Gold Cup: Canada pays for disastrous start as U.S. tops Group B

Shaq Moore scored 20 seconds in and the United States beat Canada 1-0 Sunday to win Group B at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Canadians surrender opening-minute goal, close out 1st-round as runner's up

Shaq Moore (20) and Canada's Tajon Buchanan vie for the ball during the United States' 1-0 win in CONCACAF Gold Cup action on Sunday. (Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports)

U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter summed up his team's game as an amazing start followed by "a lot of suffering."

But the pain was all Canada's when the final whistle blew Sunday, beaten 1-0 by their North American rival after conceding a goal 20 seconds in its final preliminary-round game at the Gold Cup.

The Canadian men found their way back into the game after Shaq Moore's opening goal but were unable to breach the U.S. defence despite having the edge in play as the match wore on. Canada outshot the Americans 14-6 (3-1 in shots on target) and had 54.5 per cent of the possession.

"We asked them a lot of questions," said Canada coach John Herdman.

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Shaq Moore's goal in the opening minute was the difference as the United States defeated Canada 1-0 in their final group stage game. Both teams are headed to the quarter-finals. 1:11

"While I'm pissed with the result today, you'll go in and be pretty happy with some elements of that performance that we can set ourselves up for the quarter-finals," he added.

With both teams already qualified for the knockout round, the game at a soldout, steamy Children's Mercy Park decided first place in Group B. The North American rivals came into the game with the same goal difference but 70th-ranked Canada had scored one more goal, meaning the 20th-ranked Americans had to win to finish first while the Canadians only needed a draw.

As the Group B winner, the U.S. faces the runner-up in Group C in the quarter-finals next weekend. That means taking on either No. 45 Jamaica or No. 50 Costa Rica, who meet Tuesday to decide the group.

Canada awaits quarter-final opponent

Canada will play the Group C winner next Sunday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. And it ends up in the bottom half of the draw, which could feature No. 11 Mexico if it wins Group A. But to do that the Mexicans, thanks to a scoreless draw with No. 103 Trinidad and Tobago, had to beat No. 69 El Salvador later Sunday.

Canada came into the match 8-0-0 in 2021, outscoring mainly lesser opposition 39-3, with its last loss coming in January 2020, a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Iceland. But the U.S. represented a significant increase in the degree of difficulty.

It was a dream start for the Americans.

Canada failed to win several duels in its own end and Sebastian Lletget, given plenty of space on the left flank, sent in a low cross that eluded goalkeeper Max Crepeau and set up Moore for a tap-in at the far post. It was his first goal in his eight senior U.S. appearances.

Moore, who plays for Tenerife in Spain, was the lone non-MLS starter for the U.S.

U.S. Soccer said it was the fastest goal in U.S. men's national team history, at least back to 1989 when "consistent time records" started to be kept.

"The first minute of the game we fell asleep and that's just something that collectively we all have to do better in," said Canadian midfielder Liam Fraser.

"But for the (last) 75 minutes we had them on the ropes," he added. "I think if a couple of calls go our way, definitely things change. But I also think we do have to be more clinical in the [penalty] box and finish the chances that we do create....All in all I really believe we deserved to come out of there with three points and top the group."

Canada appealed unsuccessfully for a penalty in the ninth minute when Richie Laryea and Walker Zimmerman tangled in the penalty box as Laryea tried to round the U.S. captain, who lost his balance as the two players tried to fend each other off.

"How is that not a penalty....not even a free kick," tweeted injured Canadian star Alphonso Davies.

Mexican referee Adonai Escobedo saw it differently, perhaps dismissing it because both players had been grabbing each other as they headed towards the penalty box.

Laryea said it was "100 per cent" a penalty.

Despite body language that told a different story at the time, Herdman was diplomatic after the game when asked about the non-penalty, saying he did not have a good view.

"Whenever a defender falls across an attacker like that, you always wonder, you always feel it's going to go your way," he added. "I thought it was going to go our way."

Canadian midfielder Tajon Buchanan, whose star has been rising at the tournament, didn't mince words.

"Personally I didn't think the ref was good today, to be honest" he said.

Canada midfielder Samuel Piette (6) is pressured by U.S. midfielder Sebastian Lletget. (Colin E. Braley/The Associated Press )

Zimmerman was injured on the play and was replaced by Donovan Pines in the 15th minute.

Canada, meanwhile, lost Ayo Akinola in the 24th minute and fellow forward Cyle Larin in the 53rd, both to injury.

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Canada's Akinola leaves game against U.S. with apparent injury

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Ayo Akinola, forward for the Canadian men's national team and Toronto FC, is taken out of the game shortly after falling hard to the pitch. 1:09

Akinola, making his first start and second appearance for Canada since switching allegiance from the U.S., could not continue after his knee appeared to twist in a challenge with James Sands. Larin, who had scored five goals in his four previous matches, exited in the 53rd after going down.

Herdman thought Larin may just have a dead leg after absorbing an enemy knee. But he said Akinola's injury might be more problematic.

"He just felt a little twist in the knee as the player came across him," he said. "Sometimes they look worse than they are. We're fingers crossed there."

Shaq Moore (20) of the United States celebrate with teammates after scoring in the opening minute. (Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports)

Herdman's disappointment was mostly centred on the fact that his team had a chance for a rare win over the Americans.

The U.S. holds a 16-9-11 advantage in the all-time series, which dates back to a 1-0 Canadian win in Montreal in June 1925. But Canada has only won once since 1985.

The lone Canadian victory in recent times came October 2019, a 2-0 triumph in Toronto in CONCACAF Nations League play. The Americans won the rematch the next month 4-1 in Orlando.

Sunday's match was a precursor to a Nashville meeting on Sept. 5 in the final round of World Cup qualifying in the region that covers North and Central America and the Caribbean. Canada will host the Americans on Jan. 30 as the so-called Octagonal continues.

Both teams brought young squads to the Gold Cup, with many of their star players away with their clubs or injured.

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