t think they dominated much of anything,” Berhalter said, “but one thing that sets Canada apart from the rest of the group is the quality of their attackers to finish a small amount of chances.”
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Despite 64 percent possession and an advantage of 13-8 shots – two statistical categories in which the United States proved superior – the USMNT managed only four shots on goal and 0.87 expected goals. There was nothing “dominant” about the U.S. attack threat, which only produced one really clear chance when Weston McKennie’s header at the end of the first half was brilliantly saved by Milan Borjan.
There was otherwise little to enjoy of the match as a whole. McKennie looked energetic, but he was unable to connect with the attackers in dangerous ways. Christian Pulisic again struggled to create opportunities for himself or others. Gyasi Zardes, surprisingly given the start in front instead of the electric Ricardo Pepi, was completely ineffective. Even the back line struggled, with Miles Robinson spinning around on Larin’s opening goal.
Speaking of the opening goal, the United States seemed shocked by the early home advantage, with the violent crowd at a high energy level and the United States in a state of panic early on. But Berhalter would not be drawn into anything but positivity after an extensive defeat at the border.
“It’s one of the goals that, in addition to the result line, did not affect the game too much,” Berhalter said. “We were on what we dominated, we played with a lot of physics, a lot of speed in our game. Canada had a very hard time getting into a rhythm.”
Berhalter showed a hint of realism and stated: “As for the finish, I do not think we created as many clear chances as we should have finished, so I do not think today was a matter of bad finish.” But he went right back to its original theme. “Overall, again, when we talked about what we needed to do to win this match, we checked almost all the boxes we needed, and I’m happy with that.”
There’s still a good chance the United States will qualify for the World Cup given the way the CONCACAF position has been shaken out, but at this point there are still more questions than answers on the way to the big dance this winter.
USMNT team news
Berhalter also gave worrying updates on the status of two injured American stars.
Tyler Adams limped off the field and was replaced by Kellyn Acosta. Berhalter confirmed that Adams has a “slight strain in the hind thigh”, and despite his claim that they are still assessing his status, it is very possible that Adams does not play any role in the final qualifier in this window. His presence is necessary in the final push and it is important to have him healthy for the March qualifier.
Worse was Chris Richards, who came off the field with 10 minutes left despite Berhalter having used all five available substitutions. That left the United States a man down for the final push.
It was with good reason. According to the boss, Richards could be dealing with a broken foot, which would leave him out of action for a considerable amount of time. “Chris is probably out with a foot injury, maybe broken, we need to have the x-ray.”
In the end, Berhalter said Walker Zimmerman was kept out of the match against Canada with a hoarding problem, but said he would be available for the Honduras match to round out the window.