The highly anticipated top of the table clash between the United States and Canada in a FIFA World Cup Qualifier is set for Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario on Sunday, Jan. 30 at 3 p.m. ET (Paramount+, Telemundo, Universo).
Due to local public health guidelines, the venue will be reduced to a 50 percent capacity of 12,000 spectators.
Both teams come into the match off shutout wins.
On Thursday night, the second-place U.S. Men's National Team (5-1-3, 18 points) defeated El Salvador 1-0 in Columbus, Ohio on Antonee Robinson's 52nd minute goal. The first-place Canadians (5-0-4, 19 points) recorded a 2-0 win against Honduras, their first victory away to Los Catrachos since 1985.
The confrontation is expected to be a closely contested match. The USMNT last defeated Canada in the Concacaf Gold Cup, 1-0, on Shaq Moore's first-minute strike on July 18. The teams played to a 1-1 draw in WCQ in Nashville, Tenn. on Sept. 5.
WORLD CUP QUALIFYING HISTORY
In 1985, Canada qualified for its first and only World Cup, finishing atop the final qualifying round unbeaten at 2-0-2. They did not fare well in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, losing their three matches to eventual semifinalist France, 1-0, Hungary, 2-0, and the Soviet Union, 2-0.
Since then, Canada has reached the Concacaf final round only three times in eight attempts (1994, 1998, 2022).
Les Rouges took the long road to the final round of qualifying, advancing through the four-game first round before blanking Haiti twice in June’s home-and-away playoff series. Cyle Larin scored in each win, a 1-0 victory on June 12 and a 3-0 triumph on June 15. Canada added a Junior Hoilett tally and an own goal.
USMNT WORLD CUP HISTORY VS. CANADA
The Canadians have a 4-6-4 advantage against the USA. The series goes back to 1958 qualifying, when Les Rouges won 5-1 at home and 3-2 away.
It is a different story on American soil as the USA is unbeaten in its last six matches against Canada, compiling an overall 3-1-3 mark.
Prior to the 2022 competition, the USA won the last two qualifiers between the sides by 3-0 score lines. That included a victory in Palo Alto, Calif. on March 6, 1997, as Eric Wynalda, Eddie Pope and Earnie Stewart scored, and in Vancouver, Canada as Roy Wegerle (twice) and Claudio Reyna found the net on Nov. 9, 1997.
In their first encounter in 2022 WCQ, the teams played to a 1-1 draw in Nashville, Tenn. on Sept. 5, 2021. Brenden Aaronson gave the USA a 55th-minute lead, but Cyle Larin equalized seven minutes later.
John Herdman is a rare breed, having coached both the Canadian men's and women's national teams to success. After directing the New Zealand Women's National Team from 2006-2011, the 45-year-old Englishman was named Canada women's head coach. He guided Les Rouges to the gold medal at the 2011 Pan American Games in Mexico and then back-to-back bronze medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.
In 2018, in an unprecedented move for Canada, Herdman took over the reins of the men's team. Under his direction, Canada has improved and is playing some of its best soccer in years while recording a 25-6-4 mark.
2022 WORLD CUP QUALIFYING
The Canadians started the Octagonal with a pair of 1-1 draws. They traded penalty kicks in its tie with Honduras at BMO Field in Toronto on Sept. 2. Alex Lopez tallied for the visitors in the 40th minute and Cyle Larin equalized in the 66th minute.
In the 1-1 deadlock vs. the USA in Nashville, Tenn. on Sept. 5, Larin played hero again after Brenden Aaronson lifted the Americans into a 55th minute lead. The Canadian international netted the tying goal in the 62nd minute.
The squad closed out the September window with a 3-0 home victory vs. El Salvador behind scores by Atiba Hutchinson, Jonathan David and Tajon Buchanan.
BEHIND THE CREST: USA Plays to 1-1 Draw with Canada in Nashville
In the October window, Les Rouges continued their unbeaten run.
They tied Mexico at Estadio Azteca, 1-1, on Jonathan Osorio's goal on Oct. 7. Three days later, Canada played host Jamaica to a scoreless draw before recording a 4-1 home triumph over Panama on Oct. 13. Alphonso Davies, David and Buchanan scored as the visitors tallied an own goal.
