Gregg Berhalter: Lack of 'desire' hurt U.S. in lackluster loss to Canada

TORONTO -- U.S. men's national team manager Gregg Berhalter bemoaned his team's lack of desire in its 2-0 loss to Canada in the CONCACAF Nations League.

The triumph for the Reds was their first over the U.S. in 34 years, snapping a winless streak of 17 games. Alphonso Davies broke the deadlock in the 63rd minute, bundling home Scott Arfield's low, driven pass to the far post. Lucas Cavallini added Canada's second in the second minute of stoppage time to make the game safe.

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The match was the first road game for the U.S. in 2019, and the visitors wilted against an inspired, physical Canada side. Canada now needs to just earn a draw in next month's return fixture against the U.S. to advance to the semifinals of the competition.

"The first thing that stands out to me, was desire; desire of Canada," said Berhalter. "Give them credit. But having said that, the minimum we expect is to match that. We need to compete on every single play in games like this, and that's important. I don't think it was a lack of effort. I don't think it was purposeful. But I wasn't happy with the desire that we displayed tonight to win the soccer game. Too many 50-50 balls we lost, and that hurt us."

U.S. midfielder Christian Pulisic had a glorious chance to put the U.S. ahead in the 51st minute, after good work from Jordan Morris, but could only put a weak shot from 10 yards directly at Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan.

Pulisic struggled for most of the night, but it was still a surprise when he was substituted for Paul Arriola nine minutes later. Berhalter said that Pulisic had been suffering from flu-like symptoms for the previous two days.

"He wanted to continue," said Berhalter about Pulisic. "You could see the disappointment in his face, and we had to make that decision. We made the decision based on being not sure how much he had left. We wanted to inject some energy into the team."

But this was a match in which Canada outplayed the U.S., and was deserving of their victory. The U.S. struggled for most of the night to consistently generate much of an attack.

"What stands out to me is just the sloppiness with the ball; too many mis-controlled touches, too many missed passes, too many easy things that we normally make that we weren't making tonight," said Berhalter. "What they did with their midfield is they played a diamond. They were very compact in the central spaces. Our idea was to move the ball from one side and find the free fullback on the other side of the field, penetrate, and then we can start opening up that diamond. When we did that, it was good. We were able to gain ground, and move them around the field. When we didn't do that due to a lack of cleanliness on the ball, or playing down the same side and letting that diamond shift over, we got trapped. That hurt us from developing nice buildups."

The match will do little to quell concerns about the state of the U.S. program, especially now with Canada appearing to be on the rise. Berhalter said his side would continue to work to improve.

"I wouldn't make a statement about the program based on this game," he said. "The reason why is that these games are difficult. It was never going to be easy and come here and win the game. There was no way. When you look at their team, when at their quality, when you look at where they are right now, it wasn't going to be an easy game. We have to accept that. I think all of us have to accept that. We wanted to win the game, and hopefully we're going to keep improving and hopefully we're going to start winning games on the road, but tonight wasn't the night to do it."