Unbeaten in ten matches in the final round of World Cup Qualifying. If you had said that to me a year ago – that Canada were going to reach these impeccable heights, I would not have believed you. Our men’s team hasn’t qualified for a World Cup since 1986, and has only beaten the States one other time in the past 37 years. The miracles under John Herdman keep coming true, and we are now one step closer to qualifying for our first World Cup in over thirty years. Here is my tactical analysis of Canada’s 2-0 win over the US.
canada – 4-4-2
Canada lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, with little change to shape between their attacking and defensive phases. It’s how they set up in their low-block, high-press, and even to an extent in the brief moments where they were able to get on the front foot and attack. The States had control over the match and longer spells of possession (64%), but Herdman’s men kept everything in front of their two banks of four, making it incredibly difficult for Gregg Berhalter’s men to play through them. The States were frustrated into going long, where Canada were aerially dominant in winning back possession for their team. As soon as they regained possession, Les Rouges looked immediately to their strikers, particularly Cyle Larin, to help them get up the pitch. Larin’s hold up play was magnificent throughout, and Jonathan David too had brilliant moments of dribbling up the pitch and shimmying his way past American defenders.Embed from Getty Images
It was from a moment like this where Canada were able to score their first goal in the match. US keeper Matt Turner took matters into his own hand in taking a long goal kick far too soon, before willing his team to get up the pitch. That meant the Americans were easily exposed when his kick fell to Kamal Miller, who headed the ball for Osorio to flick on to Larin. Larin then brilliantly played an easy one-two with David, and finished on his third touch. The open shape of the US meant Canada were deadly in transition, which was compounded by Turner’s decision to get out of sync with the rest of his teammates.
For the remainder of the game, Canada were hanging on and letting the States have the ball. They conceded far too many corner kicks for their own liking, forcing Milan Borjan to make an outstanding save to keep Weston McKennie at bay. The Canucks need to sharpen up their defensive set-pieces in the next few weeks, as it was the one area where they weren’t as aerially dominant and resolute. Still though, Berhalter’s men couldn’t find a way through.
Then at the end of the game, with tired legs and the Americans throwing everyone forward, Kamal Miller hoofed the ball up the field to Sam Adekugbe, who brilliantly took his first touch away from Miles Robinson and scored from range. It was a brilliant way to finish off a hard-fought victory for the Canadians, and one that Adekugbe fully deserved for his performances. He was the much more adventurous of the two fullbacks throughout the game, as expected, where Alistair Johnston’s role was much more about defending, and taming Christian Pulisic. Pulisic looked abysmal throughout the match, with Johnston winning a total of 7 duels. But Adekugbe was up and down the left side to get on the overlap around Tajon Buchanan and his twinkle toes, and looked a threat throughout. When John Herdman switched to a 5-4-1 and introduced Junior Hoilett for Cyle Larin, that became even more prominent as Laryea and Adekugbe got forward to make for a 3-4-3 in the creation stage with positional play in place.Embed from Getty Images
But for the Canadians, this match was all about the defense. They defended as a collective unit throughout, with Kamal Miller helping out both fullbacks in 1v1 situations, Steven Vitoria rising to win everything in the air, and the two midfielders in front of them holding strong. They fouled when needed to disrupt US’s momentum, and made smart tactical tweaks in the final stages of the game to secure the victory.
USAEmbed from Getty Images
Despite creating more chances and keeping more possession, the Americans couldn’t get a strong foothold in the game, or identify ways to truly break Canada down. Midfielders like Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie bossed the game, but they struggled to progress passes into the right areas where the front-three could make their magic shown. Gyasi Zardes looked quiet as he floated up the pitch, while John Herdman’s decision to play Richie Laryea as a right midfielder completely mitigated Antonee Robinson’s threat level down the left.
USA’s 4-3-3 in defense took on some variations of attacking intent further up the pitch, with usually one fullback joining the attack at a time. Weston McKennie occasionally dropped to the left of Chris Richards in build-up phases, as Robinson pushed forward. But the Fulham man was usually the lower of the two, as Serginio Dest galloped forward down the right. The Barcelona fullback had a difficult time using his pace and power up against Tajon Buchanan and Sam Adekugbe, which proved to be two more outstanding positional selections from Herdman. Weston McKennie was one of the only main sources of real drive and determination going forward, and Canada found his strength and power the most difficult to stop. The Juventus midfielder also took long throw-ins for his team, which the Americans were ultimately unsuccessful in creating anything of note from.Embed from Getty Images
High up the pitch the Americans also defended resolutely, stopping Canada from gaining any real, long spells of possession in the match. Their 4-3-3 high block was decently effective, and Salzburg winger Brenden Aaronson won all three of the tackles he attempted. Unfortunately for Berhalter’s team, the gaps at the back-end of the pitch were more easily exposed. Chris Richards and Miles Robinson looked like a pair of players that had never played together before, leaving massive holes as they stepped up to stop David and Larin from driving forward. With the Canadians also using Tajon Buchanan’s explosive pace to get them up the field, the Americans looked bamboozled on more than one occasion. It all culminated in a 2-0 loss for the U.S., which puts Canada four points ahead of them now at the top of the table.
CONCLUSIONEmbed from Getty Images
Canada’s dream of reaching a World Cup is now within touching distance, after a 2-0 win over the USA – their second win against the Americans in 37 years. Cyle Larin became Canada’s all-time top scorer in the match, while Sam Adekugbe scored his first goal for the Red Maple Leafs, killing off the game. Canada’s defensive tactics in their 4-4-2 completely stunted Berhalter’s team in their tracks, and John Herdman made smart tactical adjustments throughout the game to stop the U.S. from gaining momentum. It’s been a dream come true for Canada so far in World Cup Qualifying 2022, and things can only go up from here.
So there it is! A tactical analysis of Canada’s convincing 2-0 win over the U.S. Be sure to check out more of our Match Analyses, and our over-arching tactical analysis of John Herdman’s tactics with Canada. Thanks for reading and see you soon.
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