U.S. Men's National Team defeats Canada on late Altidore goal, 1-0

February 6, 2016

Carson, Calif. -- The neighborly rivalry between Canada and the United States Men's National Team continued with a Friday evening friendly, as both teams ended their annual January training camps in preparation for CONCACAF qualifying games for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The game began with both teams striving early on to find their groove in the barely, half-filled StubHub Center.

Finally, in 9th minute, the USA started to come alive when Lee Nguyen fed the ball in to Jozy Altidore, who was posted up just inside the 18-yard box.  Altidore laid it off first time for Nguyen whose shot from just outside the 18-yard box was blocked by a Canadian defender.

Canada invoked a familiar strategy of defending, playing hard, and tightly marking their opponents, while attempting to strike quick on the counterattack.  This formula almost worked as Canada produced a few chances early.

But for the most part, Canada was outplayed by a superior U.S. team, as both sides were comprised of mostly domestic-based players.

In the 16th minute, Altidore fought to hold off a defender, unleashing a first time shot that rang off the near side post from 14 yards out.  The shot almost went in again after coming off the post and hitting the keeper in the back of the head, only to go out for a corner kick.

The USA’s offense had finally began to loosen up.

Another scoring opportunity came in the 20th minute when Jordan Morris passed the ball into streaking right winger Gyasi Zardes, whose right-footed shot from inside the 18-yard box was barely saved by Canadian netminder Maxime Crepeau.

A couple of minutes later the U.S. side again unleashed another hard shot, but directly at Crepeau for the easy save.  Crepeau was kept busy the entire length of the match, however, many of the shots were poorly placed or fired directly at him, making his job easier than expected.

A similar result to some strong build-up play happened several minutes later when U.S. defender Steven Birnbaum went up for a cross inside the 6-yard box, winning the ball and connecting well for a strong header and shot on net.  Again it was right at Crepeau, who made the save.

Zardes’ fast pace and tenacious work ethic generated much of the U.S. offense in the first half, despite being badgered by a scrappy Marcel De Jong every step of the way.  Zardes turned in yet another solid game for the red, white, and blue.

The U.S. had another great opportunity in the 34th minute when Jozy Altidore brilliantly flicked a pass over the head of defender Steven Vitoria and into the path of a streaking Morris, who cleverly chipped a shot over the beaten Canadian keeper, only to have it fall just wide of the far post.

It seemed a U.S. goal was imminent, however, the first half ended as uneventfully as it had began, leaving both squads at a zero goal deadlock heading into the change rooms.

The second half started with the U.S. running out the gate and firing several shots within the first ten minutes.

Gyasi Zardes again looked dangerous and could easily have been the Man of Match even though he was subbed off for Darlington Nagbe in the 61st minute.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann decided to change things up further by bringing Lee Nguyen off to make way for Brandon Vincent, a move that eventually paid off as Canada had trouble dealing with the fresh legs of the U.S. substitutes.

For much of the second half the U.S. held possession, continuing to generate the more efficient and meaningful offense between the two sides.

In the 70th minute, substitute Brandon Vincent unleashed a well struck left-footed shot when the ball dropped to his feet, only to be saved again by Crepeau.

Meanwhile, U.S. defenders Matt Besler and Jermaine Jones turned in strong performances and had the central defense on lockdown the entire game, leaving the Canadian strikers with little room to operate.

In the 79th minute, Canadian defender Doneil Henry of West Ham United, tangled up and took down Altidore at the edge of the box, undoubtedly warranting the yellow card that was given by El Salvadorian referee Marion Mejia.

The ensuing shot was very well struck by Altidore, who curved it with great power over the wall to the near post, but was unlucky to miss the target by a matter of inches.

The 83rd minute again saw Altidore get painstakingly close to scoring yet again when he successfully chipped the ball past a surging Crepeau.  There was not quite enough force on the ball however, and Crepeau was able to recover, swatting the ball off the line before it was able to go in.

The final 10 minutes of the game showed both sides opening up somewhat and taking more risk, while also exposing themselves to counterattacks by their opponent.

However, in the 89th minute, substitute Ethan Finlay came in for the newly-signed Seattle Sounder, Jordan Morris, and instantly made his mark on the game.

With his first touch, the left winger beat his defender from the left side with a vicious step-over.  The Columbus Crew SC product then cut to the inside and used his right foot to drop a wonderfully placed dipping cross precisely in between two Canadian defenders and directly on Jozy Alitidore’s head.

The veteran striker was left with no other option but to bury the ball home with seemingly nothing but the net in front of him.  On such a well placed and paced cross, there was little room for error.

Shortly after, Canada had a late opportunity of their own in the 90th minute when substitute Jamar Dixon got on the end of a dangerous cross, however, the shot was headed directly at U.S. keeper David Bingham for the easy save.  The crowd of 9,274 at StubHub Center could breathe again after momentarily fearing that their short lead was over.

The game ended with the U.S. on top 1-0, and extended their 2016 campaign to 2-0-0.

By Adrian Yeung
Staff Reporter for TheDailySportsHerald.com

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