TORONTO — Coach John Herdman promises “blood, guts and thunder” when Canada takes the field against the U.S. on Tuesday in CONCACAF Nations League play
The Canadian men are looking to end a 34-year, 17-match winless streak against the Americans. It is not Herdman’s or their history but they want to end it, whatever it takes.
Canada, currently 75th in the world, is also looking for the valuable FIFA ranking points that come with a win over the No. 21 Americans. The Canadians, who currently rank seventh among CONCACAF countries, need to crack the top six in the ratings that follow the June international window to make the six-team Hex, the most direct World Cup qualifying route out of the region.
“There’s so many angles for motivation in this game,” Herdman told a news conference after training Monday.
“There’s all sorts of reasons but it just comes down to these guys are hungry,” he added. “They’ve been hungry ever since I met them. And these opportunities (only) come along in people’s careers every now and then. I don’t think many of the guys have seen that opportunity — to play a really meaningful match against the U.S. They’re just hungry to play. I don’t need to put anything in front of them.
“It’s in front of their home fans. They’ll hear their national anthem. They’ll hear that U.S. one. And they’ll be raring to go.”
The young Canadians drew praise from U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter.
“It’s nice when you see a country have such young dynamic players because you know the future is going to be bright for them,” Berhalter said. “It think it’s going to be a really good team. I think it is a good team. They’ve showed that in this last year.
“I think all across the board in all positions, they’re good. It’ll be a good challenge for us.”
The U.S. has dominated the series in recent years. It leads the overall series at 14-8-11 and has not lost to the Canadians since April 1985. The Americans have gone 9-0-8 since that 2-0 defeat in Vancouver.
Igor Vrablic scored both goals for Canada in that 1985 win. He turned 54 in July.
But the U.S. edge is only 7-6-4 in competitive matches against Canada, and 3-6-2 in away matches.
“It’ll be blood, guts and thunder from us regardless,” said Herdman. “This is a game where every tackle’s going to matter, every physical contact’s going to matter.
“Our boys will want this a lot. There’ll be bodies on the line … Tactics in a game like this, while you’ll have tactics, it’ll never be won on that. In some games tactics are everything. But in games like this, it’s who’s willing to really impose their will.”
Canada forward Jonathan David is aware of the history between the North American rivals. But he also knows his team.
“We know we have a good group and this is the perfect moment,” said the 19-year-old, who was born in Brooklyn but moved to Haiti at three months old and Ottawa at six years old.
BMO Field has been a fortress for Canada. The Canadian men are 10-1-7 there since the venue opened in 2007 and is currently riding an eight-year, 15-match unbeaten run there. Canada has posted six straight shutouts and conceded just once in its last 13 matches there.
The Americans are undergoing a transition of their own under Berhalter, who was named coach in December 2018.
“We have a lot of good young players … who have been given their first opportunities and experiences with the national team over the last year or two and have done very well,” said veteran U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley. “It’s a good group, it’s a group that comes every day ready to work and ready to try and improve.
“It’s a nice mix of guys in terms of some veterans, some younger guys and some guys in between. We’re not in a totally dissimilar boat in terms of a new team with a new coach trying to still figure out our best group, our best way to move forward. But we feel good about it.”
Canada’s 23-man roster, including the uncapped Amer Didic, Stephen Eustaquio and Liam Fraser, totals just 319 caps — an average of 13.9 per player. The U.S. roster averages 24 caps.
Canada and the U.S. have only met four times in the last 12 years with the U.S. winning twice with two draws. The last three meetings have produced just one goal, last time out in a 1-0 U.S. win in February 2016 in Carson, Calif.
“I think they’ll be very excited, very motivated,” Bradley said of the Canadians. “I think they’ll want to start in an aggressive way.”
BMO Field is Bradley’s home field as captain of Toronto FC. As such, he is likely to get a mixed reception Tuesday from the crowd. Canada Soccer said more than 15,000 tickets had already been sold with most of the lower bowl accounted for.
U.S. Soccer says Bradley, who has 150 caps to his credit, can become the first U.S. national team player to appear in an away match at his current home club stadium.
The two teams will meet again Nov. 15 in Orlando. The U.S. will face Cuba four days later in the Cayman Islands capital of Georgetown.
Both teams have already clobbered Cuba in CONCACAF Nations League Group A play.
Canada won 6-0 and 1-0 when the two met last month and the U.S., with Schalke 04 midfielder Weston McKennie completing his hat trick in the first 13 minutes, thrashing Cuba 7-0 in Washington, D.C., on Friday.
U.S. at CANADA
Tuesday at BMO Field
NOTCHING WINS: A win over Canada would be Gregg Berhalter’s 10th in 16 games as U.S. coach (his current record is 9-4-2). That would be second-fastest among U.S. coaches behind Bob Bradley, who notched his 10th win in 11 matches in 2007. Canada is 9-2-0 under John Herdman.
UNAVAILABLE: The U.S. roster was reduced to 24 players after Atlanta defender Miles Robinson left with a hamstring strain. Teams are allowed to dress 23 players for CONCACAF Nations League games.
IN TORONTO: The U.S. is 0-2-1 all-time in Toronto, playing to a 0-0 draw most recently in June 2012.