Rolling after a 4-0 thrashing of El Salvador, the United States will look to secure a spot in the final of the FC Gold Cup Wednesday night at the Rose Bowl when they take on Canada in the evening’s second semi-final.
U.S. coach Bruce Arena, however, is cautious of his northern rivals and reigning Gold Cup champions.
“They’re difficult to play against and they've been very successful here,” Arena said. “No one's been able to eliminate them now in two tries so that's got to be quite a task. They play everyone tough.”
Canada’s lone defeat in the tournament came at the hands of Ecuador when they conceded two goals in the final five minutes of the match. Canada, however, needed to draw lots in order to earn a berth in the quarter-final of the Gold Cup after all three group D sides finished with three points.
In the quarter-final, Canada needed penalty kicks to get past tiny Martinique.
The U.S. is coming off an impressive performance against El Salvador and seem to have found an offensive rhythm after scoring only two goals in the run of play in their two group matches.
Brian McBride will lead the American attack. McBride notched an early hat-trick for the U.S. against El Salvador and will be looked upon to lead the offense against Canada.
The U.S. will go into the match a little banged up, however. Defender Carlos Bocanegra did not participate fully in practice yesterday as he is still nursing an injury suffered in their very physical match with El Salvador.
American striker Ante Razov also practiced at half speed because of a groin problem. Razov scored the fourth goal against El Salvador.
Canada are powered by Scotland-based defender Kevin McKenna. McKenna, who has been moved to the forward line, leads the team in goals, having netted three in as many matches. Along with McKenna, David Xausa and Paul Stalteri will provide Canada’s offensive punch.
“They have a real physical presence,” Arena said. “They’re outstanding on attacking restarts and that's an area where they get all their goals.”
Tony Menezes, who plays for Brazilian club Botafogo, will anchor the Canadian defense. Menezes, along with Jason DeVos and Mark Rogers, will look to stifle the recently invigorated American attack.
Scottish-based midfielder Nick Dasovic returns to the Canada line-up after sitting out the Martinique game on a yellow-card suspension.
U.S. striker Clint Mathis should figure to see ample time against Canada. Mathis returned to the national team after a torn ACL kept him out of action for seven months. Mathis played the final 30 minutes against El Salvador, showing, however, that he still has a ways to go before regaining complete match-fitness.
“It’s all about getting in the game and I still have to work on the last ten percent of my game,” Mathis said. “I’m just happy to be training in a competitive game. It’s a matter of getting more match-fit.”
USA- Kasey Keller; Frankie Hejduk, Carlos Bocanegra, Jeff Agoos, Pablo Mastroeni; Eddie Lewis, Chris Armas, Cobi Jones, Landon Donovan; Brian McBride, Josh Wolff
Canada- Lars Hirschfeld; Jason DeVos, Tony Menezes, Mark Rogers, Nick Dasovic; Richard Hastings, Jim Brennan, Daniel Imhof, Paul Stalteri; Davide Xausa, Kevin McKenna