USMNT scores after 20 seconds, beats Canada 1-0 to win Gold Cup group (video)

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For the second time in three games, the USMNT scored incredibly early and held on to a 1-0 lead for nearly all 90 minutes, this time to beat Canada and finish as Group A winners at the 2021 Gold Cup.

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The victory — as unsatisfying and perhaps underwhelming as it was (again) — serves a greater purpose than simply finishing top of the group: Rather than facing Mexico in the semifinals, as they would have done as Group B runners-up, the USMNT won’t face Mexico until the final (provided Mexico finishes top of Group A, as expected).

20 seconds had ticked away before the USMNT delivered a hammer blow to the upstart Canucks. Kellyn Acosta played Sebastian Lletget in behind Canada’s defense on the left flank, and Lletget crossed for the far post in hopes of someone making the late-arriving run and slotting the ball into an open net. That someone was right back Shaq Moore.

Walker Zimmerman, who captained the USMNT for the second straight game on Sunday, was forced off after suffering a right-leg injury in the 9th minute. Zimmerman, who was perilously close to giving away a penalty kick on the play, is the most international experienced of a handful of options to start alongside John Brooks when the first team convenes for the start of 2022 World Cup qualifying in September.

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Canada’s first quality scoring chance came in the 47th minute, and Matt Turner was forced to come up big to preserve the 1-0 lead. Cyle Larin dibbled through the heart of the USMNT defense and eventually lost control of the ball, but it fell to Tajon Buchanan on the right side of the box and Buchanan had a brief sight of goal, if not for Turner quickly rushing out to close down the angle.

Further (and hugely unwelcome) news on the injury front: Daryl Dike left the game in the 82nd minute when he landed awkwardly after contesting an aerial duel, forcing the USMNT to finish the game with 10 players after making three subs already. Following his successful loan to EFL Championship side Barnsley, Dike is widely expected to complete a transfer to Europe this summer.

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Up next for the USMNT is a quarterfinal clash with either Costa Rica or Jamaica (whichever side finishes 2nd in Group C), while Canada will face the other side, the winner, of Group C.