The USA will be looking to rebound after taking a beating from Spain, but Canada won’t be a walk in the park.
A 4-0 loss to Spain wasn’t the start the U.S. national team wanted to its summer. Luckily for Bob Bradley’s squad, that match had little meaning.
Tuesday night there can be no more excuses. Bradley will send out what he believes is his strongest side, it won’t be facing the best team in the world, and the match will kick off a tournament where anything other than finishing first will be considered a failure for the U.S. national team.
“We have to keep our eyes on the big picture, which starts with Canada,” team captain Carlos Bocanegra said before the Spain match. “The Gold Cup is the prize for the summer. For us, we aren’t going to take any of the teams lightly.”
Taking Canada lightly shouldn’t be much of an issue now after the Spain loss. What might be an issue, however, is the confidence of a team that has struggled to win matches in recent months. A 1-1 draw with Argentina aside, the U.S. has stumbled in 2011 and is coming off of back-to-back losses as it heads into the Gold Cup opener.
Goals aren’t coming for the U.S., with only two in four matches this year, and the defense has looked shaky at best. In contrast, Canada will come into the match on the back of a 2-2 draw with Ecuador and it has lost only once in 2011.
“(Canada is) a team that we have a lot of respect for, a team that comes into this Gold Cup feeling confident," Bradley said of Tuesday’s opponents. "They've had some good results in the last six months, and so we understand that the first game of any tournament is always a tough one, and we expect a real difficult game against a rival.”
History agrees with Bradley. The USA and Canada are pretty even in the all-time series with the U.S. holding a slim advantage with 12 wins over eight losses while the teams have drawn nine times. More importantly, this Canadian side looks like one that could give the USA some very real problems.
Canada, like the USA, has called in a large contingent of players from Europe. The names may not be familiar across the board, but the Canadians have plenty of attacking talent to hold the ball and put pressure on the USA’s defense. Toss in the USA’s problems in the attack of late and there is plenty of potential for Canada to come out with three points.
With that said, it’s clear Canada doesn’t have the same quality in its side that Spain has and the USA’s lineup will be very different against is northern neighbor than it was against the Europeans. Still, the U.S. knows that in regional play there is always a target on its back, and the dismantling by Spain may be even more reason for some of CONCACAF’s emerging countries to think that this could be their year.
“Obviously, the two teams, for the past few years, has been us or Mexico in the region,” Bocanegra said. “You see Honduras, Costa Rica, I think Canada actually has quite a strong team this year as well. Again, it’s a tournament and it’s a big opportunity for these other countries.”
For Canada, Tuesday marks a golden opportunity to take charge of Group C and make a statement about its intentions in the 2011 Gold Cup. For the USA, Tuesday offers a chance to put to rest some growing doubts about its legitimacy as one of the top teams in the region.
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