As the Canada women's national team coach,
Englishman John Herdman faced the USA 11 times and never won.
He'll get his first chance to beat the USA as Canada's men's national team coach Tuesday night when Canada and the USA meet in the Concacaf Nations League at Toronto's BMO Field.
USA-Canada: Five games that define the men's series
Canada has won nine of 11 games under Herdman and became the first team to clinch a berth in the 2021 Gold Cup with two wins to open Group A play in the Concacaf Nations League's League A.
Canada's two losses under Herdman came at the Gold Cup, a 3-1 defeat in the group stage to eventual winner Mexico and a stunning 3-2 defeat to Haiti in the quarterfinals.
After the Gold Cup exit in Houston, Herdman said he and his players were gutted by the loss to Haiti and how they let the Haitians back in the game after they trailed 2-0 at the half. He wants his players now to build on what they learned at the Gold Cup.
“We played Mexico in the Gold Cup," he said last week. "They’re a solid team, and we know where the U.S. stands in relation to Mexico. They’re up there with the best we’ve played. We’ve only played Mexico and Haiti that really challenged us, so this is building on those learnings. This is an opportunity where you say, ‘All right, what did we learn from those two matches.'"
Canada has two of the most exciting young players in Concacaf in 19-year-old Jonathan David, who plays for Belgian club Gent, and 18-year-old Alphonso Davies, who is in his first full season at Bayern Munich. Along with Lucas Cavellini, they form an attack that could give the USA lots of trouble, but Herdman respects the U.S. defense.
“Defensively, they’re one of the best in Concacaf,” he said. “And that aligns with the U.S.’s athleticism. They fight for every ball, they’re able to cover ground, they’re quicker than most players, and they’ll do that for 90 minutes. So for us, there’s an awareness of that, that you’re going to be pressed, they’re going to hurry you, they’re going to be on every touch.”
Herdman said the Concacaf team that has shown how to unsettle the USA is Mexico.
“They’re like a well-oiled machine," said of the USA under Gregg Berhalter. "Everything works off of a trigger, off of a cue, and if you’re able to disrupt that rhythm, then the team struggles. And I think the team that they’ve struggled against the most defensively in their attack has been Mexico, who’s just unsettled them, but Mexico are just underpinned by this will, that they will not let the USA beat them, that’s the difference, they will never let the USA beat them."
Herdman added that's something the USA probably feels about Canada -- it hasn't lost to Canada since 1985 and is unbeaten in competitive play since 1980 -- and he wants to change that.
"I’m hoping that our will to want to beat them," he said, "and what it’ll do for the country will be a lot stronger.”