USMNT analysis

Analysis: USMNT starts strong, holds on in 1-0 win over Canada

In its biggest test of the Gold Cup so far, the USMNT got the result it wanted but it didn't necessarily get the performance. In the end a strong start gave the U.S. team a 1-0 win over Canada to win Group B. Now Gregg Berhalter will have a week to prepare and hopefully have his team healthy for the quarterfinals. ASN's Brian Sciaretta is here to give his throughts.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
July 19, 2021
1:30 AM

THE UNITED STATES NATIONAL team scored early and hung on to defeat Canada 1-0 in Kansas City to win Group B with a perfect nine points. While Group B might have been secured, the performance was far from good enough if the team wants to win this tournament ahead of the knockout stages.

The U.S. team once again rolled out with a three-central defense set up (Walker Zimmerman, James Sands, and Miles Robinson).

The U.S. got on the board very quickly with one of its fastest goals ever – 20 seconds into the game. Kellyn Acosta swung the ball to Sebastian Lletget inside the box, left of the goal. The California native hit the bouncing ball with his first touch back across the goal and it found Shaq Moore at the far post for an open finish.

Gregg Berhalter was forced into an early change in the 10th minute when Walker Zimmerman was forced out of the game with a hamstring injury following a collision. He was then replaced by D.C. United’s Donovan Pines.

After a strong start, the U.S. team faded around the half hour mark following the first hydration break. After that, Canada controlled possession of the game and the U.S. was pinned back. Liam Fraser, Tajon Buchanan, Samuel Piette, and Richie Laryea all had strong games for Canada which impressed in the midfield and will likely be a tough out in the knockout stages.


Still, the U.S. team limited Canada’s dangerous despite struggling to maintain possession. Buchanan was the most dangerous offensive player in the game for either team and he was effective getting the ball on the left side and cutting in. In the second half, he nearly equalized when his bending shot just missed bending into the far side of the post.

The U.S. team was able to see out the win and will now have an entire week off to prepare for the quarterfinal against either Costa Rica or Jamaica next Sunday.

Here are some thoughts on the game.


Robinson and Vines standout


The U.S. team’s two best players on the day were Miles Robinson and Sam Vines who were fantastic on the backline. Both players were the reason why, despite losing the possession battle, the U.S. team was able to drastically limit Canada’s number of very dangerous opportunities – which were few.


This was the performance many hoped Robinson could deliver for the U.S. team. This was the first time he was significantly tested for the U.S team and the Massachusetts native delivered with important clearances, duel wins, and passes out of the back. He was a massive obstacle that Canada could not get around and, in my opinion, the most influential player in the game.

Robinson has an opportunity to crack into the national team for World Cup qualifying as there are so many questions in central defense. John Brooks is a lock starter for the national team when healthy but Mark McKenzie isn’t quite a set starter at Genk. Meanwhile Matt Miazga, Erik Palmer-Brown, and Cameron Carter-Vickers are all yet to have their club situations sorted out.

Sam Vines, likewise, had a massively important game both for the U.S. team and for himself. Long thought of as an offensive left back, Vines showed his defensive attributes in this game – which were always the questions surrounding his game. He was simply everywhere defensively while also being one of the team’s few assets getting forward.


Vines is likely heading to Royal Antwerp after this tournament on a transfer from the Colorado Rapids and anyone who has been paying attention to his game has noticed his improvement every single season. It is possible he cracks into the World Cup qualifying team this fall.


Formation issues and struggles


The U.S. team seemed to fall off dramatically after the hydration break at the 30th minute. Canada adjusted and the U.S. team didn’t respond.

Canada put a lot of pressure on the U.S. team’s deeper central midfielders in Gianluca Busio and Kellyn Acosta. Neither of those two players had strong games and that is where the possession game fell apart. One of the big consequences is that the two outside backs, Sam Vines and Shaq Moore, were pinned back. As wingbacks, the plan was to push them into the midfield on a regular basis but the lack of possession saw them pinned back.

The design was that the U.S. team would defend with five in the back but that, when in possession, it would shift to a narrow diamond with James Sands moving to the six and the fullbacks pushed aggressively into the attack to provide width. It never really materialized.

The U.S. team played with a two-forward set in Gyasi Zardes and Daryl Dike but was never able to get the benefit given the midfield’s lack of possession. Instead, it turned into a wasted player. If the fullbacks were able to get forward, it would have been a different story as the midfield would have had more outlets out wide and more crosses could have been sent into a pair of forwards who are both good in the air.

