The United States men's national team put in something of a redemptive performance in Orlando, Florida, on Friday night, besting Canada 4-1 at Exploria Stadium. The victory not only earned the Americans some relief from the negativity that has marked the past month and a measure of revenge against Canada, it set them up to advance atop their Nations League group with a win over hapless Cuba on Tuesday.
The Americans responded to the call for more fight with a spirited performance in a must-win game. Last month's 2-0 loss in Toronto prompted serious questions about the lack of effort under Gregg Berhalter that were refuted, at least on some level, on Friday. The USMNT used tried-and-true methods, set pieces and counterattacks, to punish a sloppy Canadian side and ease some of the pressure.
The U.S. didn't play the cleanest match, and Berhalter's preferred possession-based approach was sacrificed on the altar of winning. After calls for change and a more pragmatic plan, that can't be used to criticize the coach now. Still, the Americans won't point to this victory as an example of an ideal performance.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Berhalter gets credit for streamlining the tactical approach and playing to the strengths of his team. Pregame worries about the lineup proved unfounded, though it's still worth asking why several players (Gyasi Zardes and Jackson Yueill among them) earned a place in the first XI despite long layoffs. That said, Zardes delivered for his manager, scoring a brace amid widespread criticism from USMNT supporters.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Brad Guzan, 7 -- Faced limited action and made no obvious mistakes with possession. Controlled his box well and was hung out to dry on Canada's goal.
DF Sergino Dest, 7 -- Solid on defense facing the explosive Alphonso Davies, he was as adventurous as ever going forward in an excellent overall competitive debut.
DF Aaron Long, 6 -- Contributed on the attacking end with the set piece goal and was part of a strong defensive performance for the Americans during open play.
DF John Brooks, 8 -- Dominant physically and smart with his positioning. Notably was good in possession, particularly when under pressure in the first half.
DF Tim Ream, 5 -- Complicit at the back post on Canada's goal and wasteful with possession on occasion. Provided little going forward, by design.
MF Jackson Yueill, 6 -- Played proactively, helping to set the tone with energy and industry in the first half. On the other hand, he was a step slow tracking runners in midfield.
MF Weston McKennie, 5 -- Poor in possession but gave the midfield a much-needed toughness. Not influential, but not poor.
MF Sebastian Lletget, 8 -- Consistently dangerous, he often took advantage of reactive defending from Canada. Integral in setting up numerous chances.
FW Jordan Morris, 7 -- Got the U.S. off to a great start with an opportunistic early goal and laid on the second for Zardes. Industrious and put in a good shift, particularly after playing in an MLS Cup final just five days earlier.
FW Gyasi Zardes, 7 -- Scored two goals in his return to the lineup, rewarding Berhalter for his faith. Added to the defensive effort with effective back-pressing.
FW Paul Arriola 5 -- Solid on both sides of the ball and set up the second goal with a smart pass on the counter.
MF Alfredo Morales, N/R -- Chaotic and overexuberant in a short cameo.
DF DeAndre Yedlin, N/R -- Showed his danger up the wing as a sub, setting up Zardes' culminating goal.
FW Tyler Boyd, N/R -- The Besiktas man came on for injury time after the U.S. had already sealed things with a fourth.