TORONTO — Alphonso Davies was far from being born the last time the Canadian men’s national team won against the U.S. and on Tuesday at BMO Field, he and his Canadian teammates want to rectify a drought dating back to 1985.
“I know it’s been a while, I’m not sure about the time frame, but I know it’s been a while,” Davies said. “[Tuesday] we just want to make history.”
Tuesday’s Concacaf Nations League contest has a renewal feel for Canada. Out of the 23 players selected to play, 15 have never played a single minute against the U.S. at the senior level. The 16th member of Canada’s first-timers club is John Herdman after switching from the women’s to the men’s side.
“It’s an absolute privilege to be part of this sort of experience, to represent this flag,” Herdman said. “You know the story from the women’s side. We had some great matches, one of the greatest in women’s soccer history so I’m holding that. [Tuesday] will be a great day for the fans.”
For Samuel Piette, who at only 24 years-old is a veteran on the team, it wasn’t hard to sell the first-timers on the Canada-US rivalry.
“We don’t need to talk about how important that game is to the young or the older guys,” Piette said. “Every time you play the U.S., it’s always special. Hopefully we make it a special one tomorrow.”
Canada captain Scott Arfield will play his first game against the U.S. at age 30. The Scottish-born Glasgow Rangers central midfielder relishes the opportunity to finally take on Gregg Berhalter’s squad.
“This is my biggest game in terms of national football so far,” Arfield said. “This is one that, when I made the decision to play for Canada, [these are] the games that I wanted to play in. There’s no nerves, there’s a fearless there.”
Cornelius, Vitoria to start at center back
Herdman surprised many when he took the decision to call up Doneil Henry. The Vancouver Whitecaps center back was suspended for the next game and will not be able to play.
“On the pitch he’s a big loss,” Herdman said. “If Altidore was playing, I would’ve loved to see that matchup. He relishing that.”
However, Herdman said that calling Henry up was a positive decision nonetheless. Herdman cited his presence off the field as a binding one for his side. More importantly, Herdman used Henry in training sessions to mark his forwards.
Instead, Herdman said he will look towards fellow Whitecap Derek Cornelius as well as Steven Vitoria to form the central defense. Herdman believed that Vitoria has had “a resurgence in his career” playing for Moreirense FC in the Portuguese first division.
Those two, they’ve struck up a good partnership in training,” Herdman said. “I think that’s something I’m looking forward to seeing [Tuesday].”
The Canadians are set to take in a grudge match in the midfield at BMO Field. Micheal Bradley will be playing on his club’s turf. Joining him in the midfield corps are Cristian Roldan, Sebastian Lletget as well as young talents Weston McKennie and Jackson Yueill.
“[Bradley] is a legend here, quite rightly so. Saw him from afar, followed his career and the teammates know him very well,” said Arfield. “We need to take him into deep water and hopefully make it as tough a night in his home ground.”
When asked about the midfield battle, Piette praised the U.S., but stated Canada could count on players like Arfield and Jonathan Osorio.
“Whoever’s playing [on Tuesday], I think it’ll be a great matchup,” added Piette. “We have weapons as well. I think it’s going to be a great matchup, not only in the midfield but everywhere.”
World Cup qualifier implications
Beyond Tuesday’s game, Canada is looking at grabbing every point possible to climb in the FIFA rankings. The Canadians are currently the seventh Concacaf team in the rankings, which would not qualify them for the hexagonal stage.
“We know the FIFA ranking points so winning this game might mean that we get into the Hex,” said Jonathan David. “Which could simplify our way into the World Cup. That’s at stake and this is also a rivalry. So this is a big game and we want to win.”