US stumbles to 2-0 loss at 1st-place Canada in qualifying

January 31, 2022 GMT
Canada keeper Milan Borjan reacts at the end of a World Cup soccer qualifier against the United States in Hamilton, Ontario, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
Canada keeper Milan Borjan reacts at the end of a World Cup soccer qualifier against the United States in Hamilton, Ontario, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
Canada keeper Milan Borjan reacts at the end of a World Cup soccer qualifier against the United States in Hamilton, Ontario, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Canada keeper Milan Borjan reacts at the end of a World Cup soccer qualifier against the United States in Hamilton, Ontario, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
1 of 20
Canada keeper Milan Borjan reacts at the end of a World Cup soccer qualifier against the United States in Hamilton, Ontario, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

HAMILTON, Ontario (AP) — Canada established itself as the dominant nation in soccer’s North and Central American and Caribbean region, taking a big step toward reaching the World Cup for the first time since 1986 with a 2-0 victory on Sunday over the United States.

Cyle Larin scored in the seventh minute and Sam Adekugbe added a goal in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time. Canada beat the U.S. for just the second time in 37 years, remaining unbeaten in qualifying through 10 of 14 games.

Included are a win and a draw against both the U.S. and Mexico, traditionally the region’s dominant nations.

“I genuinely believe that these men have an opportunity to really leave a proper football legacy on this country moving forward,” Canada coach John Herdman said.

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The U.S has one win and two draws in five road qualifiers but remains on track to return to the World Cup for the first time since 2014 with wins in its remaining two home games, the first a chilly encounter with Honduras on Wednesday night in what is forecast to be a single-digit or sub-zero temperature at St. Paul, Minnesota.

“Our focus right now is finishing off the window with a win,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said. “If we can do that, we’ll be in good position.”

Canada defeated the U.S. in qualifying for the first time since 1980 and leads North and Central America and the Caribbean with 22 points. The U.S. remained second with 18 points, ahead of Mexico on goal difference, followed by Panama (17), Costa Rica (13), El Salvador (nine), Jamaica (seven) and Honduras (three), which was mathematically eliminated with a 2-0 home loss to El Salvador.

The top three nations qualify for this year’s tournament in Qatar, and fourth place advances to a playoff against the Oceania champion, likely New Zealand.

On sunny but breezy 22-degree day (minus-6 Celsius), central defenders Miles Robinson and Chris Richards were the only American outfield starters in short sleeves and just two of Canada’ outfield players wore long sleeves: Jonathan David and Steven Vitória. Canada keeper Milan Borjan wore long pants, while American goalkeeper Matt Turner wore shorts.

Berhalter inserted Gyasi Zardes at forward in place of Jesús Ferreira.

Canada went ahead after Turner’s goal kick failed to reach midfield. Kamal Miller headed the ball back toward goal, and Jonathan Osorio touched ahead to Larin.

Larin exchanged passes with David, then beat Turner to the far post with a right-footed shot fom 14 yards for his Canada record 23rd international goal, one more than Dwayne De Rosario.

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“I decided to stay tight with him,” Robinson said. “And then the one-two got through us and then we collided almost and he tripped me up just a bit.”

Berhalter said Turner might have mis-hit the ball.

“The wind killed the ball flight. .. On a smaller field, smaller mistakes make bigger differences,” Turner said through the U.S. Soccer Federation. “It’s frustrating because it was so early in the game. It set the tone and they knew from there they could just pack it in and absorb pressure.”

Larin has 16 goals in qualifying, including a CONCACAF-high 12 this cycle. Canada had gone 15 games since 1993 without scoring in the first half against the U.S., and its only win against the Americans since 1985 had been in October 2019 in the CONCACAF Nations League, ending a 34-year, 17-game winless streak in the rivalry.

“One thing that separates Canada from most of the other teams in the group is the quality of their strikers, and their ability to finish a really small amount of chances,” Berhalter said. “It’s a play out of nothing that two qualifty players make, and it gives them a win.”

Christian Pulisic, in his second straight quiet game, had a free kick about 25 yards in the 36th minute but sent the ball over the crossbar.

Weston McKennie nearly scored in the 43rd minute with a 6-yard header from Pulisic’s corner kick, but Borjan leaped and with his outstretched right hand slapped the ball off the underside of the crossbar. Paul Arriola’s 87th-minute bicycle kick was just wide.

Canada got its second goal when Sam Adekugbe ran onto Miller’s long pass just past midfield, dribbled around Robinson and sprinted on goal while taking four touches, then beat Turner with a left-footed shot from 20 yards for his first international goal.

Canada scheduled the game at Tim Hortons Field, with field width of 70 yards (64 meters) width, about 5 yards less than average.

“We’re playing on a very narrow field, probably has the width of Yankee Stadium, and we’re playing on a very poor FieldTurf,” Berhalter said.

The U.S. had 63% possession and outshot Canada 13-8.

“It’s hard for me to remember a performance away from home this dominant without getting a result,” Berhalter said.

Notes: Tyler Adams, one of only two Americans to appear in every qualifier, came out in the 67th with a strained right hamstring. Richards injured a foot, forcing the U.S. to finish with 10 men, and Walker Zimmerman was held out with a hamstring injury. Berhalter said Zimmerman could return Wednesday. ... Vitória is suspended for Canada’s match at El Salvador for his second yellow card, assessed for hacking down Pulisic in the 31st. ... Panama rallied for a 3-2 win over visiting Jamaica. After Michail Antonio’s fifth-minute penalty kick for the Reggae Boyz, Javain Brown had an own goal on a header in the 43rd, Davis scored in the 51st and Azmahar Ariano in the 69th. Jamaica’s Andre Gray got a goal in the 87th. ... Mexico was held to a 0-0 draw by visiting Costa Rica, the first time since 2016 that El Tri failed to score at home in a qualifier. ... Nelson Bonilla scored in the 35th minute and Darwin Cerén in the second minute of second-half stoppage time for El Salvador.

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