The United States men’s soccer team took on Canada in their second friendly match of 2016 on Feb. 5.
The United States named a fairly strong starting lineup for the game with veteran Jozy Altidore starting up top alongside youngster Jordan Morris. Another player that can play in the striker role, Gyasi Zardes, started on the wing, showing an attacking mindset from Jurgen Klinsmann. Changes from the lineup in their victory over Iceland continued with a start given to New York City Football Club midfielder Mix Diskerud. Other changes included starts for goalkeeper David Bingham and defender Steve Birnbaum.
On the other side of the pitch, last year’s Major League Soccer rookie of the year, Cyle Larin, got the start up against Canada.
The game started out slowly for both teams. Neither team took control of the game in the first half. Instead, the field was quite open and both teams were playing fast and rushed. The United States definitely had the edge in the first half with more attempts on target, but were not able to get anything past Canada’s goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau.
The U.S. was firing passes in left and right, but every pass had too much pace on it and made every good look nearly too difficult to control.
The game went into the break at 0-0 with both teams looking unsettled. When the whistle blew to start the second half, the U.S. came out looking much stronger and more together. The first 25 minutes or so of the second half saw the U.S. regain their confidence and start to actually link a few passes together and get some combinations flowing. Once they finally had their feet settled, they were able to make some runs at goal and put some pressure on the virtually nonexistent Canada midfield.
For the entire second half, there was space for the U.S. to push forward and attack. Waves of attacks came in, yet as the game drew toward 90 minutes, it seemed more and more likely that it would finish as a 0-0 draw.
However, the United States had something different on their mind. Klinsmann decided to make a change in the 88th minute when he replaced 21-year-old Jordan Morris with 25-year-old Ethan Finlay, only making his second appearance for the USMNT (his first was the start against Iceland earlier in the year). Just a minute later, Finlay got his first touch of the ball on the left flank, and sent in a beautifully placed cross towards the far post, which found the head of Altidore who sent the ball flying into the back of the net, putting the U.S. 1-0 up over Canada. This sealed the three points for the USMNT, giving them 6 of 6 to start off 2016.
In the end, the three points were all that mattered but the U.S. definitely need to improve going forward. Albeit, the United States weren’t playing their most experienced and talented roster, but they still should have handled a not-so-good Canada team. The team’s next game comes in the form of World Cup Qualifier against Guatemala March 25, which will hopefully see the players in better game shape as the MLS season begins March 6.