Crushing Canada creates a new beginning for Coach Berhalter

Less than two minutes into the game, the USA won a corner kick and executed it an unusual way. Sebastian Lletget struck the ball low in a situation when the Canadians would have expected a high one. The 19-year-old right back Sergino Dest was standing about 25 yards away from the goal when Lletget lined up by the corner flag. Dest darted into the penalty area and got his right foot on the ball just as Canadian Jonathan David tried to clear it. Jordan Morris  pounced and volleyed it into the net.

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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.

16 comments about "Crushing Canada creates a new beginning for Coach Berhalter".
  1. Bob Ashpole, November 16, 2019 at 5:29 a.m.

    The pleasant surprise to me was how well Morris and Lletget worked on the left flank. 

    As far as the health of the program goes, I can't get excited when soccer is seen as a game of "heart" and "desire". The extreme physical and mental challenge of a 90 minute match with no time outs and no substitutes is what drew me to soccer in my youth, but the game was and should be about more than a physical and mental contest. It is also a contest of skill and tactics.

    I like this description best: "Football is a game you play with your brain." 

  2. Alfred Randall replied, November 16, 2019 at 6:53 a.m.

    Bob, football will always require heart and desire to be successful. Technical speed, speed of thought and sound tactics compromise the coached part of the game but the heart and desire must come from within the individual players. All the 'skill and tactics' in the world will not work if the heart and desire is not there to begin with. If you're 10 goals better than your opponent then maybe you don't need so much of the heart and desire but when is the US 10 goals better than their opponents? The quote is a good one but you still have sweat and expect some bruises to win matches that are competitive.

  3. Gary Levitt replied, November 16, 2019 at 6:55 a.m.

    Agree Bob.  The overall game was not exactly technical from either team though Zardes' strike was clean.  Wtih all that said, the boys pressed hard, played hard, and Brooks set the tone with his physicality.  I will take the 4-1 win and look for further improvement with technigue, tactical awareness, and ball-winning. My only regret now is not booking a vacation in the Caymans to take in the next match.  :)

  4. George Miller, November 16, 2019 at 6:54 a.m.

    GB said they made up with desire what they didn't have in precision. Thats accurate. It was not pretty. City Rec came to mind... so many giveaways. I'll take the big win but was hoping for a skill game

  5. Kent James, November 16, 2019 at 9:01 a.m.

    The US did what it needed to do, and got a good (and well-deserved) result.  Both teams gave the ball away more than they should have (though the Canadians were far worse in that department); maybe the weather was a factor?  I thought we played the ball out of the back reasonably well under pressure, but that being said, I still think we try to do it too often.  A number of times our defenders had the ball forty yards from goal and play the ball back to Guzan, who is immediately under pressure, and does not seem particularly comfortable on the ball.  If the goalkeeper has time and space, sure, send him the ball (if you don't have better options).  But if he's going to be put under immediate pressure, I'd rather someone else get the ball.  Giving the ball away in your own penalty area is significantly riskier than doing it at midfield, and the reward for playing it to the keeper is just not that great.  But the team did a lot of things right (lots of nice combinations in tight spaces, excellent finishing, complete aerial dominance defensively in our box).  Scoring 4 goals was particularly impressive given we were missing our premiere offensive threat (Pulisic).

  6. Seth Vieux replied, November 16, 2019 at 10:29 a.m.

    I agree with you that the Canadians made lots of bad give aways in this game, but then how were we able to only get 30% possession when the Canadians played poorly with so many truly bad give aways? 

  7. Frans Vischer, November 16, 2019 at 9:34 a.m.

    I'm happy with the win- nice goals and efficient setups. I agree that desire should never be an issue. But I'm not ready to shower GB with praise yet. Aside from the scoreline, this wasn't such a convincing win. Canada again looked the more comfortable on the ball- nice passing. movement, skillful possession. They did everything but score in the first half. 
    Having 30% of possession in a home game is worrisome. This was a step forward for the US, but we're a long way from being a good team. 

  8. beautiful game, November 16, 2019 at 10:36 a.m.

    One successful game means nothing; especially against an opponent which couldn't find its rhythm with or without the ball. As for this talk about desire and complimentary officianado echoes, no player should be on the pitch who lacks desire. Lack of desire is an excuse for a poor performance.  

  9. Bob Ashpole replied, November 16, 2019 at 11:34 a.m.

    I agree BG. Cannot imagine players at that level not being self-motivated. Long before players get to the national team, I describe travel soccer as "self-selecting". Kids that play every day stand out over those that don't. It is that simple. So I think every elite player has desire. By the time you get to professional soccer, everyone is highly motivated. When they lose it, they leave the sport.

