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Disappointment with United States draw shows just how far Canada have come

Chris Smith
Cyle Larin scored his 20th international goal to draw Canada level against the United States.
Cyle Larin scored his 20th international goal to draw Canada level against the United States. / Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Under usual circumstances, Canada would be dancing the night away after leaving Nashville with a hard-earned point against the United States.

However, these are anything but usual circumstances for the Canucks.

Where once Canada were a side glued together by players from right up and down the food chain, often reliant on one standout player, they started Sunday's match with stars plying their trade for Bayern Munich, Besiktas and in the Portuguese top-flight, while bringing on a striker from French champions, Lille.

John Herdman's side had to dig in on Sunday night. The USMNT dominated 72% of the ball, out-passing the visitors 505-162. But despite coming under so much pressure, Canada matched the hosts for chances created (7) and big chances (2). They squeezed every last drop out of the little possession they enjoyed.

“I asked for heart. I asked for each man to bring a level of intensity and to show they’re brothers,” Herdman said after the match (via CanPL). “We had to make sure the USA never got comfortable."

That's exactly what he got.

Doneil Henry was a colossus at the heart of the Canadian defence, making five clearances, four tackles, three recoveries and two interceptions. The central midfield duo of Mark-Anthony Kaye and Stephen Eustaquio never let Tyler Adams and Co settle into a rhythm on the ball. And up front, Alphonso Davies, Cyle Larin and Junior Hoilett used their pace to devastating effect on the counter - the former two combining for Canada's equaliser just seven minutes after falling behind.

So, a come-from-behind draw against one of the giants of the Concacaf region. What's not to like?

After the match, Herdman revealed that while the Canadian camp are 'content' with a point, they're far from satisfied, believing they now possess and did more than enough to put the United States to the sword on the road.

“We’re content, but not happy,” he said. “When those opportunities present themselves, there were three points staring us in the face. As we get better, as this team keeps improving, I think we’ll take those moments in tough places like this.

“I think the lads will come away content, but there will be that little irk there tonight when we’re trying to switch off that it could’ve been three.”

Left-back Sam Adekugbe added: “We were tactically sound, we knew what our game plan was coming into the match, and we think we executed it well. We thought we could have got the three points tonight and are disappointed not to get them.

“We will take this point, but that’s not the mentality of this group. We felt we had the better chances. I think the national anthem and the way that we sing, it shows the passion that we bring to the field.”

Canada have come a long way. Though they've only beaten the United States once since April 1985, that victory came just two years ago when goals from Davies and Lucas Cavallini sealed a 2-0 win at BMO Field. Now, Herdman's players can smell blood.

Games against the US are obviously important and a great barometer for Canada's progression - progression fuelled by more players leaving MLS for Europe and the development of the Canadian Premier League. Tajon Buchanan is the latest off the former's production line, set to join Club Brugge in January, while the likes of Dominick Zator and Tristan Borges (among others) have received international call-ups after success in the latter.

The trend is unmistakably heading upwards. Ahead of co-hosting the World Cup in 2026, Canada are now "desperate" to qualify for the tournament for the first time since 1986 next year. Herdman and his side are ready for the "14-game war" required to achieve that dream.

“Game by game we’re getting tighter, and getting more chemistry," he said. "We’re showing that this is a talented squad from one through 23 that are desperate to go to a FIFA World Cup. This is a tough grind. Every game is an absolute battle. It’s like a 14-game war that we’re going through.”

With that in mind, Wednesday's home tie against El Salvador might be the true test.