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Embarrassed again! USMNT takes yet another step backwards with dismal Canada defeat

9:51 PM EDT 10/15/19
Michael Bradley USMNT Samuel Piette Canada
Two years on from the biggest setback in program history, the U.S. has only taken more steps in the wrong direction

Since the moment American soccer was shaken to its core on that wet field in Trinidad & Tobago, the fear had been that the U.S. men's national team had stagnated. A once-proud program, a team that went toe-to-toe with Spain and Germany in their primes, felt like it stopped getting better despite a growing domestic league, a flourishing youth program and millions in investment.

It has now become abundantly clear that the program has not stagnated. There's no denying it anymore, the USMNT has taken one massive step back that they're nowhere near ready to recover from.

The USMNT continued to break records of the wrong kind on Tuesday, as Gregg Berhalter's side lost 2-0 to Canada. It was their first loss to their neighbors in 34 years.

Perhaps the scariest part of Tuesday's defeat at BMO Field was that it was an entirely deserved one, and the U.S. is, quite frankly, fortunate that it wasn't worse. An amateurish giveaway from Cristian Roldan could have resulted in a first-half goal if not for Zack Steffen, and the goalkeeper bailed out his teammates on another lazy back pass later in the second half. It could have easily been a lopsided win for Canada, and it would have been fully deserved.

Even Canada's opener was an example of just how poor the U.S. can be on any given night. A bad giveaway at the back, Aaron Long and DeAndre Yedlin failing to cover the back post and, ultimately, a tap-in for Alphonso Davies, who was far and away the most dynamic player on the night. The basics done wrong.

But, as poor and error-prone as the backline was, it was the attack that was most disappointing. Christian Pulisic was largely on an island, secluded from any teammate and devoid of any options when on the ball. He completed just 11 passes, the worst performance of his USMNT career. Josh Sargent was marooned on some other island somewhere way on the other side of the field, completely isolated from whatever it was the U.S. was attempting to do in attack.

The lasting image of this match will be Pulisic, a frustrated figure already due to his difficulties with Chelsea on the club level. In a match where he was offered little support, Pulisic was taken out in the 60th minute and was visibly upset about it. Half angry, half tearful, Pulisic looked inconsolable on the bench following his substitution, another example of his national team doing him few favors when it comes to building him up to where he needs to be.

Roughly one year into the Berhalter era, the U.S. still seemingly lacks an identity. For years, the USMNT was a counter-attacking, physical team that would out-effort you if they had to. Since Berhalter took over, the focus has been on calm and composed possession, responding to pressure with tranquility. The issue is that the U.S. doesn't look like a calm team, but rather a team without urgency and, ultimately, without a plan.

It's become something of a theme this year. The U.S. is capable of putting together solid games, and as we saw again Tuesday, they are capable of putting together woefully ineffective performances. But downright good ones? Performances to be proud of? We haven't seen that yet.

Now, there are reasons Canada had the urgency in their favor on Tuesday. With a potential spot in the Hexagonal on the line, Canada had every reason to turn up the heat. Canada looked like a team that wanted to prove they belonged with Concacaf's elite, and the U.S. looked like a team that no longer belongs among them. At the end of the day, this game meant very little for the USMNT in some ways but, in others, it was a match that was quite indicative of just how far this team is from playing at the level expected of teams in years past.

With World Cup qualifying around the corner, that's a reason for concern. In one year under Berhalter, the U.S. has gotten no better and taken no steps forward. No new players have truly snatched a role. No new system has appeared and no result has stood out as an "a-ha" moment. That is concerning, and that concern would turn up the heat on Berhalter in just about any other nation on this planet.

There may be a plan in place and that plan may take time to develop. Unfortunately, the clock is ticking for the USMNT. There will need to be improvements across the board, and fast, if the U.S. hopes to return to where they once were, let alone push forward.

Missing a World Cup is supposed to inspire you, but the most disheartening thing is that it appears the U.S. has done everything but learn from their mistakes. Tuesday night may not have been worse than that night in Trinidad, but it wasn't far off.