Beware the U.S. and its “highly illegal” tactics

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Canadian women’s coach John Herdman (pictured) wanted to raise awareness of U.S. tactics on set-piece plays, techniques that he described as “highly illegal.”

Well, check!  Mission accomplished. Awareness raised.

What he said to reporters a day before the North American neighbors meet in the 2012 Olympic semifinal:

“One of the big threats we’ve got to take care of, and what we’ve paid attention to, is the illegal marking in the box on their corners and free kicks. Some of the blocking tactics, which are highly illegal, we’ll keep an eye on them in the game. We’ve starting working on that in training without trying to injure our players.”

“Obviously they’re trying to free up a key player, but in a very illegal way,” he said. “The U.S., it’s what they do well.”

What he’s referring to our “picks.” Most teams do it, although to varying degrees. Disguise it well and it’s rarely called. Get too obvious about it and you’ll get the whistle.

The teams meet at 2:45 p.m. ET on Monday from inside famed Old Trafford, home to Manchester United. The match can be seen on the NBC Sports Network, NBC Olympic Soccer Channel and streamed on NBC Live Extra.

Herdsman knows he needs every little edge in this one, no matter how itty-bitty it may seem. Why? Examine the evidence of series domination:

  • The teams met just a month ago in the U.S. sendoff match, a 2-1 win for Pia Sunhage’s team in Utah. Amy Rodriguez hit the 85th-minute game winner.
  • That extended the U.S. unbeaten streak in the series to 26 games.
  • That streak of Canadian woe includes a 4-0 U.S. win in January in the title game of the 2012 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament on Canadian soil, in Vancouver. Alex Morgan had two goals and assisted Abby Wambach’s two goals.
  • The United States is 42-3-5 overall Canada.
  • Canada’s last victory in the series came in 2001 in Portugal.