The remade US men’s team quickly got themselves into trouble in World Cup qualifying, wasting Brenden Aaronson’s second-half goal when Cyle Larin scored to lift Canada to a 1-1 draw on Sunday night.
Christian Pulisic returned after missing Thursday’s opening 0-0 draw at El Salvador following a positive Covid-19 test. Pulisic was dynamic and injected some creativity the Americans lacked in their previous game, contributing to the build-up for Aaronson’s goal in the 55th minute.
Aaronson won a throw-in, and the US made a series of quick passes before Kellyn Acosta sent the ball wide to Antonee Robinson. He crossed and Aaronson poked the ball past goalkeeper Milan Borjan for the 20-year-old’s fourth international goal.
But defenders DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks were at fault for Larin’s goal in the 62nd. Alphonso Davies dribbled down the left flank and got by Yedlin. Davies crossed to an open Larin, who got away from Brooks and redirected the ball past the keeper.
Miles Robinson came closest to a winner, heading Pulisic’s corner over the crossbar in injury time. An overwhelmingly pro-American crowd of 43,023 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville booed loudly at the final whistle.
The US emerge from their opening two matches of the 14-game qualifying tournament with just two points heading into Wednesday’s game in Honduras.
“Obviously it’s not exactly where we want to be, but we have a lot of games left to play and it’s not time to put our heads down,” Pulisic said after the game.
Mexico lead Concacaf qualifying with six points, followed by Panama with four. Canada are third with two points, ahead of the US on goals scored. The top three nations qualify for next year’s tournament in Qatar, and the fourth-place nation advances to an intercontinental playoff.
The US ended a streak of seven straight World Cup appearances when they fell one point short of reaching the 2018 tournament. The primary cause of the failure was the failure of the Americans to win home qualifiers against Mexico and Costa Rica. Before that, the US had not lost a home qualifier since 2001.
Canada, who host El Salvador on Wednesday, lost Davis to an injury midway through the second half. The Canadians have their best team in decades and are trying to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
While Pulisic returned, the US were missing Weston McKennie and Gio Reyna. McKennie violated team Covid-19 protocols, an issue that also caused Juventus to drop the 23-year-old midfielder for the Derby della Mole against Torino last April. Reyna strained his right hamstring and also will miss Wednesday’s game.
“Unfortunately I am suspended for tonight’s match due to a violation of team Covid protocols,” McKennie wrote on Instagram on Sunday night. “I am sorry for my actions, I will be cheering hard for the boys tonight and hope to be back with the team soon.”
First-choice US goalkeeper Zack Steffen missed his second straight match, this time after testing positive for Covid-19 after being sidelined for the opener by back spasms. He also will miss the Honduras trip.
With just two days off between games under the pandemic-altered schedule, US coach Gregg Berhalter made six changes to his starting lineup.