With World Cup places on the line the United States delivered a tame performance tonight in Houston, in a 0-0 tie against a young Canadian side, that has lost their last two games by a combined 12-1 score. Coming into this game U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann laid down the gauntlet to his “fringe” players, to step up and earn a place in the U.S. team with the Hex on the horizon.
The coach’s challenge went largely unheeded, resulting in a desultory effort by a U.S. side that dominated possession, without ever really threatening the Canadian goal. Still, despite the Americans disappointing night, it is never wise to read too much into a friendly. The stakes were raised of course, by the proximity of the game with Honduras. February 6th is right around the corner and if, as Klinsmann has maintained, he plans on taking seven or eight players from this group for the World Cup qualifier, who will they be?
Sean Johnson went the full 90 in the U.S. goal, which would suggest that the Chicago Fire keeper will be the U.S. number three in San Pedro Sula. Johnson stood up well to an early blast from Canadian veteran Dwayne DeRosario, but had little else to do on the night.
The center back pairing of Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez were solid, if not overtaxed. Gonzalez was dangerous on set pieces and Besler hit a couple of good passes out of the back. None of the fullbacks stood out. With presumed starters Steve Cherundolo and Fabian Johnson struggling with injuries, the chance to impress was there, especially for starters Justin Morrow and Tony Beltran. While neither player flopped, they also failed to shine.
Second half substitute Benny Feilhaber has been out of the national team picture since the 2010 World Cup, and his incisive passing has been missed. He provided a reminder with a good show in the middle of the park last night in Houston. Fellow subs Alejandro Bedoya and Josh Gatt also showed well, although for all of Gatt’s industry, the end product was lacking,
Up front Eddie Johnson showed glimpses, while Chris Wondolowski worked hard to little effect. Wondo came close on one effort, but Juan Agudelo looked the more dangerous player and drew fouls in good positions.
Questions must also be asked of the United States coaching staff, that was seemingly bamboozled once again by a Canadian team that sat back in a defensive shell and waited to counter. Canada frustrated the U.S. with similar tactics in last June’s 0-0 stalemate, and the U.S. had no answers for that same strategy seven months later.
This was only a friendly featuring the U.S. “B” team, and this result will be forgotten if the Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and the rest walk away with a point or three in Honduras on February 6th. The “B” team largely failed to make their case, now let’s see what the “A” team can do.
USA: 12-Sean Johnson; 3-Tony Beltran (21-Benny Feilhaber, 46), 5-Omar Gonzalez, 4-Matt Besler, 2-Justin Morrow; 6-Kyle Beckerman (capt.) (14-Alfredo Morales, 74), 7-Graham Zusi (18-Juan Agudelo, 64), 11-Brad Davis (17-Alejandro Bedoya, 64), 8-Brad Evans; 10-Chris Wondolowski (19-Joshua Gatt, 46), 9-Eddie Johnson (23-Will Bruin, 74)
Subs not used: 1-Bill Hamid
CAN: 22-Simon Thomas; 2-Nik Ledgerwood, 3-Ashtone Morgan, 4-Nana Attakora (13-Doneil Henry, 64), 5-Dejan Jakovic; 7-Terry Dunfield (16-Matthew Stinson, 51), 8-Kyle Bekker (17-Kyle Porter, 90), 9-Tosaint Rickets, 11-Russell Teibert (19-Evan James, 89); 12-Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgault, 14-Dwayne De Rosario (capt.) (10-Frank Jonke, 81)
Subs not used: 6-Philippe Davies, 15-Emmanuel Gomez, 18-Roberto Stillo, 20-Mason Trafford, 21-Andres Fresenga
Stats Summary: USA / CAN
Shots: 11 / 2
Shots on Goal: 4 / 1
Saves: 1 / 4
Corner Kicks: 5 / 1
Fouls: 13 / 23
Offside: 2 / 1