Toronto FC

Canada falls to USA in Nations League Final, shift focus to Gold Cup action

Canada’s dreams of lifting a trophy will have to wait for another day. 

The Canadian Men’s National Team lost the Concacaf Nations League Final on Sunday night, falling 2-0 to the USA at Allegiant Stadium in Paradise, Nevada. 

Chris Richards opened the scoring in the 12th minute heading a Gio Reyna corner kick past Milan Borjan and Folarin Balogun added the second in the 34th minute after Reyna slotted him down the right-side of the box for a tidy finish.

Down two goals Canada looked for a path back into the game and had several half-chances to make it a contest, but it was not their night.

“It was a tough loss,” said Borjan post-match to Canada Soccer. “First half we didn't play that great. Second half was much better, but when you don't score goals and you receive two goals from your own mistakes, it's hard to come back into the game.”

“After 23 years, getting into the finals and fighting for that trophy is a lesson for us and a good experience,” he added. “We just have to continue and keep bringing this program up.”

Herdman lamented that much like in Qatar this past winter Canada got into good positions, but struggled to find the back of the net.

“It has a similar feel from the World Cup, we get into those high xG areas, but we’re just not in that killer area of the pitch,” he said. “The team had some really good moments tonight. We were able to find the spaces on the sides of the US and, at times, get behind them, which isn't easy to do. Just we didn't capitalize on big moments. If we had, it’s a different game.”

Finals are decided by key moments and more of them went the Americans' way on the night.

“A similar amount of shots each, the chances that both teams had were very similar, they just were way more dominant in the set-piece space,” compared Herdman. “The US did what it took to get the result.”

It was a reverse of the last meeting between the sides at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario during qualification for the World Cup.

“They scored the first goal and we didn't,” compared Herdman. “When we scored in Hamilton you get control of the game tactically. When they got the first goal they were able to pick the height of their defensive pressure. They never played out once, which is bizarre for the US, but they're managing the game.”

“This is a team that's won multiple tournaments now, multiple trophies, and they recognized that they weren’t getting style points, they were getting a trophy,” he continued. “And at the end of the day that's all that matters.”

One chance gone, Herdman and Canada turn their attention to the Concacaf Gold Cup which kicks off on June 24. 

Canada will face either Guadeloupe or Guyana in their first match on June 27 at BMO Field, which opponent will be decided on Tuesday, June 20 with the conclusion of the Second Round of Gold Cup Qualification in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

And will then square off against Guatemala (July 1) and Cuba (July 4) to round out the group stage, both matches will be played at Shell Energy Stadium in Houston, Texas.

Though there will be some changes to the Canadian squad as the competition shifts from Nations League to Gold Cup with several European-based players not involved, Toronto FC duo Jonathan Osorio and Richie Laryea will return to international duty after Wednesday’s match against FC Cincinnati.

So too will veteran goalkeeper Borjan, who often captains the side.

“We’ve got to focus, get ready. We have a big chance in front of us to play another final,”  he told Canada Soccer. “It’s all up to us. If we are sharp, we can get to the finals there.”

The lessons from this defeat will be fresh in the mind.

“We have to be more ruthless coming into that Gold Cup,” urged Herdman. “If we have to be more direct, we’ll be more direct. If we've got to work more on set-pieces, we have to prioritize those set pieces.”

“I thought we played a good brand of football tonight,” he closed. “And we'll try and keep that going through the Gold Cup, but with more of a ruthless edge.”