ORLANDO — Holding its destiny in its own hands, the path for the United States to advance to the knockout stage of the Concacaf Nations League is clear:
Win both of its remaining matches and achieve a superior goal differential. Canada is on top of the group with nine points and a plus-nine goal differential, largely on the strength of scoring seven times in two games against Cuba. The U.S. recorded seven of its own against Cuba in a 7-0 result and will need to keep its foot on the gas.
First up, however, is a massive rematch against the Canadian team that ignited their home crowd and support across the nation with a 2-0 win in Toronto Oct. 15, the Maple Leafs’ first victory over the United States in more than three decades.
Friday’s 7 p.m. game (ESPN2) is exactly a month to the day of that defeat.
The Canadians have been on a roll since the appointment of John Herdman as head coach in 2018, compiling a 10-2-0 record and a 6-2-0 mark in 2019.
“It was a tough game and it’s time to respond,” U.S. defender Reggie Cannon said of the 2-0 loss. “This is real. This is football. Things like that happen. These setbacks happen, but it’s how you respond to them that really shape your career and shape this team as a whole. I think this team is ready to respond.”
Herdman, on the other hand, is taking nothing for granted.
“The players are focused and clear on what they need to do,” he said. “They have come out of that win over USA with not only a level of confidence, but a real belief going into this game that they can compete. It is not bravado, it is not talk, it is genuine belief because they lived it.
“The USA have their motivations for this match, but for us it is another cup final, another game that could decide our fate for qualification to the Hex,” he said. “So we will give absolutely everything we have to move this country one step closer to achieving that goal.”
The U.S. roster
GOALKEEPERS (3): 1-Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC; 62/0), 23-Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 8/0), 22-Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 0/0)
DEFENDERS (9): 5-John Brooks (Wolfsburg/GER; 37/3), 20-Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas; 9/0), 18-Sergiño Dest (Ajax/NED; 2/0), 12-Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes; 9/0), 3-Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 14/2), 16-Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact/CAN; 12/0), 13-Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 38/1), 2-DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG; 60/0), 4-Walker Zimmerman (LAFC; 11/2)
MIDFIELDERS (6): 17-Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 12/2), 8-Weston McKennie (Schalke/GER; 17/6), 15-Alfredo Morales (Fortuna Düsseldorf/GER; 14/0), 10-Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 18/0), 14-Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; 4/0), 6-Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 20/0)
FORWARDS (5): 7-Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 30/5), 21-Tyler Boyd (Besiktas/TUR; 8/2), 11-Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 37/7), 19-Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen/GER; 11/3), 9-Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC; 54/10)