PUEBLA, Mexico - Quality defending has traditionally been the backbone of Canadian men's teams at the international level.
That wasn't the case on Tuesday night.
Jose Villareal scored twice as the United States defeated Canada 4-2 in the quarter-finals of the 2013 CONCACAF under-20 championship.
The loss means that Canada won't be taking part in this summer's FIFA under-20 World Cup in Turkey.
"All credit to our boys. They tried to fight. They tried to fight on until the end but that's just the way it goes," said Canadian coach Nick Dasovic. "The Americans are going to Turkey and I wish them all the best."
Canada opened the scoring through Dylan Carreiro but then conceded four unanswered American goals — including strikes from Luis Gil and William Trapp — to put the game out of reach. Samuel Piette got a goal back for Canada, which hasn't qualified for an U20 World Cup since hosting the event in 2007.
"Up to when we scored our goal I thought our (defensive) lines were quite tight and our blocks were nice and compact. It just seemed that in today's game for whatever reason they looked a step ahead of us," Dasovic said. "They looked stronger and fresher."
Canada started with promise and took the lead in the 23rd minute when Carreiro caught the U.S. goalkeeper out of position and unleashed a shot from 20 yards that snuck inside the post.
But it was all downhill from there as the Americans took advantage of Canada's leaky defence.
Gil got the U.S. on the board six minutes later by controlling Daniel Cuevas' cross from the left and dispatching a left-footed effort home to tie the game.
With Canada's defending already looking suspect, things got worse when captain Doneil Henry had to be subbed off with an apparent hamstring injury.
Things further deteriorated when a Mario Rodriguez cross from the left in the 40th minute found Villareal, who tapped in his first of the night.
Canada badly needed to get to halftime but the Americans had a further twist of the knife after goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau could only punch a corner clear to Trapp, who hit a shot from 25 yards out that took a deflection before crossing the goal-line.
"We all fought hard today and a couple unlucky goals that they scored, a couple deflections — we were just unlucky," said Carreiro, doing his best to fight back tears. "We could have scored a couple more goals but it just didn't go our way today."
Already down a pair to start the second half, the Canadians had a decent shout for a penalty in the 54th minute when Piette was clearly taken down in the box but after their appeal was waved off.
"I was right there and he took one touch and the other guy just hit him on the leg," Carreiro said. "We all thought it was a penalty. We were all arguing for it but unfortunately the refs never gave it."
The Americans countered after that non-call, and with the ball ending up at Villareal's feet just inside the penalty area, he had plenty of time to bury his second.
Piette gave Canada some hope in the 64th minute with a long-range goal, but Canada couldn't get any closer as both Keven Aleman and Caleb Clarke wasted chances later in the half.
Note: The top four teams at the tournament qualify for this summer's U20 World Cup.