In a successful strategic move to freeze out their southern foes, Canada grabbed the Octagonal lead with two home victories in ice-cold Edmonton during the November window. The team rode David's 57th-minute goal to a 1-0 win over Costa Rica on Nov. 12, before besting Mexico 2-1, on Larin tallies on either side of halftime on Nov. 16.
The Canadians remained undefeated behind a 2-0 triumph in San Pedro Sula, Honduras on Thursday night. It was their first win over the Central Americans in 37 years. Denil Maldonado deflected Tajon Buchanan’s cross into his own goal to stake the visitors to a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute. Jonathan David gave his side some breathing room, scoring off a Liam Fraser assist in the 73rd minute.
This is considered a golden generation for Canada, which has reached the Concacaf WCQ final round for the first time since 1998 qualifying. Players compete in 11 countries, including England, France, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Serbia, South Korea, Scotland, Turkey, the USA and Canada.
Canada, however, will be without its best player as 21-year-old defender Alphonso Davies was ruled out of this window after Bayern Munich said he had shown signs of inflammation of the heart muscle following a bout with COVID-19. Davies was named the 2021 Canada Soccer Player of the Year.
U.S. fans should be quite familiar with two players.
Former Orlando City SC standout forward Cyle Larin leads all scorers in Concacaf qualifying with 11 goals. He has been lethal on both sides of the Atlantic, tallying 30 goals in 72 matches for Beşiktaş (Turkey) since 2018. The 26-year-old forward netted a team-high 14 goals in 2021 and finished tied for second in the Concacaf Gold Cup (three goals). Larin has scored 22 goals in 45 international matches, tying Dwayne De Rosario as Canada's all-time scoring leader.
Last year, 22-year-old midfielder Tajon Buchanan emerged as an important piece of the puzzle for the national team. Named the Concacaf Gold Cup's Young Player of the tournament, Buchanan was transferred by the New England Revolution to Club Brugge (Belgium) on Aug. 24. Buchanan, who recorded eight goals and five assists for the Revs, was named the Canadian men’s player of the month for August.
Team captain and midfielder Atiba Hutchinson, 38, the oldest player on the squad, has represented Canada a record 91 times.
Two opposing forwards know each other quite well because they perform for Lille in France's Ligue 1 - Canadian Jonathan David (19 goals in 25 international appearances) and the USA's Tim Weah. David is tied for second place in Concacaf WCQ goals with eight.
Eight players compete for MLS teams, six with the three Canadian-based clubs.
Defenders Alistair Johnston and Kamal Miller and midfielder Samuel Piette play for CF Montreal. Defender Cristian Gutierrez and forward Lucas Cavallini perform for Vancouver Whitecaps FC, and midfielder Jonathan Osorio for Toronto FC.
Goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau competes for the Los Angeles FC and midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye for the Colorado Rapids.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Milan Borjan (Red Star Belgrade/SRB; 59/0), Maxime Crepeau (Los Angeles FC/USA; 14/0), Jayson Leutwiler (Oldham Athletic/ENG; 3/0)
DEFENDERS (9): Samuel Adekugbe (Hatayspor FC/TUR; 25/0), Derek Cornelius (Panetolikos FC/GRE; 14/0), Cristian Gutierrez (Vancouver Whitecaps/CAN; 0/0), Doneil Henry (unattached; 1/0), Alistair Johnston (CF Montreal/CAN; 19/1), Scott Kennedy (SSV Jahn Regensburg/GER; 6/0), Richie Laryea (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 23/1), Kamal Miller (CF Montreal/CAN; 19/0), Steven Vitoria (Moreirense FC/POR; 29/2)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Stephen Eustaquio (Porto; POR; 18/3), Liam Fraser (KMSK Deinze/BEL; 12/0), Atiba Hutchinson (Besiktas/TUR; 91/8); Mark-Anthony Kaye (Colorado Rapids/USA; 30/2), Jonathan Osorio (Toronto FC/CAN; 50/7), Samuel Piette (CF Montreal/CAN; 61/0)
FORWARDS (7): Tajon Buchanan (Club Brugge KV/BEL; 17/3), Lucas Cavallini (Vancouver Whitecaps; 29/16), Jonathan David (Lille/FRA; 25/19), Junior Hoilett (Reading FC/ENG; 40/13), Cyle Larin (Besiktas/TUR; 45/22), Liam Millar (FC Basel/SUI; 14/0), Ike Ugbo (KRC Genk/BEL; 1/0)