  10. frank schoon, November 16, 2019 at 12:24 p.m.

    I began watching it last night but changed channels after 20 minutes. I couldn't watch it for I found the grass surface and how the ball rolled visually, distracting. The wet field, perhaps it was Bermuda grass , I don't know, slowed down the tempo of the game. It was frustrating to watch for I always take the 3rd player into account, thinking two steps ahead,  before the initial pass given but the reduction in ball tempo right after the pass slowed the dynamics. It reminds me of an old car with automatic shift upon stepping on the accelerator takes forever to lock into gear.

    Watching the first 50min. this morning, I noticed Canada had a right back problem #2 whose job should first be defense , then possibly go offense,( like Dest does) but he did it in reverse which caused Canada two goals. It wasn't that we had great offense it's just their right side left a huge gap which resulted in their backline  on the right side outmanned 2v3 .That situation was ameliorated(big word) later on when #2 switched to the left for #12.

    Canada's whole problem in a nutshell is that they played 4-4-2, which is not surprising since their coach is English which requires 2 outside backs to make runs down the flanks....Well that wasn't happening, period. As a result there were too many long diagonal ball that weren't going anywhere except to the players feet. There was a total lack of penetration on the flanks by the Canadians.
    Canada with the personell they have should play 4-3-3 forcing our defense to SPREAD OUT ,which wasn't happening. They have nice 1v1 type of players on the flanks that could give any back trouble. Instead with 2 strikers up front everything ,their attack was funneled into the middle, which is easy for us ;because, one, the strikers have their back facing our goal, two, since there was flank penetration, no crosses. Furthermore their 4-4-2 system slowed everything down due lack of any triangles, especially around midfield. In sum this was a pure Coaching mistake.

    The only thing I liked on our side took place in the first few minutes of the game which was Lleget's outside of the right foot cross across the goal mouth was a thing of beauty. It was hard,well hit and goal following that would have been great. That is first time I've seen a pass like which was so common back in the old days.  Also l like Dest's touch on the ball, as far as receiving it. He definitely is step above the others in ball handling especially in receivign. McKennie still has not impressed me. This win is just a win and I wouldn't draw any further conclusions....Also this Brooks should have been either carded or at least a yellow....

  11. Ben Myers, November 16, 2019 at 12:29 p.m.

    Comments elsewhere claim that the first goal from a corner kick was "unusual".  Nope!  It is a minor variation of the goal created by LLoyd's volley off a corner by Rapinoe in the previous World Cup.  This is a simple principle.  If the person taking the corner sees an open player in or near the penalty area, play the ball to that player, rather than the usual lofted corner.

  12. Kevin Leahy, November 16, 2019 at 12:41 p.m.

    Gee Mike, tell me what was so convincing about the victory other than the score line? Canada didn't have the ability to make the final pass but, their time of possession was way too much. It was Canada not, Costa Rica or Mexico!

  13. Peter Bechtold, November 16, 2019 at 12:48 p.m.

    Thanks,Mike; I like your reports. You are correct that GB deserves some credit after the win.
    However, your headline writer was wayyyy off: the US did not CRUSH Canada despite the 4-1 score. Truth is that Canada outplayed the US visually, and had the stats almost 2:1, but could not execute on either end. I always say: Did the victor win ? Or is the victory the result of the other guy losing ?(Many examples,even in politics). Without reading the Canadian media, I can only guess that our neighbors are bemoaning their self-inflicted wounds.
    The progress on the US side stemmed from a well-orchestrated central defense with Long/Brooks and Yueill working well together, plus the hustle of Lleget and McKennie. Something to build on, especially with wingers like Dest, Yedlin and Gloster(U-20).

  14. David Ruder, November 16, 2019 at 2:45 p.m.

    Not putting the burden on Michael Bradley with every second touch, the rest of the team realized finally that all the players had to take responsibility for moving the ball.

  15. Philip Carragher, November 16, 2019 at 3:55 p.m.

    I'm happy the US won so the players and coach can feel better; however, I found myself watching the game and simply hoping the ball would bounce favorably for us. I agree there were moments of technical brilliance last night, but isn't this kind of like the previous US v Canada game, only last night we got the better bounces?

  16. Alan Goldstein, November 16, 2019 at 6:21 p.m.

    The game is played with one third feet, one third brain and one third heart. All the heart in the world cannot make up a massive difference in skill with the ball and the ability to make quick effective decisions and then to execute them clinically. However, an edge in desire and heart, even at the highest levels, can overcome an moderate difference in the physical and mental skills, just ask Barcelona after their experience last spring at Anfield. 

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