Canada talked a big game, and it backed it up.
Goals from Alphonso Davies and Lucas Cavallini gave Canada a stunning 2-0 win over the U.S. men's national team in the Concacaf Nations League, marking Canada's first win over the USA since 1985. It snapped a winless skid of 17 matches in the series between the two nations and puts Canada in control of their group, with a six-point lead–though the U.S. has a game in hand a rematch at home with Canada to come next month.
Canada was relishing the chance to host the U.S. in an official competition for the first time since 1997, and with the chance to rise in FIFA's rankings and reach the all-important top-six-in-Concacaf threshold for World Cup qualifying, Canada delivered an inspired performance.
The U.S. was coming off a 7-0 win over Cuba on Friday, but that result may have spoken more about the level of Cuba than that of the U.S., if Tuesday's performance was any evidence.
Canada looked up for the match from the start, with Richie Laryea surging forward from his right back position and delivering a dangerous cross in the first minute, only for Tim Ream to head it to safety with a diving clearance.
Canada continued to push forward in the opening minutes, but the hosts suffered a setback five minutes in, when star LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye pulled up lame holding his right hamstring. A dejected Kaye took a pat on the back from U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter as he walked off with an injury that could have an impact on the MLS playoffs, too. Kaye was replaced by Liam Fraser.
The U.S. failed to put anything cohesive together in the attack, and Canada broke forward again in the 11th minute, with Bayern Munich's Davies trying to exploit his matchup against U.S. left back Daniel Lovitz. The Montreal Impact defender forced Davies to move centrally, where he cut and fired with his left foot from 25 yards, only for Zack Steffen to make the clean save.
The momentum stayed with the hosts, as Canada was gifted a golden opportunity at the 15-minute mark and somehow couldn't capitalize. Jonathan David pounced on a horrible backpass from Cristian Roldan, having his 1-v-1 chance saved by Steffen. He pounced on the rebound, but as the U.S. defense began to recover, he pushed his follow-up chance wide of the far post, letting the Americans off easy.
The USA finally threatened in the attack in the 18th minute, with Josh Sargent playing it wide left for Jordan Morris, who surged forward but had his chance from inside the box deflected out for a corner.
Neither side truly threatened for the remainder of the opening half, with a scattered match lacking fluidity unfolding and the fouls piling up. Canada had the better of the possession and passed at a better clip but lacked a cutting edge in the final third, while the U.S. couldn't even put together a coherent foray forward that resulted in anything better than a fruitless corner kick.
The second half began with more of the same, and David failed to score on another great chance. It was created down the right, where Laryea got forward and crossed for David's near-post run. The 19-year-old forward turned his chance wide of the post, though, keeping the game scoreless in the 50th minute.
Two minutes later, the U.S. nearly scored, with Morris teeing up Pulisic for a rare clean look, only for the U.S. star to be denied by Milan Borjan, who parried the Americans' first shot on target to safety.
That was Pulisic's last influential play of the night. He was surprisingly taken off in the 60th minute, replaced by Paul Arriola.
Canada took the 1-0 lead–and a deserved one at that–a couple of minutes later. Scott Arfield's cross from the right was turned in at the goalmouth by Davies, and if it hadn't gone fully over the line and counted, David was there to tap it over just in case.
Steffen ensured it didn't become 2-0 in the 72nd minute when he denied Junior Hoilett, who had come on as a substitute for Davies, by cutting off his angle and rushing out to stuff his chance from 16 yards.
Canada put the icing on the cake in stoppage time, with the substitute Cavallini running onto Jonathan Osorio's pass and beating Steffen from a right-sided angle to make it 2-0 and secure the three points.
Here were the lineups for both sides:
Here were the rosters for both teams:
GOALKEEPERS: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United), Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Zack Steffen (Fortuna Düsseldorf)
DEFENDERS: Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact), Matt Miazga (Reading), Tim Ream (Fulham), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United)
MIDFIELDERS: Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)
FORWARDS: Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake), Tyler Boyd (Besiktas), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)
GOALKEEPERS: Milan Borjan (Red Star Belgrade), Maxime Crépeau (Vancouver Whitecaps), Jayson Leutwiler (Blackburn Rovers)
DEFENDERS: Samuel Adekugbe (Vålerenga), Juan Córdova (Huachipato), Derek Cornelius (Vancouver Whitecaps), Amer Didic (FC Edmonton), Richie Laryea (Toronto FC), Kamal Miller (Orlando City), Steven Vitória (Moreirense)
MIDFIELDERS: Scott Arfield (Rangers) Stephen Eustáquio (Cruz Azul), Liam Fraser (Toronto FC), Mark-Anthony Kaye (LAFC), Jonathan Osorio (Toronto FC), Samuel Piette (Montreal Impact), Russell Teibert (Vancouver Whitecaps)
FORWARDS: Lucas Cavallini (Puebla), Jonathan David (Gent), Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich), Junior Hoilett (Cardiff City), Liam Miller (Kilmarnock)