Preview: Canada vs. USA 

Preview: Canada vs. USA 

First place in the final round of CONCACAF World Cup 2022 qualifying will be at stake on Sunday as Canada host their neighbours to the south, the USA, at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton.

The Canadians remained unbeaten in the Octagon, defeating Honduras 2-0 in San Pedro on Thursday, while Stars and Stripes scored early in the second half to earn a 1-0 victory over El Salvador.

Delete and restart was the message from Canadian coach John Herdman heading into their second to last qualifying window as his players exercised some past demons in Central America this week, winning in Honduras for the first time since 1985 and currently sitting on 19 points in the table.

Even without the blazing speed of Alphonso Davies, along with the control and vision of Stephen Eustaquio, the Canucks looked more than comfortable, scoring after 10 minutes of play on Thursday thanks to an own goal from Denil Maldonado in a match which never looked in doubt for Les Rouges.

Against Los Catrachos, Herdman went with a starting 11 that consisted primarily of players who feature in Europe, likely because they were fresher and in game shape, compared to those who ply their trade in MLS, a league that has been on hiatus since November.

They entered the Octagon as a World Cup outsider, but with five matches to go, it is safe to say that Canada are now qualifying contenders, inching closer to the finals.

It is crucial to win your home qualifiers if you want to make it to a World Cup, and this side have certainly been lethal in their matches played on Canadian soil, unbeaten since March 2016 and outscoring their adversaries 11-3 in Canada in this round of qualifying.

The last time that the Canucks welcomed the Americans north of the border, they were able to wipe away more than 34 years of frustration against the US, coming away with a 2-0 win in a CONCACAF Nations League encounter.

While they have not beaten them in their last three games, it seems as though that victory in November 2019 instilled a ton of confidence in this young team, who missed several great chances in a 1-0 defeat to the US at the Gold Cup this past summer, and they were able to penalise them with their pace in their previous matchup in September, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

It was not pretty, but at the end of the day, all that counts is the final score, and the United States took another step towards returning to the finals with a third win in their last four qualifying encounters, as they currently sit a point behind the Canadians in the table.

On a frigid night in Columbus on Thursday, the US carried the play with 63% possession but failed to convert many first-half chances, allowing the Salvadorians to grow in confidence and settle into the match by defending in numbers.

As has been the case for most of their 2022 qualifiers, the individual quality of this American side has made all the difference, and that brilliance extended their unbeaten run at home earlier this week.

You have to be good to be lucky, and there is no doubt that this team are full of talented individuals, but they have also had some good fortune, particularly versus La Selecta, as a long ball into the box was not dealt with effectively by El Salvador, and that was the opening that the US needed to take the lead and cruise to victory.

Gregg Berhalter has a great luxury with this group, not only because of the quality that his side possess in attack but also boasting a trio of outstanding young and talented midfielders, such as Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Yunus Musah, all of whom did a marvellous job of controlling the tempo of their last game, maximising their skill sets without overlapping into each other’s responsibilities.

This team have undoubtedly been a force at home, although they have shown some vulnerabilities on the road, winning only one of their last five matches played as the visiting side.

They have not been particularly sharp or aggressive in the opening stages of their matches of late, only being able to find the back of the net in the first half on two occasions so far in the Octagon.

Canada World Cup Qualifying – North Central America form:
USA World Cup Qualifying – North Central America form:
USA form (all competitions):

We say: Canada 2-1 USA
Even without arguably their two most valuable players, the Canadians looked more than comfortable in their previous encounter, and with the pace of Buchanan plus the goalscoring instincts of Jonathan David, the Americans are likely to have their hands full trying to contend with a squad that may be as deep and talented as they have ever been.

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