USMNT downplays burgeoning rivalry with Canada leading up to quarterfinals

If the U.S. men’s national team needed any extra motivation to beat Canada in Sunday’s CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals in Cincinnati (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1), Reds coach John Herdman insisted that his team “She wanted the game against America.” ,

“That’s what we were looking for,” Herdman said after Canada finished second in Group D to set up their second elimination match in three weeks between the North American neighbors.

Of course, the USMNT blanked the Canadians 2-0 in the Nations League final in Las Vegas last month, a competition for which both nations played at full strength.

Prior to that meeting, Reds defender Alistair Johnson admitted that sportsmanship had been a deliberate part of his country’s strategy against their rising rival.

“I think that’s one of the reasons we finished top of the World Cup qualifiers in our region,” he said of Canada, which returned to a major soccer event last year for the first time in more than three decades. “We were very good at winning, not only on the pitch, but also at the mind games on and off the field.”

But if Herdman’s comments caused a stir in the American locker room, the American players and staff have done a good job of hiding them. When asked specifically about the opponent’s words by Fox Sports before Sunday’s game, neither starting goaltender Matt Turner nor interim head coach BJ Callaghan addressed them directly.

“They’re a well-coached team,” Callaghan said of Canada during Saturday’s pre-game press conference. “They are World Cup-level opponents, so it’s exactly the type of game we want to challenge our group.”

And this group has a lot to prove. Turner is the only member of the Americans’ Gold Cup-roster that also played against Canada last month. The visitors will also be short of staff as the European-based forwards from both countries will get much-needed rest before returning to their club teams to begin preparations for the season later this month.

But while Canada is missing headliners like Jonathan David and Alphonso Davis, the US has done well with a 6-0 win over St. Kitts and Nevis, leaving out Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and most of the other regular World Cup players . Trinidad and Tobago finished first in Group A. The only player in Callaghan’s 23-man squad who did not play in the first round was third-line goalkeeper Gaga Slonina. Most of them also ran with the opportunity, which will make some tough decisions on Sunday.

“It’s one of the hardest parts of the job,” Callaghan said. “They’ve all performed really well, so picking tomorrow’s lineup is a big challenge.”

USA vs Trinidad and Tobago Highlights | CONCACAF Gold Cup

Callaghan said his entire team trained on Saturday and would be available. This did not mean that centre-back Miles Robinson was in danger, as he only played 45 minutes in the group stage due to a calf/hamstring problem. If Robinson, who retired midway through the Americans’ recent outing, doesn’t start, 19-year-old Jalen Neal is expected to resume his partnership with veteran Matt Miazga in central defense.

There is no uncertainty at the top after striker Jesús Ferreira exploded for back-to-back hat-tricks in the Americans’ last two games. Ferreira’s goal haul has pushed goal striker Brandon Vazquez into a substitute role. But Vazquez also featured in key moments, scoring the equalizer in the Gold Cup opener against Jamaica and scoring another off the bench to complete T&T’s defeat.

Vazquez said, “I’m so happy for Jesus.” “For me, it just makes me hungry. I want to go out and do the same thing.

Playing in southwest Ohio adds an extra layer of motivation for Vazquez and Miazga, who both play their club ball with MLS point leader FC Cincinnati. In just a few short years, the city has established itself as one of the most welcoming venues for the USMNT, which beat Mexico and Morocco on its way to the 2022 World Cup.

Miazga said, “Whenever America has come to Cincinnati, there’s always been a good atmosphere, good crowds.”

The home team only focuses on rewarding the victory to the fans present at TQL Stadium. A win would keep the US firmly in the trophy race. Anything beyond that is just talk.

Turner said of Canada, “We don’t think of it as more than just a team we have to play to get to the semi-finals – that’s been our message in camp.” “We understand there is an evolving history, sports that have gone in both directions.

“We don’t take anything lightly,” he said. “We know that it will take a lot of effort to get the desired results.”

And all they need is inspiration.

Doug McIntyre is a football writer for Fox Sports. Prior to joining Fox Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer at ESPN and Yahoo Sports and has covered the United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @by Doug McIntyre,

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