An 89th-minute goal from Jozy Altidore was enough to prevent a fourth straight 0-0 tie between the U.S. MNT and Canada while giving the hosts a 1-0 win Friday night at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
The win, while far from impressive, gives the U.S. MNT a 2-0 start to 2016 after last Sunday’s 3-2 triumph over Iceland at the same venue.
Coming at the end of the January training camp U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann was selecting from a somewhat diminished roster with several players having been released to their club’s but even that could not explain the decision to start Jermaine Jones at center back while DC United central defender Steve Birnbaum toiled gamely at right fullback.
Klinsmann also gave starts to Mix Diskerud and Lee Nguyen in the midfield and Jordan Morris up top, with Gyasi Zardes dropping into a wide midfield role to accommodate Morris.
The first half was a tepid affair, although Morris and Altidore came close. The home team was far the better side after the intermission with late subs Darlington Nagbe and U23 star Jerome Kiesewetter making some noise.
But it would be an even later sub, Columbus Crew winger Ethan Finlay who would make the biggest impact. Despite dominating throughout the second half, the Americans looked ready to send the sparse StubHub Center crowd home with a 0-0 tie to tell their friends about before Finlay changed the conversation.
The play began, as plays on this U.S. team so often do, with Michael Bradley. Sitting deep, Bradley picked out Finlay on the left wing. Finlay broke some Canadian ankles before hitting a perfect cross that Altidore powered home, a rare headed goal by the Toronto striker.
Altidore’s goal won the game for the Americans and kept the U.S. win streak alive at 8-0-10 against Canada. The goal also put an exclamation point on a fine camp for Altidore whose new, slimmer physique seems to have had the desired effect of improving the strikers quickness.
In a match where Canada exhibited virtually zero offensive intent the U.S. back four looked less shaky than in last week’s unconvincing outing against Iceland, but then they had little to do.
After impressing versus Iceland, Lee Nguyen was given a start against Canada, but while the New England midfielder provided a few memorable moments his impact on the match waxed and waned.
One sensed that midfielder Mix Diskerud needed a good effort to keep earning call-ups from Klinsmann after a disappointing 2015 and while the New York City FC man was a bundle of industry early, like Nguyen his influence faded as the game continued.
Congratulations are due to fullback Brandon Vincent who had a solid second half in his U.S. MNT debut. Morris’ Stanford teammate was called into U.S. camp even before he was selected by the Chicago Fire with the fourth pick of the SuperDraft and the former Cardinal did well when he got his chance.
Up next for the Americans is a home and away series World Cup Qualifying doubleheader against Guatemala in March.
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 1 1
CAN 0 0 0
USA – Jozy Altidore (Ethan Finlay) 89th minute
USA: 22-David Bingham; 15-Steve Birnbaum, 13-Jermaine Jones, 5-Matt Besler, 14-Kellyn Acosta (21-Brandon Vincent, 46); 9-Gyasi Zardes (18-Jerome Kiesewetter, 61), 4-Michael Bradley (capt.), 10-Mix Diskerud (20-Wil Trapp, 77), 16-Lee Nguyen (6-Darlington Nagbe, 61); 8-Jordan Morris (7-Ethan Finlay, 88), 17-Jozy Altidore (23-Perry Kitchen, 90+2)
Subs Not Used:1-Sean Johnson, 2-Eric Miller, 11-Khiry Shelton, 12-Luis Robles, 24-Matt Polster, 25-Tony Tchani, 26-Tim Parker
Head coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
CAN: 1-Maxime Crepeau; 2-Nik Ledgerwood, (5-Doneil Henry, 46), 4-Adam Straith, 6-Julian de Guzman (capt.), 8-Will Johnson, 9-Cyle Larin (3-Samuel Adekugbe, 78), 12-Wandrille Lefevre (10-Kyle Bekker, 46), 15-Steven Vitoria, 16-Kianz Froese (11-Issey Nakajima-Farran, 46), 17-Marcel De Jong (13-Jamar Dixon, 85), 23-Tesho Akindele (7-Iain Hume, 72)
Subs Not Used: 14-Marco Bustos, 18-Tyson Farago, 19-Caleb Clarke, 20-Karl Ouimette, 21-Mallan Roberts, 22-Callum Irving
Head coach: Benito Floro
Stats Summary: USA / CAN
Shots: 17 / 4
Shots on Goal: 8 / 0
Saves: 0 / 7
Corner Kicks: 4 / 4
Fouls: 15 / 14
Offside: 1 / 0
USA – Matt Besler (caution) 42nd minute
CAN – Doneil Henry (caution) 79