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Marsch madness

Argentina were never seriously troubled by Canada at MetLife last night as the 2024 Copa America once again rolled through New Jersey.

Just like last month’s group stage match, fans of Lionel Messi and Argentina vastly dominated the seating in MetLife Arena. It took only a few minutes for the stadium to start shaking after the opening whistle as the sea of blue and white jerseys began to jump in near unison.

That being said, this was a very different feeling from that match against Chile. The only real similarity was that the few fans not supporting Argentina were wearing red kits.

In that group stage game, it felt as though the pressure was building around the stadium. The domination by Argentina, the expectation of a goal, and the heated emotions between the two South American sides carried an otherwise one-sided, boring game.

When MetLife became El Monumental
Argentina went to New Jersey and proved themselves worthy world champions, but the organizers brought some CONEMBOL chaos to the press box.

Empty seats at MetLife

Compare that to last night in East Rutherford, where it never felt heated despite Argentina clearly being the better team. Maybe it was because Canada actually had some fight in them, or maybe it’s because Julián Álvarez scored in the 22nd minute — as opposed to making the crowd wait until nearly the end of regulation.

The official crowd number of 80,102 is actually smaller than what the group stage pulled in. To be precise, 1,004 fewer fans. It was noticeable that seats were empty in the 200-level around the middle of the stadium.

Whether it was due to ticket prices, or Canada not having sex appeal as an opponent, this was not a complete sell-out. It's still a damn good crowd, but it's interesting how much the vibe can change despite this game actually matters more than the last one.

Chile win 0 - 0*
*For 88 minutes Chile held off the world champions in front of more than 81,000 fans at MetLife Stadium. No need to discuss what happened after.

Better for Canada, but not enough

Canada was the last hope of CONCACAF to win the federation’s first-ever Copa América. To be blunt, they played better against the defending World Champion than any other nation from the federation could have.

Canada knew they weren’t going to beat Argentina head-on. The team looked as though they learned from the 2-0 loss down in Atlanta that opened the tournament. Last night, the name of the game was conceding possession early, counter-attacking, and fast breaks. Jacob Shaffelburg had multiple looks in the box, trying to find players to get chances on Argentina’s Emiliano Martínez. However, the big chances were few and far between.

It took until the second half for Argentina to score on Canada down in Atlanta. In East Rutherford, it took just over 20 minutes, when Argentina’s attack took advantage of a high-pressing back line. On paper, that means Canada played worse. But the Canucks were still able to weather multiple Messi attacks from then on out.

MetLife's temporary grass surface appeared heavy, with water splashing and sand popping up during dribbles. Both teams struggled at times to overcome this. However, the brown dirt patches from the Uruguay versus Bolivia game were fully healed this time around. Those couldn’t be blamed for Canada star Alphonso Davies going down with an injury in the second half.

He limped off after his right leg was caught in a clean challenge with Gonzalo Montiel in the 71st minute. Combine that with a flukey Messi goal in the 51st minute, when he deflected a ball by Enzo Fernández past Canadian keeper Maxime Crépeau, and the last CONCACAF hope was all but gone. A final chance in second-half stoppage time by Jonathan David was saved by Martínez to seal the result.

More Goals than Fans: Uruguay’s 5-0 win over Bolivia
The second 2024 Copa America match to be held at MetLife didn’t come close to matching the atmosphere of Tuesday’s matchup between Argentina and Chile.

Why Third Place matters

MLS Canada Men's National Team Head Coach Jesse Marsch – yes I will always call him that – has only been in charge for seven games. He lost three of those, and two of them have come against Argentina, the defending World Cup champions. That third loss was against the current Euro 2024 Semifinalist Netherlands — there’s no shame in losing against these teams.

Despite falling to Argentina, the Canadians and Marsch have one more game to play. The team will play the loser of the Uruguay and Colombia semifinal in a Third Place match in Charlotte, North Carolina on July 13.

Consider this: A third-place finish in a Copa América would be the Great White North’s biggest accomplishment on the men’s side since winning the Gold Cup in 2000.

Hudson River Blue asked Marsch about this following Tuesday’s loss, and the head coach didn’t hide his feelings for the consolation match.

“I always think it's a little bit odd to have the Third Place match in these tournaments because fans aren’t really that interested and teams are disappointed to play in that match,” Marsch said in the press conference following the game. “But, for us it's important. Because it's an opportunity for us to continue to work on some things and, like I said, we’ll invest some time from the start in some different faces. Which’ll be good, that’ll be an opportunity for us.”

Marsch went on to talk about expanding the team’s player pool over the next two years, and it seems as though he isn’t afraid to use this upcoming game as a chance to test new players and strategies. With Canada only having the CONCACAF Nations League over the next two years as its only serious action competition, a semi-friendly in Charlotte might be the start of how he tinkers with the team leading up to the 2026 World Cup.

Full Press Conference