CMNT Preview: Canada Look to Upset a Strong USMNT

After a tight 3-2 victory against Iceland, the United States will play their second game of 2016 against their northern neighbours Canada Friday night at the StubHub Center.

The Americans didn’t quite give the performance of a lifetime in their last fixture; Iceland gave the Yanks a run for their money. Both teams shared a handful of chances that could not be finished. A poor error defensively cost USA early going down 1-0. The equalizer was then put in by Toronto FC striker, Jozy Altidore, following some beautiful link-up play from his fellow club and country teammate – and captain – Michael Bradley.

Iceland broke the deadlock in the second half with a brilliant curling strike. Only a Michael Orozco header at the back post would get the States back into the game. In the dying seconds, the US struck again from a set piece, with a textbook header from Steve Birnbaum to seal the victory.

There are definitely some areas US head coach Jürgen Klinsmann would like to sharpen up against Canada – more specifically in the finishing department. The Americans registered a total of 16 shots against Iceland on Sunday. If the US want to win comfortably against the Canadians, they must not squander the chances they create for themselves. The US team has a surplus of attacking options as well. Players like Lee Nguyen and Gyasi Zardes are incredibly under the radar, and do not get the recognition they deserve for their creative offensive abilities.

Nov 13, 2015; St.Louis, MO, USA; USA forward Gyasi Zardes (9) takes a shot on goal and scores during the second half of a FIFA World Cup Qualifying soccer match St. Vincent & The Grenadines at Busch Stadium. USA won 6-1. Mandatory Credit: Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

Defensively speaking, the States will also need to be on their toes. As seen in the game against Iceland, all it takes is one slip up to get scored on. However, the US backline has proved to be an offensive threat off of set pieces. Some of the taller players will look to win their battles in the air in the Canadian box to score, or set up their team mates.

Canada will be playing their first fixture of 2016. Their last fixture was back in November in a quiet 0-0 draw against El Salvador in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying action. Some fans were happy with the result, but truthfully it was poor. Getting points away from home in any competitive matchup is a good thing except when the team you’re playing against is a B team.

Nov 13, 2015; Vancouver, British Columbia, USA; Canada forward David Hoilett (10) reaches for the ball against Honduras player Brayan Beckeles (5) during the first half of a FIFA World Cup qualifier soccer match at BC Place. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

It was a game where Canada should have taken all three points, especially with the experienced players they have at their disposal. The problem at hand was not defensively, but offensively. As a team, when your strikers are not finishing chances, or creating them to begin with, there are going to be problems in getting results. Players like Cyle Larin and Junior Hoilett will need to pick up their socks and start causing problems for defenders if Canada hope to get ahead on the scoresheet. Both players are quite skillful, strong, and fully loaded with pace. Hopefully their partnership can develop into an offensive threat for the future of their country.

Canada’s strongest asset has to be their midfield. Players like Will Johnson, and Atiba Hutchinson can command and dictate the play on the attack, or when dropping back on defence.

Sep 6, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto FC defender Doneil Henry (15) runs with the ball against the Philadelphia Union at BMO Field. The Union beat FC 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Reds can also look forward to the return of defender Doneil Henry, getting a call up after some time training with his club West Ham United. Doneil has yet to see any playing time for the first team, and was then further set back by injury. From a fans’ perspective, this is definitely something that helps the team immensely. Toronto FC fans will remember Doneil as one of their better centre backs throughout the years. The maturity that he would play with for his age was what got him a deal with the London club. Doneil is a powerhouse from the backline, who is strong and not afraid to put in a good challenge.

Being the home team, and having a better track record, the US are hands down the favourites for this clash. Canada will need to attack and defend responsibly, if they want to take points away from this game. But as they say, the ball is round, so anything can happen.

You can catch the game at 10:30pm on TSN.