Jordan Morris delivered and Gyasi Zardes scored a brace as the USMNT produced a terrific performance against Canada, winning 4-1 in Orlando on Friday night. It was an emphatic contrast from last month's loss in Toronto as the Americans showed grit, creativity and determination.
It's now half the job done for Gregg Berhalter's side, who only needs a victory against Cuba on Tuesday in order to make it to the knockout stage of Concacaf's Nations League.
It didn't take long for the action to take off as Jordan Morris, fresh from his MLS Cup win last weekend with Seattle, made it 1-0 in less than 2 minutes after Canada failed to fully defend USA's well planned corner. Sergiño Dest earned his first assist since fully committing to the national team.
The goal certainly gave the Americans some confidence and some smart play and a quick cross from the left hand side almost found Gyasi Zardes, but the attacker couldn't quite connect. As opposed to last month's lack of effort and productivity, the early stages of this encounter definitely showed more focus from Berhalter's squad.
It's not to say Canada was sitting back. Far from it, as Alphonso Davies and Lucas Cavallini were doing everything possible to get one back for their team. John Brooks probably felt quite fortunate not to be on the receiving end of a yellow card in the first twenty minutes as he had already amounted for multiple fouls against the opposition.
But just as Canada was feeling confident, the U.S hit the visitor on the counter and there was Jordan Morris once again, this time as provider as his cross from the left wing found Zardes, and this time the striker wouldn't miss. And just like that, it was 2-0.
The U.S kept pushing on the counter and once again it hit Canada right after retaining possession. Sebastian Lletget was fouled just outside the box and the hosts was awarded a free kick, prompting a great set piece delivery, which found Aaron Long. The New York Red Bulls defender made it 3-0 in the 34th minute.
A strange play happened right before the break when Davies, close to this goal, juggled the ball high enough to head it back to his goalkeeper, but the referee blew his whistle as he correctly called it as back pass. Manufacturing a header back to your keeper is not legal in the game. This resulted in an indirect free kick inside the box for the U.S. Canada's stopper Milan Borjan aggressively complained to the main official, resulting in a yellow.
The Americans didn't capitalize but the half ended with an emphatic lead and a strong 45 minutes from the home side.
Canada kicked off the second half with more intent, pushing the chains in the midfield and adding more pressure on its opponent. But the U.S was not backing down and giving as much as it was taking. A terrible giveaway inside the Canadian box in the 54th minute almost allowed a fourth American goal but the ball went over the bar.
The final twenty minutes showed fatigue on both sides, which was inevitable, given the intensity of the game up to this point. As the game reached the final stage, it seemed as if the USMNT had done enough in the first half to secure the much needed victory.
But in the 71st minute, Steven Vitoria scored from close range after a corner and the Canadians earned one back.
But in the final moments of regular time, Zardes scored his brace thanks to a fantastic finish, thus reclaiming his team's three-goal lead.
In the end, Canada could not deal with a U.S team determined to rectify last month's loss. The Americans showed up on Friday night and gave a resolute team performance.
Here were the lineups for tonight:
Next up for the USMNT is a match against Cuba on Tuesday. If the U.S wins, it goes through the knockout round of Concacaf's Nations League.