PREVIEW: USMNT Heads to Nashville for USA-Canada, Presented by VolkswagenAfter Hard-Fought Draw in El Salvador, Home World Cup Qualifying Schedule Begins Sunday from Nissan Stadium at 8 p.m. ET on FS1, UniMás and TUDN
CHICAGO (Sept. 4, 2021)-- After fighting to earn a valuable road point in the challenging conditions of El Salvador, the U.S. Men’s National Team heads to Nashville, Tenn. for its first home World Cup qualifying match of the campaign. USA-Canada, presented by Volkswagen, marks the second of three qualifiers during the September international window as the U.S. sets off on the road to Qatar, a 14-match, seven-month journey through the rigors of Concacaf for a berth in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Kickoff from Nissan Stadium is set for 8 p.m. ET on FS1, UniMas and TUDN. Fans can follow the USMNT during the tournament on Twitter (@USMNT), Instagram (@USMNT), Facebook and the official U.S. Soccer App.
USMNT ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 7/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 23/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 8/0)
DEFENDERS (10): George Bello (Atlanta United; 3/0), John Brooks (Wolfsburg/GER; 43/3), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona/ESP; 12/1), Mark McKenzie (Genk/BEL; 6/0), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 46/1), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 13/0), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 10/3), James Sands (New York City FC; 6/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray/TUR; 65/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 17/2)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 38/2), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 15/1), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 30/7), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 25/7), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 26/0)
FORWARDS (7): Brenden Aaronson (RB Salzburg/AUT; 8/3), Konrad de la Fuente (Olympique Marseille/FRA; 2/0), Jordan Pefok (BSC Young Boys/SUI; 7/1), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; 0/0), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 38/16), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 9/4), Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 17/5)
USA SCHEDULE - SEPTEMBER WORLD CUP QUALIFYING
HARD-EARNED POINT KICKS OFF WCQ
The USMNT started its World Cup qualifying campaign with a tough 0-0 draw vs. El Salvador in front of a raucous, sellout crowd of 29,000 at San Salvador’s Estadio Cuscatlán. It proved to be a back-and-forth affair, as both sides struggled to establish rhythm on a choppy and spongy playing surface.
The U.S. and El Salvador both showed some flashes in attack on set plays, nearly scoring on headers from their respective center backs in the opening 15 minutes. Second-half substitutes for the USA made a difference late, and Weston McKennie factored into two of the USMNT’s best chances in the 73rd and 75th, sending a header just wide and sending in a cross for Kellyn Acosta that forced the Salvadoran goalkeeper into action.
Goalkeeper Matt Turner recorded his seventh shutout in eight starts with the USMNT. After winning his first seven appearances, Turner is undefeated in his first eight games with the USA, conceding just one goal- a penalty kick in a 6-1 win against Martinique in the 2021 Gold Cup group stage.
INTRODUCTION TO CONCACAF WCQ
Thursday night’s match provided an introduction to the rigors of Concacaf World Cup qualifying for many of the USMNT’s young player pool. Twelve of 16 players made their World Cup qualifying debut for the USA in the match against El Salvador, tying a modern-era record set in the opening game of 1998 World Cup qualifying on Nov. 3, 1996 vs. Guatemala in Washington, D.C. Gio Reyna became the second-youngest U.S. player to start a qualifying match, following only Christian Pulisic. Also making his qualifying debut, Tyler Adams became the youngest player to captain the USMNT in the modern era.
The starting line-up carried an average age of 23 years, 282 days, the fourth-youngest WCQ line-up in the modern era and third-youngest in matches where the team had not already qualified or advanced to the next round. The only lineups that were younger came in April 1989 from the first two matches of qualifying for the 1990 FIFA World Cup.
IMPRESSIVE STREAK FOR ACOSTA
After nearly a two-year layoff from USMNT call-ups, midfielder Kellyn Acosta returned to the USMNT fold for the first time in Dec. 2020. Since then, he’s established himself as a consistent, key part of the squad as he was one of two players to lift both trophies with the USA this summer. With his appearance vs. El Salvador on Thursday, Acosta has now taken the field for the USA in 15 straight games, the first player since DaMarcus Beasley did so in 2003-04. The Colorado Rapids midfielder is just the fourth player to make 15 consecutive appearances in this millennium, joining Beasley, Landon Donovan (2002-03) and Jeff Agoos (2001-02)
DISAPPOINTING DRAW FOR CANADA
Playing in the final round of Concacaf World Cup qualifying for the first time since 1998, Canada drew Honduras 1-1 in Toronto to kick off the road to Qatar. Just before halftime, Honduras converted a penalty off of a foul by Canada forward Tajon Buchanan. Forward Cyle Larin was able to draw Les Rouges even in the 66th with his eighth goal across three rounds of World Cup qualifying, the most of the competition so far.
