USA-Canada: Report Card
Twenty minutes later, Paul Arriola from the right flank of the midfield hit a cross-field pass that Morris, on his second touch, deftly lifted over sprawling goalkeeper Milan Borjan for Gyasi Zardes to head into an empty net.
Eleven minutes later, defender Tom Ream's left-footed out-swinging free kick set up Aaron Long's header to make it 3-0. Ream, like Lletget's corner kick, like Arriola's cross-field pass, wasn't a random boot into the "mixer." These first three goals came from clever and skillful play.
It was 3-0 at halftime, and after Canada finally got on the scoreboard in the 72nd minute, the USA capped its perfect start with a fine finish. Jackson Yueill's long pass from just inside the U.S. half was about to become a Canadian goal kick when DeAndre Yedlin amazingly managed to send in a cross with one touch as the ball was about to go out of bounds. Zardes pounced on Weston McKennie's failed scissor kick with a fierce half-volley to seal a 4-1 win.
That last goal may have included the luck of McKennie's mis-hit to land fortuitously for Zardes. But the Yedlin cross and the Zardes strike were soccer craft at its best.
As expected, the postgame reaction tended to address the performance in terms of the USA's dismal performances earlier in the year -- the 2-0 loss at Canada, 3-0 loss to Mexico back in June.
Even the Canadian coach had to address it:
"They silenced some critics here," said John Herdman.
For his part, U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter, who had after loss at Canada stated "only a win will suffice,” said:
“There’s been some real big criticism of the group. It was a perceived lack of effort, a lack of heart. You couldn’t mention that today at all. The way the guys were fighting for each other, the way way they had their back, the amount of effort that was put in. ... To me the difference was that we were ready to overcome anything.”
Notable in what Berhalter said is word "perceived," because he said after the loss in Canada, "I wasn't happy with the desire that we displayed." Of the Canadians he said after the U.S. loss in Toronto: "The first thing that stands out to me, was desire; desire of Canada."
Is it really possible that when national teams, comprised of the most successful players from each country, clash that the difference between who wins or losses is "desire"? It's difficult to imagine that players at this level lose because they aren't trying hard enough. Easy to see was that sparks of individual skill and clever teamwork led a convincing U.S. victory.
Just as Berhalter gets blamed for the losses, he should also get credit for the wins. On Friday, the victory was so convincing that it could warrant new confidence in how he's directing the team.