By Paul Nicholson in Las Vegas
June 18 – The US continued where they left off against Mexico with a comfortable 2-0 win over Canada to retain their Nations League title.
The Canadians who came into the finals believing it was their time, will return home knowing that there is still work to be done to comprehensively close the gap at the very top of their confederation.
A lazer focus from the players on football rather than how much they are paid might be a good place to start.
The US will leave knowing that their young team is rapidly coming of age and getting into the habit of winning.
They will both return to do this all over again in a week’s time when the Gold Cup group stages kick off. The US will now start as clear favourites ahead of Canada and Mexico.
US interim head coach B.J. Callahan started the final with just two changes from the team that beat Mexico 3-0 in the semi-final. Weston McKennie and Sergino Dest were ruled out for then red cards they picked up in the previous match.
In came Nashville’s Walter Zimmerman and Leeds United’s Brendan Aaronson.
Canada’s John Herdman made three changes to his starting line up, bringing in Alphonso Davies, Jonathan Osorio and Scott Kennedy. Tajon Buchanan was dropped to the bench.
The US started the better of the two teams with Zimmerman almost putting the US ahead in the 8th minute with a volley from the edge of the box that went just wide. At the other end Cyle Larin was threaded through only to fire wide.
This wasn’t the helter skelter of the US vs Mexico semi but a much cagier contest with both sides confident in possession.
On 12 minutes the US had the lead. The ever present Giovanni Reyna lifted a corner into the box where Fulham’s Chris Richards rose above his defender to head down and past Milan Borjan.
It was a strike that came too early for Canada who lost their rhythm as the US confidence went up a notch.
Up front the US have secured a major talent in Arsenal striker Floralin Balogun who is increasingly looking like the dominant striker the US have been searching for. It was the second start for the Balogun since becoming American just before the finals.
On 27 minutes Balogun took the ball high on his chest in the box and headed towards goal, the defensive challenge missed the ball and headbutted Balogun. No foul but a lengthy delay as Balogun put himself back together.
Six minutes later he scored his first goal for the US. Fed though in the box he lashed to ball past Borjan to make it 2-0.
Canada had been caught napping. They responded with more intensity but it was too late. Davies, always a mercurial threat, weaved his magic on the left wing but the support was lacking, Steven Eustaquio lashed a shot from the edge of the box but Matt Turner in the US goal was always going to be equal to it, taking it low down.
The second half began as the first finished with the US’s possession game having the better of Canada’s counter attacks. Richards almost had a second with anohternheader from a corner crashing against the bar.
Canada’s Jonathan David, not having the luckiest of nights up front, fired over when he should have done better. Canada grew as the game progressed but it was too little too late.
As the US shut up shop in the last 20 minutes the Canadian foundered on the defensive wall, never finding that elusive final pass to split the US open.
Canada have undoubtedly made big strides with a team Herdman is convinced could do something special. But the US at these finals have shown a greater progression and have opened a gap between themselves and their regional challengers.
The Gold Cup, which the US kick off on June 24 against Jamaica in Chicago, will determine how far the how far the they have progressed under their interim management team before Gregg Berhalter returns to take the reins with the mandate to take them through the home hosted 2026 World Cup.
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org