U.S. SOCCER TAKES OVER MUSIC CITY
Ahead of USA-Canada on Sunday night, U.S. Soccer events will take place all around Nashville this weekend. Highlights include the U.S. Soccer x Budweiser Kickoff Party, which will take place on Saturday night at the Assembly Food Hall and the Fan HQ pregame party outside Nissan Stadium on Sunday night. Country artist Lindsay Ell and American pop/rock singer-songwriter Ben Rector, both Nashville locals, will perform live at Fan HQ. Rector recorded a special unreleased song for the USMNT called “New Day,” which captures the optimistic spirit of the team as it kicks off World Cup qualifying.
ONLY FORWARD/SOLO PA’LANTE
U.S. Soccer kicked off its “Countdown to World Cup Qualifying” with the launch of “Only Forward,” / “Solo Pa’lante,” the USMNT’s new creative campaign focused on uniting fans and the team in a collective journey to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Developed in conjunction with the players, coaches and staff, “Only Forward / Solo Pa’lante” highlights a young, diverse and global-minded Men’s National Team that is humble yet resilient as it looks to tackle the challenge of World Cup Qualifying during the next eight months. After an action-packed summer in which the deep U.S. player pool responded to adversity on and off the field and proved itself with two regional championship trophies, the USMNT is ready to show the world that they are prepared to change the way the world views American soccer.
ENTER THE OCTAGON
Teams qualify for the World Cup through their regional confederations, and the USMNT will have to run the gauntlet of Concacaf (North America, Central America and the Caribbean) to reach Qatar 2022. For the first time, eight teams will contest the final round of World Cup qualifying for Concacaf from September to March. The nations will play a 14-match round-robin, home and away against each of the seven other teams.
Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the World Cup qualifying schedule has been condensed from 18 months to seven. To accommodate the new schedule, the USMNT will play three matches during four of the five international windows rather than the usual two matches.
The USA will be challenged from the very outset in the September window. Following the difficult trip to El Salvador, there’s Sunday’s meeting with an on-the-rise Canada squad and another tough away date at Honduras.
USA ROSTER NOTES
The USA’s 25-man roster will have an average age of 24 years, 87 days on Sunday vs. Canada. The team averages 18 caps and seven in official competition.
With seven goals from the 2018 cycle, 22-year-old forward Christian Pulisic enters the 2022 campaign tied with Michael Bradley for seventh on the USMNT’s all-time WCQ goal scoring list.
Pulisic also sits tied for fourth on the USMNT’s all-time World Cup Qualifying assists list with six.
While Kellyn Acosta has appeared in all 14 matches for the USA this year and 15 consecutive, midfielder Sebastian Lletget is second on the team, logging minutes in 13 of 14 games this year.
Konrad de la Fuente made his first appearance in official competition for the USA vs. El Salvador.
The lone uncapped player on the roster is 18-year-old forward Ricardo Pepi, who represented the USA at the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup alongside George Bello and Gio Reyna.
After 12 players made their World Cup qualifying debuts on Thursday, seven more will look for their first qualifying action vs. Canada: George Bello, Ethan Horvath, Mark McKenzie, Ricardo Pepi, James Sands, Zack Steffen and Walker Zimmerman.
Tim Weah was forced to withdraw from the roster due to an injury suffered in training with his club prior to departure for camp.
Sunday will be the 28th meeting all-time between the USA and Canada. The USMNT holds a 16-9-11 advantage all-time and is 12-1-6 in the modern era (since 1990), outscoring Canada 28-6 during that span.
Canada holds the advantage in World Cup qualifying as the U.S. trails 4-6-3. In home qualifiers, the USA is 3-1-2. After losing its first home qualifier to Canada in 1957, the USMNT is an undefeated 3-0-2 since.
The U.S. and Canada last squared off in the group stage of this summer’s Concacaf Gold Cup, a tight 1-0 win for the USA that clinched the top spot in Group B. Right back Shaq Moore scored the fastest goal in USMNT and Gold Cup history when he netted just 20 seconds into the match.
Seven current U.S. call-ups played in the match: Kellyn Acosta, Reggie Cannon, Sebastian Lletget, Cristian Roldan, James Sands, Matt Turner and Walker Zimmerman.
Thirteen of the 15 players to take the field for Canada in that match are back for World Cup qualifying: Tajon Buchanan, Lucas Cavallini, Maxime Crepeau, Liam Fraser, Junior Hoilett, Alistair Johnson, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Cyle Larin, Richie Laryea, Kamal Miller, Jonathan Osorio, Samuel Piette and Steven Vitoria.
