What can USMNT expect from Canada?
After a last-gasp victory over Iceland on Sunday, the United States men’s national team concludes its January training camp with a friendly against Canada.
The meeting between familiar foes on Friday (live, 10:00p.m. ET, FS1, FOX Sports GO) offers Jurgen Klinsmann and his players with a chance to punctuate their progress with a second victory in as many matches.
Canada plans to make it difficult on the Americans, though. Those expectations are reinforced by the recent results between the teams (including 0-0 draws in 2012 and 2013) and underscored by the Canadian resurgence under coach Benito Floro over the past year or so.
As this meeting between these two countries approaches, here are three things to monitor as the Canadians attempt to procure a third straight result against the Americans.
Brace for defiance and organization first and foremost
Floro assessed the players at his disposal when he took the job in 2013 and focused most of his energy on player recruitment and tactical tinkering. His sales pitch enticed Fraser Aird, Tesho Akindele and Junior Hoilett to join the squad, while his setup preached control and composure first and foremost.
Those adjustments — predicated on application, commitment and organization — made Canada particularly difficult to break down in possession. It shows in the results: Canada conceded once or kept a shutout in each of its final 12 matches in 2015.
Floro sacrificed some creativity in the process (Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio is out of the frame at the moment) and struggled to find the right balance going forward in the usual 4-2-3-1 setup, but he made Canada defiant. It is a wise course of action for a side with a limited squad in comparison to the top teams in CONCACAF.
Look for emerging players to stake their claim
Many of the top Canadian players — including midfield fulcrum Atiba Hutchinson — are otherwise engaged with club commitments. Those vacancies provide plenty of room for emerging talents, rehabilitating players and out-of-favor or unattached campaigners.
The motivations here are similar to the underpinnings in U.S. camp: improve the chances of earning a place in the squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Mexico next month. Recovering West Ham defender Doneil Henry — a potential contributor in defense — warrants close inspection, while veterans like Iain Hume, Issey Nakajima-Farran and Steven Vitoria (in line for his full debut) hope to underscore their qualities before qualifying resumes
Track Cyle Larin carefully
Larin emerged as the best prospect in Canada and one of the top young players in CONCACAF during his rookie season with Orlando City. Former UConn star Larin scored 17 goals for the expansion side and set a new MLS rookie record in the process. His reliability in front of goal and his presence in the penalty area made him a consistent threat against MLS defenses.
Those qualities recommend the 20-year-old as a potential linchpin for the next decade. Canada endures goal droughts with some regularity (the side went 14 months without scoring in 2013 and 2014, for example) and regularly flails around in the final third. In order to push forward and slide into position to challenge for a berth at the 2018 World Cup, the Canadians must procure goals more regularly.