When USA defender Chris Richards leapt into the air untouched by Canadian defenders and headed home a goal for USA in the 12th minute in the CONCACAF Nations League final, coach John Herdman’s mind had Canadian John Herdman running off the field in front of him and entering, of all. places, a hotel room?
It was one of many questions arising from the lackluster performance of the Canadian men’s team in their first final in 23 years – one for which they seemed completely unprepared.
“We had a set session in the gym or on the hotel ballroom,” Herdman said. “You don’t have days (to prepare for the final), facing the team that is qualitatively waiting for you.”
By the time the USA finished with a 2-0 win, that gap in quality was evident – although it was essentially the same US team that Canada had bullied into a 2-0 win 17 months earlier in a World Cup qualifier.
After an impressive rise in the qualification process and after an uneven performance in the World Cup, this Canadian team can’t keep responding to potential losses. Results must come. But Herdman and Canada Soccer may disagree on how they communicate.
When asked if his team was sufficiently prepared for the Final, Herdman blamed the association for not bringing the resources the NFL had to the Nations League. The Canadian players began gathering for training camp on June 11. American players? June 4th.
“Those extra five, six or seven days (in the US) made a difference,” Herdman said. “And if we want to close a gap like we talked about World Cup after World Cup, it’s in the squares where Canada is struggling. (But) you don’t have time to work with the guys. There’s no time. We need resources where we can camp together, where I can work. For six days on the things that will make the biggest difference in the future, so these resources are essential.
However, while Herdman may question whether Canada Football can provide the resources it needs, the Confederation should have the right to ask whether it is able to offer more under the constraints it has long been aware of, in particular. Herdman himself has acknowledged on several occasions this week the difficult financial situation in which Canada Football finds itself.
For his part, midfielder Atippa Hutchinson said he did not think the longer camp and extra preparation time would have led to a different outcome.
“I don’t think it’s up to that,” he said. “Within the first two days of training we know exactly what it takes, what we need to do. We’ve been together for a while now.”
However, a poor performance in the final against a team that lost key players indicates insufficient tactical or motivational preparation.
Why, for example, would Herdman think Phil Neville was the right person to round up full-backs and full-backs – including Alphonso Davies – given that Neville had just completed a two-and-a-half-year stint with Inter Miami where he’d only won 35 of 90 games?
And why was the Americans able to expose Canada’s weak defense not only in the first half, but again in the second when Herdman switched to a more defensive 4-4-2? This indicated that Herdman himself was outclassed by US interim coach B.J. Callahan, who also made adjustments at half-time.
Canada needed a few moments of brilliance from goalkeeper Milan Borgan near the goal line to keep the score 2-0 early in the second half. Canada controlled the ball (63.8%) but the USA managed to take more shots on goal. (seven to four). It took a few minutes from the opening whistle for Canada’s full approach to slow down, and for an American team known for its athleticism, the Canadian defensive line would give way.
Why did it take 60 minutes to make the substitutions when the same score was still valid in the first half? Why was the team’s offensive strategy in the second half (seemingly) reliant entirely on Davies attempting his own attacks, shooting from sub-optimal positions?
Heading into this game, Herdman and the rest of the team said all the right things, speaking candidly about abandoning the aggressive, offensive style of play and lousy winning.
“Winning is a big part of the story. That’s the next step for this team: winning consistently,” Herdman admitted.
This next step could be the difference between a successful home performance in 2026 and a disappointing performance like what happened to Qatar, and Sunday’s loss shows they are far from that.
Given the fact that Herdman had General support After it emerged that he would take over as coach of the New Zealand men’s national team and he had a contract until 2026 with a cash-strapped association, the prospect of him leaving his position appeared low.
Canada’s core will likely only get better as they progress through their club careers, but the national team’s success will depend on Herdman being able to improve the situation he finds himself in too, because with just minutes to go to the World Cup on home soil, the coach believes he can win. ?
“We have to be serious about winning the World Cup. When you play at home you have a chance to win,” he said, banging his fist over and over on the table he was sitting at. “And we’re not serious. We brought the World Cup to our country, and we really don’t want to win it.
The Canadian record until the 2022 World Cup qualifiers was almost perfect, yes: just two losses in 14 matches. Herdman himself deserves credit for leading the Canadian team out of obscurity ahead of the World Cup. But, nonetheless, under Herdmann, this team has yet to prove that it can win must-win league games against the kind of competition they want to play consistently.
At the 2021 Gold Cup, he lost in the semi-finals in overtime. They may have beaten Belgium in the opening match of the World Cup, but the defeat is not to be commented on. Then the team could not achieve results in its next two matches at the World Cup.
Coming out of the final, Herdmann himself always admitted that Canada needed to be more aggressive in the final third. It was hard not to think of this admission as multiple shots from the Canadian forwards went over the bar.
Finally, putting aside tactical shortcomings for a moment, one last pressing question arises: How did a team that is not lacking in talent look so flat and uninspired under a coach known for his motivational style of messaging?
These are questions the coach and team will not have much time to answer with the Gold Cup under way in just a week’s time. However, they have to hold on to a team that wants to be seen as able to stay with the best teams in the world, but when it counts they seem unable to do so.
(Photo: Louis Grasse/Getty Images)