The U.S. men's national team wound up with a less-than-ideal result on a night when Christian Pulisic returned to the lineup, but two other key cogs were left out for an important early World Cup qualifying match.
The U.S. settled for a 1–1 draw with Canada in Nashville, Tenn., on Sunday night, with Brenden Aaronson's 55th-minute goal being matched by Cyle Larin's 62nd-minute tap-in. The result, which was capped with fans booing the U.S. off the field at Nissan Stadium, leaves the U.S. in the middle of the pack of the Concacaf table two matches into the 14-game World Cup qualifying Octagonal, with two points. Mexico, which edged Costa Rica 1–0 on the road on an Orbelin Pineda penalty kick just before halftime on Sunday, leads the eight-team group with six points.
Prior to the result, much of the intrigue came before the opening whistle. Gio Reyna was ruled out vs. Canada and Wednesday night vs. Honduras with a hamstring strain, while Weston McKennie was dropped for an unspecified "violation of team policy" for Sunday's match. McKennie, via Instagram, confirmed it was for breaking the team's COVID-19 protocols but offered no more detail than that. It's not yet known if he'll travel to Honduras following the match. McKennie, who tested positive for COVID-19 in October 2020, was held out of a Juventus match in April 2021 for breaking local virus protocols after hosting a party at his home in Turin as well.
Pulisic, who missed Thursday's 0–0 draw in El Salvador and has cleared all protocols after testing positive for COVID-19, returns against a Canada side that also drew its opener following a 1–1 home draw vs. Honduras. The U.S. isn't clear of COVID-19, though, with goalkeeper Zack Steffen testing positive while in camp. He was already ruled out for Sunday's match with back spasms, and U.S. Soccer said that the positive result came after his status had been determined. He'll miss Wednesday's match in Honduras as well, and he's been replaced on the U.S. roster by NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson. Matt Turner, who shut out La Selecta three days ago, started in goal again.
Canada was also missing some key muscle from its lineup, with dynamic winger Tajon Buchanan and star forward Jonathan David beginning on the bench, only to come on together in the 66th minute. Bayern Munich sensation Alphonso Davies led the way for John Herdman's side, which was seeking a statement result in its quest to return to the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
Pulisic showed his quality in the third minute, seizing the ball after the U.S. press forced the turnover and going at the Canada defense before being fouled by Alistair Johnston. His service on the ensuing free kick was lacking in quality, though it was errantly put out for a U.S. corner, which ultimately was cleared to safety.
Davies presented his skills on the other end in a ninth-minute run to the corner, but Tyler Adams locked him down 1-v-1 until Sergiño Dest arrived to provide the double-team, allowing the U.S. to avoid any true dangerous moments in the back.
Turner was forced into the first save of the game in the 11th minute, with Larin getting in behind and going at goal before taking a meekly hit shot that the U.S. goalkeeper was able to corral easily.
Canada threatened again in the 14th minute. Davies beat Dest down the left-hand side and carried to the endline before cutting back for Larin. The Beşiktaş forward wasn't able to make great contact, though, and a sprawling Turner was able to get a hand on it to put it out for a corner, even with the initial shot appearing to go wide on its own.
Turner's counterpart, Milan Borjan, was forced into his first save in the 21st minute, after the U.S. press again forced a turnover. The ball was worked around to Antonee Robinson, who was surging down the center from his spot at left back and sent a low, powerful blast that the Canadian goalkeeper caught with a diving save.
Borjan then saved what would've been a sensational own goal after the U.S. worked its way down the right-hand side. Dest surged forward and found Aaronson, whose cross was headed by Scott Kennedy toward his own goal and only was sent wide by Borjan's diving effort.
Pulisic hit the post for the U.S. in the 41st minute off a nice sequence started with a long ball out of the back by John Brooks. He picked out Sebastian Lletget, who spun to feed Aaronson out right. The Salzburg winger crossed, and Pulisic ran onto it at the near post, turning it off the woodwork.
The U.S. was forced into a substitution just before halftime, with Dest going off hurt with an apparent right ankle injury and being replaced by DeAndre Yedlin, who started against El Salvador.
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The U.S. finally broke through in the 55th minute on a sequence started and ended by Aaronson. First, he pressured the ball after a throw in, sparking the U.S. going the other way. After the referee allowed play to continue following a clear foul on Pulisic, Adams poked the ball forward for Jordan Pefok, who played it to his left to Kellyn Acosta. The midfielder found Antonee Robinson on the overlap, and Aaronson slid home to finish off the cross to give the U.S. its first goal of qualifying.
That lead was short-lived. Davies absolutely burned Yedlin down the left-hand side before crossing for Larin, who tapped in the equalizer in the 62nd minute.
Canada caught bad break with 15 minutes to go, with Davies forced off through injury. It was unclear precisely what happened, but after the ball went out for a Canada throw deep in U.S. territory, he went to ground and appeared to hold his lower left leg. Jonathan Osorio came on in his place in the 76th minute.
Buchanan picked up the attacking slack after coming on, and he very nearly gave Canada the lead. He whizzed by the U.S. defense on the right only to put a blast just beyond the far post. On a sequence moments later, he attempted to win a penalty off Tyler Adams, only for the referee to rule play to continue.
The U.S. pushed for a late winner in stoppage time, and it nearly came off a corner kick, but Miles Robinson could only put his diving header over the bar after Pulisic's dangerous service.
More Soccer Coverage:
- Straus: Experience, Exposure and a Point Earned in El Salvador for USMNT
- Straus: Home is Where the Heightened Expectation Is for USMNT
- Creditor: Favorites, Pitfalls and Features of Concacaf World Cup Qualifying
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