The United States men's national team was stunned by Canada on Tuesday night in CONCACAF Nations League play, suffering a 2-0 defeat in what was one of the worst displays by the U.S. in a long time. Arguably uglier than the loss to Trinidad and Tobago that kept the U.S. out of the World Cup two years ago, the Americans lacked ideas and dedication. It's the first time the American men have lost to the Canadians in 34 years.
It was a nightmare performance where U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter inexplicably took Chirstian Pulisic off after just an hour, hitting a new low with just three shots on goal, being outplayed by a team that simply deserved the three points.
Canadian star Alphonso Davies of Bayern Munich, a, scored the winner 63 minutes in thanks to an error from Michael Bradley and poor defending from the U.S. before Lucas Cavallini made it 2-0 in added time.
Here's the winning goal:
Here are three takeaways from the match:
1. Berhalter deserves to be questioned
It's probably too early for the seat to be warm, but the tough results are starting to take a toll. Berhalter has struggled in many ways, whether it's player selection, trying to do a bit too much with the system, and having his striker defend more than needed. Josh Sargent was often further back than any winger, which left him sprinting to catch up on counters. There were moments where it was just Pulisic up top surrounded by six Canadians.
Then there's Michael Bradley, who's probably in the lineup to provide veteran presence. He had an error that led to the first goal and was as extremely sloppy. Why is he still playing? For starters, the midfield talent behind him isn't all that great. It's still mind boggling that Berhalter removed Pulisic from the match with half an hour to go. I'd like to know exactly what the thought process was behind that move because it didn't work out at all.
Against Canada, the U.S. hadn't lost since 1984. On Tuesday, it didn't even come remotely close to earning a draw.
2. More energy is needed
This team really lacked something in attack. That calm demeanor from Berhalter on the sideline, that's how his team acts. No urgency at all, often just calm and playing like hot garbage. Players like Paul Arriola and Tyler Boyd bring the energy that is needed in this team when others don't have it. To his credit, Jordan Morris was one of the bright spots in the first half but still far from what is expected. Maybe it's time to play some of the guys that appear to want it more, like Boyd and Arriola. At least their effort will be easy to see, because what was on display in this one was just 11 players disconnected.
3. Where do the Americans go from here?
In a post-match interview on the broadcast, Berhalter said he was disappointed by the result and that they would go back home, regroup and try to improve. But how will that happen? Players on the national team have told me that the system is a bit complex and that it would take time, but they didn't seem concerned at all. That was a couple months ago. It will be interesting to see what they think now. Pulisic was visibly upset on the sideline after being pulled as he greeted his manager. For a youngster who hasn't played much at all for Chelsea, taking him out here isn't going to do wonders for his confidence.
This team does need Jozy Altidore back because of his ability to hold the ball up. He's good in the area, but the problems run deeper. Defensively, this side is slow to react, sloppy in the midfield, and can barely sniff at goal up top.
A 7-0 win over Cuba in the Nations League opener was probably not the most accurate representation of the state of the USMNT. Losing 2-0 to Canada is closer to the harsh reality for the United States.
Just take a look at some of the recent results:
- 1-0 loss to Jamaica in June
- 3-0 loss to Venezuela in June
- 1-0 win over Panama (Gold Cup) in June
- 1-0 win over Curacao (Gold Cup) in June
- Two losses to Mexico with zero goals scored in July (Gold Cup final) and August
The hand is closely approaching the panic button.