The U.S. team’s mostly poor performance was a chain of things that went wrong and it started with Acosta and Busio. That led to the outside backs being pinned back and not enough offensive outlets – with everything being geared up the middle.


Sebastian Lletget, meanwhile, had a nice game for the U.S. team. His outstanding assist was the defining moment of the game but he was given a very tough task as his two midfielder partners were struggling, and the wingbacks were pinned to the backline. His forward outlets were limited. Canada’s backline was able to mark Zardes and Dike out of the game. Still, Lletget was able to help the team hold the ball better than just about everyone else and help to set up whatever offensive chances it had.


Injuries mount


It was welcome news for the U.S. team to have Reggie Cannon return from injury and be able to play off the bench. The Boavista-based fullback was effective defensively and Shaq Moore, who started all three games, has been almost overworked given his preseason form.

Meanwhile, Paul Arriola remains out and that limits the ability to play from wide positions.

The U.S. team badly needs Walker Zimmerman to be healthy and his hamstring will be evaluated this week. Meanwhile, Daryl Dike suffered what appeared to be a shoulder injury after falling on it awkwardly in the second half after the U.S. team used all of its substitutions. He was able to continue but clearly wasn’t 100%. James Sands also finished out the game after having to spend some time getting treatment.


Player Ratings


The Starting lineup


Matt Turner: The New Jersey native made all the saves that were asked of him and was confident whenever called upon. Rating: 6.0

Shaq Moore: The Tenerife-based fullback took his goal very well with a nice run to back post. For the rest of the game he defended well but struggled to make an impact offensively. Rating: 6.0

James Sands: The New York City mainstay played two roles. Defensively he was a centerback but when the U.S. team had the ball, he shifted to a No. 6 in a narrow diamond. He was relatively solid although didn’t do much in his midfield role. Rating: 6.5

Miles Robinson: This was an important game for Robinson where he showed a lot of defensive quality in helping the U.S. team see out the win. His made a lot of important clearances, won several important duels, and his passing out of the back was solid. He was the MOTM and Robinson should have a lot of confidence moving forward. Rating: 8.0

Walker Zimmerman: The Georgia native left the game early due to injury and his loss was a big setback for the team. Rating: N/A

Sam Vines: Along with Robinson, Vines was one of the few U.S. players to have a solid performance against Canada. His defense was important at several key moments and he shut down Canada on his side of the field. Rating: 8.0

Kellyn Acosta: Aside from his important pass to Lletget on the goal, it was a poor outing from Acosta who was outplayed by the Canadian midfield and was not able to help the team much in possession. It is never good when a central midfield manages just 22 touches in 74 minutes. Canada clearly wanted to shut him out and Acosta had no response. Rating: 4.5

Gianluca Busio: The Sporting Kansas midfielder is a newcomer to the deeper No. 6 and No. 8 positions as opposed to the No. 10 position he grew up playing. He failed to win many duels to win the ball back for the U.S. team. Once in possession, he didn’t make much of an impact and was mostly invisible. Rating: 4.0

Sebastian LLetget: The U.S. team’s best performer in the midfield. He not only assisted, but was the only one capable of getting the ball into dangerous spots and holding the ball. Rating: 7.0

Daryl Dike: Along with Zardes, Dike was effectively controlled by Canada. He was fairly dangerous in the first 25 minutes but after that was quiet. It was admirable how he was able to play hurt the final 10 minutes plus stoppage time. Rating: 4.5

Gyasi Zardes: The Columbus forward had his moments early and worked hard to run down some long balls. At times, he stretched the defense and could send in some crosses. But overall it wasn’t nearly enough and Canada contained both him and Dike. Rating: 4.5


The Substitutes


Donovan Pines: Some decent moments but also some moments when he looked extremely nervy in the back and new to the moment. Rating: 5.0

Reggie Cannon: The Boavista fullback defended well off the bench for the U.S. team but mishit a good chance on a goal. Rating: 6.0

Cristian Roldan: Mostly invisible in his 16 minutes off the bench and didn’t do much or enough. Rating: 4.5

Jackson Yueill: Managed to get on the ball a little bit to help see the game out. Rating: 5.5

Matthew Hoppe: Very lively off the bench. Dribbled into trouble a few times but overall brough some energy and helped advance the ball. Rating: 6.0

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