Melissa Tancredi cancelled out Abby Wambach's penalty with a goal just before halftime Saturday as Canada salvaged a 1-1 draw with the powerhouse United States.
The friendly match was the first for Canada following a disastrous Women's World Cup this summer in Germany. The Canadians scored just one goal in three losses and finished last in the 16-team field.
"They've been through a tough time," said Herdman, who took over from Caroline Morace earlier this month. "Part of what we wanted to achieve tonight was about putting things right as a team. It wasn't about winning football matches."
The result ended Canada's seven-match losing streak against the U.S. Still, the Americans ran their unbeaten string in the series to 23 as the hosts played their first game since losing the World Cup final to Japan.
Canada came out in an attacking 4-3-3 formation and put the U.S. under pressure early, but a few long distance shots failed to trouble American goalkeeper Hope Solo.
Disaster struck in the 10th minute when Canada's Emily Zurrer handled the ball in the 18-yard box. Goalkeeper Erin McLeod could do little on the ensuing penalty as Wambach slotted the ball low to the right for a 1-0 lead. Wambach has one goal in each of the United States' last five matches.
But Canada fought back as Tancredi equalized in the 42nd, slipping behind defender Christie Rampone to take a long through ball from Kelly Parker before firing past a diving Solo.
"It wasn't the best defence on any of our parts," said Solo, who was subbed out at halftime.
Tancredi has scored in back-to-back games against the United States, recording Canada's goal in the Americans' 2-1 victory on Jan. 22 at the Four Nations Cup in China.
"We knew stepping onto the pitch we wanted to step forward and take no steps back," said Herdman, who was in charge of New Zealand's women's team before joining Canada. "I learned this team is resilient. They made the country proud tonight."
Although his side absorbed near-constant pressure during the second half, Canada held firm against World Cup runners-up.
"The girls hung on, we're pretty disciplined," Herdman said. "The girls will be in a much better place then they were five days ago (when his training with the team began)."
Added Canadian midfielder Chelsea Stewart: "We executed our game plan that we had been working on all week. It's nice to come back from a World Cup and put in a performance like that."
McLeod made a point-blank save on Alex Morgan of U.S. in the 70th minute before Canada nearly stole a famous win in the 90th. Stewart played to Lauren Sesselmann inside the top of the box but she fired high over the U.S. goal from six yards out.
"I thought that was going to be the ultimate dream start," Herdman said tongue-in-cheek. "The worry is, if we had started with a win like that, the expectations would have been way too high."
Playing with 15 of the 22 players who took part in the World Cup, but without longtime captain and forward Christine Sinclair, the Canadian team earned high praise from Herdman.
"The exciting thing is, I've been working with them for five days," Herdman said. "I didn't pick this team for this event, didn't know the players from Adam, and this is what they can produce. So there are exciting times ahead."
Canada plays the U.S. again on Thursday in Portland, Ore., before gearing up for the Pan Am Games in October in Guadalajara, Mexico, and the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament in Vancouver in January.
"We want to live up to this and push past this even further," said the 21-year-old Stewart, who will miss Thursday's match due to school demands. "So we go back to the drawing board and build on what we've already established as a team with the new coach."
Herdman has only been with the team a short time, but said he sees a bright future.
"We have some wonderful players, great role models for young players in Canada, so we've got to keep putting them on the world stage," he said. "We have to bring this team back home so our public can see what special people we've got."
Notes: The U.S. roster for Saturday's game — minus midfielder Shannon Boxx, who will rejoin the team for Thursday's match — was identical to its World Cup roster.
— With files from The Associated Press