Oh Canada! Larin, Adekugbe and co. show USMNT and the world they're for real

Cyle Larin CanadaGetty Images

If you haven't been paying attention, let Sunday's match serve as one final reminder that the power balance is shifting rapidly in North American soccer.

Canada, long seen as this region's little brother, is now mature enough to stand toe-to-toe with their older siblings. And, like Mexico before them, the U.S. men's national team has been forced to acknowledge that their northern neighbors are for real.

Led by goals from Cyle Larin and Sam Adekugbe, Canada took down the U.S. 2-0 in a clash of the top two teams in CONCACAF's World Cup qualifiers. The win sees Canada maintain their hold on the top spot while also preserving the team's unbeaten record through the first 11 games of qualifying.

Under head coach John Herdman, Canada have more than earned their seat at the table among the likes of the USMNT and El Tri. They've earned that spot by taking it by force, having now defeated each of CONCACAF's two powerhouses so far this cycle.

This win, in many ways, wasn't pretty, and it was never going to be. Playing on turf in frigid temperatures, this game was destined to be a slog.

And, at points, it was. But, just moments into Sunday's game, Canada took their chance by capitalizing on a moment of good fortune and horrible defending.

Just seven minutes in, American goalkeeper Matt Turner, who has been in the headlines due to an impending move to Arsenal, saw his goal kick held in the air by the swirling winds in Hamilton. The U.S. were slow to react, with striker Gyasi Zardes unable to track back in time.

Canada's counter, from that point forward, was all too easy. Both Miles Robinson and Chris Richards were a step slow. Canadian striker Larin, meanwhile, was a step faster, as he rifled a shot that bested Turner and sent the home crowd into a frenzy.

"I don't think they dominated much of anything tonight, to be honest," said USMNT boss Gregg Berhalter, "but give them a lot of credit for the resiliency.

"One thing that separates Canada from most other teams in the group is the quality of their strikers and their ability to finish a really small amount of chances. They didn't have many chances in this game, but they're able to finish it off.

"That first one is a great example. It's a play out of nothing that two quality players make and it gives them the win."

As a result of that opener, the U.S. were forced to push for 83 straight minutes, and push they did. They had more of the ball, plenty of shots, and a few clear-cut chances. But, on this day, they failed to capitalize and, ultimately, failed to score.

This wasn't due to a lack of effort, as the U.S. did truly go for their equalizer. It wasn't due to a lack of talent, as the U.S. featured many of its stars, even with Zardes in the lineup ahead of Ricardo Pepi up top.

Rather, it was due to a lack of sharpness, a lack of conviction and, most importantly, a lack of goals. The U.S. played hard and, at moments, they looked like an inspired team ready to come alive. But that big moment never happened.

By the time Adekugbe put away his stoppage-time clincher, the result was far beyond doubt. That late goal was simply another chance for Canada to celebrate, another statement for a team that has made so many over the last few months.

Sunday was a bad day at the office for the U.S., with few players having what they would call good games. There were few standouts for Gregg Berhalter's men, who were simply too slow to threaten a Canada team that was fully prepared to play fast.

In a game where Chelsea star Christian Pulisic was completely neutralized by 2020 MLS draft pick Alistair Johnston, the U.S. just had to admit that it wasn't their day.

"I can't single anyone out," Berhalter said. "I think it was an entire team effort that was outstanding. We asked them to be dominant, we asked them to embrace the conditions, embrace the physicality. I think we did that and more.

"It's hard for me to remember a performance away from home this dominant without getting a result. So the result hurts, but the performance doesn't hurt."

Berhalter may be happy with the performance, but that performance continued several concerning trends for the U.S., who dropped points in the second game of a three-game set for the third time in as many chances. It also saw the U.S. blanked in the first half for the eighth time in 10 games, as Berhalter's team continues to struggle with slow starts.

They'll have a chance to remedy that on Wednesday when they take on Honduras at home. This loss hurts, sure, but it shouldn't truly harm their chances of qualifying for the World Cup. With a good result against Honduras, the U.S. will still be well on the way to Qatar.

As for Canada, this was a statement, a message to the rest of CONCACAF. The Canadians are all but assured of their spot at the World Cup now, even with their star, Alphonso Davies, out of action.

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But this team is a lot more than Davies, as they continue to prove. This is a team that features a goalscorer in Larin, an up-and-coming star in Jonathan David, and a talented attacker in Tajon Buchanan. This is a team with heart, fight, passion and, most importantly, talent.

"They deserve credit for what they've been doing," Berhalter said of Canada. "They've been resilient all qualifying window. They're leading the group for a reason."

Sunday's game was a perfect example of that. Canada's seat at the table is now secure, right along with their spot in Qatar this winter.