NASHVILLE — Cyle Larin’s 62nd-minute goal gave Canada a 1-1 tie with the U.S. and a valuable away point in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying play Sunday.
Brenden Aaronson put the U.S. (0-0-2) ahead in the 55th minute after dispossessing defender Scott Kennedy off a Canadian throw-in. Six passes later, Antonee Robinson found the 20-year-old Aaronson, who poked the ball home from close range. Kennedy, who appeared to have taken a knock, was replaced minutes later by Kamal Miller.
Canada (0-0-2) wobbled briefly after the goal, but regained its composure and pulled even seven minutes later when Sam Adekugbe found Alphonso Davies behind substitute fullback DeAndre Yedlin. The Bayern Munich star fed Larin in front of goal for his 20th international goal, just two off Dwayne De Rosario’s Canadian men’s scoring record.
Larin, who plays in Turkey for Besiktas, upped his Canada goals total in 2021 to 12 in 11 games and has now scored in six of his last seven international outings.
The goal was the first conceded by goalkeeper Matt Turner in 568 minutes in U.S. colours.
Canada brought on Jonathan David and Tajon Buchanan after the goal, adding to its attack. Veteran Atiba Hutchinson was introduced in the 77th minute, earning his 87th cap, two off Julian de Guzman’s Canadian men’s record.
The 10th-ranked Americans had 75 per cent of possession in the first half and outshot No. 59 Canada 5-3 (1-1 in shots on target) but could not make inroads on the Canadian defence before an enthusiastic crowd of some 39,000 at Nissan Stadium. Canada, which had a line of five defenders when the Americans had the ball, looked to counter-attack, often through the elusive Davies.
It was more of the same in the second although neither team put many shots on target. Canada held strong for the point.
The Canadians came into the game with a 1-11-8 record in their last 20 meetings with the Americans dating back to 1985. That lone victory came in October 2019 in CONCACAF Nations League play, a 2-0 triumph in Toronto that ended a 34-year, 17-match (0-9-8) winless run against the U.S.
In other CONCACAF play Sunday, No. 74 Panama (1-0-1) won 3-0 at No. 50 Jamaica (0-2-0), No. 63 Honduras (0-0-2) drew 0-0 at No. 64 El Salvador (0-0-2) and No. 9 Mexico (2-0-0) won 1-0 at No. 44 Costa Rica (0-1-1).
Both Canada and the U.S. were coming off ties Thursday in their opening games of the final round. Canada rallied to draw Honduras 1-1 at Toronto’s BMO Field while the Americans played a scoreless draw at El Salvador.
The Canadians host El Salvador in Toronto next Wednesday. The U.S. plays Honduras the same night in San Pedro Sula.
The Canadian men will visit Mexico and Jamaica next month before hosting Panama in Toronto.
Each of the eight teams in the so-called Octagonal play 14 matches. Come March, the top three finishers book their ticket to Qatar 2022 to represent North and Central America and the Caribbean. The fourth-place finisher takes part in an intercontinental playoff to see who joins them.
It’s Canada’s first foray into the final round of qualifying since the lead-up to France ’98. The Canadian men have only ever qualified for one World Cup, in 1986.
The U.S. have played in 10 World Cups, including seven of the last eight, but failed to qualify for the 2018 tournament.
John Herdman made five changes to his starting lineup, bringing in Adekugbe, Kennedy, Doneil Henry, Mark-Anthony Kaye and Junior Hoilett. Goalkeeper Milan Borjan captained the team in place of Hutchinson.
Chelsea star Christian Pulisic, who tested positive for COVID last month, returned to captain the U.S. as coach Gregg Berhalter made six changes to his starting 11.
U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who missed the El Salvador game, was replaced on the roster by Sean Johnson after testing positive for COVID-19. Steffen (Manchester City) said the positive test came despite being fully vaccinated. One other member of the U.S. delegation also tested positive and was isolated.
Turner continued in the U.S. goal. The New England Revolution ‘keeper came into the game having recorded five consecutive clean sheets and had conceded just one goal, via penalty, in his eight previous caps.
Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund) was sidelined by a hamstring strain while fellow American attacking midfielder Weston McKennie (Juventus) did not dress after breaching team COVID protocols.
Canada, wearing its new black away strip, had a big chance in the 14th minute from a long Borjan goal kick. Davies beat Barcelona fullback Sergino Dest to the ball and squared it back to Larin whose shot was palmed away by Turner.
Borjan made a comfortable diving save to deny Robinson in the 21st. And the Red Star Belgrade ‘keeper had to make an acrobatic save in the 26th minute off an attempted Kennedy headed clearance after a fine run by Dest and an Aaronson cross.
Canada’s Richie Laryea was booked in the first half after shoving Pulisic, leading to a minor scuffle. Jordan Pefok poked the ball just wide in the 36th after Canada failed to clear.
Canada had a close call in the 40th minute when a tumbling Pulisic’s close-range shot hit the goalpost. An injury forced Dest off the pitch late in the half.
Canada came into the game with a 9-16-11 all-time record against the U.S. but held a 6-4-3 edge when it came to World Cup qualifying matches. The two countries last met in World Cup qualifying play in 1997 when the U.S. won in Palo Alto, Calif., and Vancouver, both by 3-0 scores.
Canada’s last win over the Americans on U.S. soil was in July 1957, a 3-2 decision in St. Louis.
The Americans had won the last two meetings, 1-0 at the Gold Cup in July in Kansas City and 4-1 in CONCACAF Nations League play in November 2019 in Orlando. Canada conceded just 20 seconds into that Gold Cup game but came on strong the rest of the way.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 5, 2021