ORLANDO — Canadian Men’s National Team head coach John Herdman didn’t sugarcoat his decision to play Alphonso Davies at left back. Despite being ineffective offensively in a 4-1 loss to the U.S. Men’s National Team in Orlando, Herdman wanted the Bayern Munich left back at his in-form position in what was a highly-anticipated rematch between the Concacaf sides.
“As a coach you come into these matches, you have to make decisions,” Herdman said. “We anticipated that the U.S. would press and we knew we needed to play a little more direct to get over it. Alphonso has been playing fantastic at Bayern Munich at left back, he’s been touted as hitting those World Class standards in recent games.”
“We knew the U.S. were bringing Sergino [Dest] in and try to overload the right wing spot against Kamal Miller, who had been off three-to-four weeks since MLS ended. For us it was about we could find Alphonso in those wide areas and we didn’t enough in the first half with diagonal passes. Second-half we saw a little more of Davies, we wanted to take him up front but the injury to Doneil [Henry] that hurt us. It was a tough situation.”
The 19-year-old got the start over Miller at left back and did his best to help Canada overturn a 3-0 first-half. However, Dest held his own against Davies, as did American left back Tim Ream who also dealt with Davies at times when he was moved to the right flank.
“They pressured us more tonight than in the first meeting, they were at home so we knew what they were going to bring,” Davies said. “I think we didn’t step up to the plate, but it’s a learning experience. John told us to keep our heads up because it will help us learn and get better for the future.”
Davies made an impact on Canada’s only goal of the match, taking a corner kick in what led to Steven Vitoria’s back post header, but it would end as a mere consolation. After four-consecutive starts domestically with Bayern, Davies grabbed another important 90 minutes under his belt on Friday, even if he didn’t have a huge impact in front of goal.
“Being a left back is a very important role and I am happy to play there, whether it be for Bayern or for the National Team,” Davies said. “I am going to give my all at that position. I want to try and show my speed and my skills as a left back. It’s a position that I can attack and defend as well so it helps the team team in multiple ways.”
“For us when you have Bayern’s starting left back who is playing Champions League, it makes the decision pretty easy. Alphonso provides width and athletically it poses a mismatch due to his height difference over Dest. Alphonso is the best left back in Canada without a doubt, and arguably the best left back at Bayern. We would love to have him at two positions, but we have skill up front too so Davies had to stay where he is comfortable right now.”
Davies starred in Canada’s 2-0 win over the USMNT back in October, getting after the likes of Deandre Yedlin and scoring the opening goal. Even when the Canadians took the lead in Toronto, Davies remained in attack mode the rest of the match. It was a move that USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter was shocked to see not happen this time around.
“I think we were a bit surprised to see Alphonso not higher up the field, but perhaps they were trying to maintain his rhythm at left back,” Berhalter said. “He’s started for Bayern Munich and came into this game on fantastic form with the club. He’s a quality player. I still think he gave us fits with his ability on the ball. I think he was still very effective in the game.”
Davies will now wait and see if Canada finishes as the first or second place team in Group A following Tuesday’s USMNT vs. Cuba showdown. A win for the Americans will earn them a Nations League semifinal berth and a spot in the 2021 Gold Cup, while USA loss or tie would let Canada win the group and secure a place in the Nations League knockout rounds.
With no match scheduled this week, Davies will return to Bayern, which plays Fortuna Dusseldorf on Saturday. Bayern sits four points behind Bundesliga leaders Borussia Monchengladbach, with 21 points through 11 matches.