The nations also met during the group stage of the inaugural Concacaf Nations League in fall 2019. After a 2-0 loss in Toronto during the October window, the USA rallied for an emphatic 4-1 win in November in Orlando that set the U.S. up to clinch Group A and advance to the Nations League Final Four.
Sergiño Dest became officially cap-tied to the U.S. during the Nations League win vs. Canada in Orlando and notched his first international assist on the game’s opening goal.
Concacaf representatives from the last two UEFA Champions League champions will square off on Sunday. Christian Pulisic helped Chelsea win the tournament in 2020-21 while Alphonso Davies played a key role during Bayern Munich’s title run in 2019-20.
The USMNT is 5-2-1 in Tennessee all-time and 4-2-1 in Nashville. Its last match in Music City came in the 2019 Gold Cup semifinals, a 3-1 victory vs. Jamaica.
READ MORE: WCQ Series History - Canada at Home
CANADA ROSTER (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Milan Borjan (Red Star Belgrade/SRB; 54/0), Maxime Crepeau (Vancouver Whitecaps FC; 11/0), James Pantemis (CF Montreal; 0/0)
DEFENDERS (8): Sam Adekugbe (Hatayspor/TUR; 17/0), Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich/GER; 24/9), Doneil Henry (Suwon Samsung Bluewings/KOR; 24/9), Alistair Johnston (Nashville SC/USA; 11/1), Scott Kennedy (Jahn Regensburg/GER; 4/0), Richie Laryea (Toronto FC; 16/1), Kamal Miller (CF Montreal; 12/0), Steven Vitoria (Moreirense/POR; 23/2)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Stephen Eustaquio (Pacos de Ferreira/POR; 11/3), Liam Fraser (Columbus Crew/USA; 9/0), Alba Hutchinson (Besiktas/TUR; 86/7), Mark-Anthony Kaye (Colorado Rapids/USA; 24/2), Jonathan Osorio (Toronto FC; 42/6), Samuel Piette (CF Montreal; 57/0), David Wotherspoon (St. Johnstone/SCO; 7/1)
FORWARDS (5): Tajon Buchanan (New England Revolution/USA; 10/1), Lucas Cavallini (Vancouver Whitecaps FC; 26/16), Jonathan David (Lille/FRA; 17/15), Junior Hoilett (Reading/ENG; 37/13), Cyle Larin (Besiktas/TUR; 41/19)
IN FOCUS: CANADA
While five teams automatically qualified to the final eight-team round of World Cup qualifying, Canada earned its Octagonal berth as one of three nations to emerge from 30 teams competing in the first two rounds.
Seeded second overall in the first round of qualifying, Canada rolled its way through Group B. The Canadians downed Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Aruba and Suriname by a combined 27-1 score. Lucas Cavallini and Cyle Larin both netted five goals across the four-game run.
In the six-team second round, Canada drew Haiti, another team on the rise in Concacaf, for a home-and-away series. After a tight 1-0 win in Port-au-Prince on a goal from Larin, three second-half goals in the home leg boosted Canada to a 3-0 win and a spot in the Octagonal.
This summer, Canada reached the Gold Cup semifinals for the fourth time and first since 2007. After a convincing win vs. Costa Rica in the quarterfinals, Canada took Mexico to the wire in the semis before El Tri scored in the ninth minute of stoppage time.
Seven of Canada’s 23-man squad compete domestically at the country’s three Major League Soccer clubs. Outside of MLS, 12 Canadians ply their trade abroad in Turkey (three), Germany, Portugal (two each), England, France, Korea Republic, Scotland and Serbia (one each).
Defender Alistair Johnston is a teammate of USMNT defender Walker Zimmerman at Nashville SC, playing its home matches at Nissan Stadium.
Forward Jonathan David plays at Lille with U.S. forward Tim Weah, who had to withdraw from the USA’s training camp due to an injury prior to the international break.
Midfielder Atiba Hutchinson is the roster’s most-capped player with 86 appearances for Canada. Larin is the team’s leading scorer with 19 international goals.
Canada head coach John Herdman took the reins of the men’s team after a successful tenure with Canada’s women from 2011-2018, guiding the team to back-to-back Olympic bronze medals in 2012 and 2016. The Canadians are 21-6-0 sincce Herdman took over.
Canada is seeking its second-ever World Cup berth and first since Mexico 1986, where the Canadians finished 24th of 24 teams.
The Canadians are returning to the final round of World Cup qualifying for the first time since 1998, their only appearance in six editions of the Hexagonal format.