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Recap: USA 0–0 Canada

On Tuesday evening, the USMNT and Canada played out a dour and largely lifeless nil-nil draw in Houston. While many watchers, including me, were expecting a much freer-flowing game, considering the good vibes coming out of the USMNT training camp and Canada’s 4–0 defeat to Denmark just days previous, to see such a low-speed, low-energy game was a shock.

First half

The story of the first half was simple: U.S. dominance of possession, but Canada had the two best scoring opportunities, both the result of Dwayne De Rosario’s individual skill.

In fact, the first meaningful action of the game came in the sixth minute when Canada’s two best players, Tosaint Ricketts and De Rosario, nearly combined to put Canada ahead. Ricketts had the ball wide right and put in a delicious, incredibly accurate cross deep to the left side of the U.S. six-yard box, where De Rosario was afforded too much space by Tony Beltran, the U.S. right back. Still, De Rosario had a lot to do to take a high, swerving ball out of the air and put it on goal at the full volley. That he did so will come as no surprise to MLS watchers, and De Rosario spanked a laser beam toward the near-post upper ninety, which Sean Johnson, in goal for the U.S., did very well to keep out.

The rest of the half consisted almost completely of U.S. possession in Canada’s half, but without meaningful goal-scoring opportunities. The U.S. was dominant, and yet had nothing to show for it. Chris Wondolowski did good work throughout, getting on the end of flighted balls, and once had a run at goal after good one-two work in midfield, but was unable to put any venom on his shots. Brad Davis, on the field for his set-piece delivery, failed to produce anything useful when he had the opportunity.

Late on, the U.S. nearly paid for its lack of production. Canada was awarded a rare free kick, thirty yards from the U.S. goal, central, which De Rosario lined up to take. Instead of putting the ball into the box or on goal, he played a pass on the ground out left, then took off toward the six-yard box, where he stole in unmarked to meet a lofted ball over the top. In other circumstances, he’d have put it away, but mishandled the ball and put it out for a goal kick instead.

The problem for the U.S. was that, while they owned possession, they played too slowly, allowing Canada time to get eleven men behind the ball. Canada’s defensive display was impressive, given the humbling that Denmark had just given them, but one got the feeling throughout that if the U.S. could simply step it up a gear, good things might happen. That step up never came.

Second half

I could tell you about specific events in the second half, but why bother? The only real difference to the first half was that the game got even more chippy and uneventful, with Canada eventually resorting to physical play to stop any U.S. momentum from building. Here’s the short versiom: subs Benny Feilhaber, Joshua Gatt, Alejandro Bedoya, and Juan Agudelo (international friendlies allow for six substitutions by each team) livened things up somewhat, but the U.S. still had no creativity or useful speed (I say useful because both Gatt and Bedoya can burn, but they didn’t use their pace effectively) to unlock the massed and increasingly physical Canadian defense.

It was truly maddening to watch. The U.S. had more than enough talent on the field to put something together, but whether it was from lack of familiarity with teammates or the system, or nerves and the desire to do too much, nothing came together. Any promising move broke down at the decisive moment, or was broken up by Canadian pressure.

Standout performances

In truth, no one shone very brightly for the U.S. in this game. The star performer was probably Kyle Beckerman, who had one of his best showings in a national team jersey. As the announcing crew told us repeatedly, Jurgen Klinsmann had told Beckerman to be disciplined in staying as a shield in front of Omar Gonzales and Matt Besler, which he did, and was very effective. While Danny Williams has come on strong in recent months, Beckerman will have done his chances a world of good.

As I said, Gonzalez and Besler lined up in central defense and played the full ninety together. They looked good in that they never seemed troubled in the least by what Canada threw at them. Stronger opposition awaits, but the signs were promising. Gonzalez also was a presence in the air offensively on set pieces.

New questions

With the news that Steve Cherundolo will not be fit for the first game of the Hexagonal, on February 6, it appears Michael Parkhurst will come into the side. Tony Beltran and Brad Evans each played okay at right back last night, but did not do enough to displace the two men ahead of them in the pecking order, especially now that Geoff Cameron has been converted to a right back for Stoke City in England, and could theoretically line up there, too.

However, the question of left back has become something of a concern. Evidently, with Fabian Johnson not playing regularly for Hoffenheim in Germany, Klinsmann is having doubts whether he should get the start. Such a notion seems shocking to anyone who has watched the USMNT for the past year, but if that’s the case, Justin Morrow looks a solid, if unexciting option.


In the end, Klinsmann wasn’t shown anything special in what was a surprisingly bad game from the U.S. The players already in the full squad picture (like Graham Zusi and Eddie Johnson), did nothing to lose status, while also not increasing their stock value. As for newcomers and those trying to break in, like Wondolowski and Davis, they will be disappointed not to have moved the needle at all.

While I wouldn’t be overly concerned by this showing, it was far, far less than we all were hoping for. Klinsmann can have learned little, and it was anything but encouraging going into the Hexagonal. The only silver lining is that the U.S.’s best players, like Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley, weren’t there, and are performing well for their clubs. As for last night, I said in my preview that anything less than a comfortable U.S. win would be a disappointment, and that’s very much what it was.


  1. Terrible game.
    But what I want to know is why the hell do Hamid/Johnson get so much love and even START? I am all for throwing the next generation a bone, but these are two players whose 2012 lowlight reel would probably be longer than their 2012 highlight reel.
    It also hits home because MacMath gets killed for very common young GK mistakes like no command and when to go/when to stay. Yet Johnson is making the no-excuse mistakes like passing the ball to the other team, and Hamid is doing stuff like punching the ball into his own goal.
    How Steve Clark did not get a look is beyond me.

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      I think you’re looking at it backwards. Those two have both made mistakes, yes. but its canada’s B team. this is the game for them. im more upset about wasting starts on veteran players whose ceiling is a friendly against Canada. Players like Evans, Wondo and Brad Davis. I truly do not understand the logic behind not starting a team of youngsters in this most meaningless of games and seeing how they do.


      Why not?!?! putting evans and beckerman in the game to “protect” gonzalez and besler? thats garbage. if they cant put together a performance against a lonesome dwayne derosario, they dont have a future with the national team.

      • That’s true too, but GK is a unique spot. Better options like Hall and Clark are still “young” at 26/27. You can safety play those two in games like this and not have to worry about them retiring any time soon.
        You’re right about the outfield players, but I don’t think the same philosophy is applicable to the GK choices when 27 is plenty young for a GK.

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        I agree with you, but I’m still too angry about the outfield players to worry about GKs. Hall should have played in front of his home fans. Fans who should have thrown rotten lettuce and tomatoes onto the field at half and full time last night.

    • Johnson had a solid game…if anything his performance yesterday justified his selection in starting lineup.

  2. Big winner yesterday was Jozy Altadore. He’s getting playing time and results in Europe and no one else seems to be stepping up to score goals. Plus he showed what a class act he is!

  3. Klinsmann should be shot for having these guys for 3 weeks in camp and then coming up with such a display. They were just not prepared for a defensive side, had not practiced free kicks and corners properly, and had guys playing the wing who could not cross the ball since they could not play with both feet. Missed (fortunately) the first half but the forwards in the 2nd half were also a nightmare. Had Klinsmann picked a team the day before the match then maybe they would have done a better job.

    • That’s not the point here. If we learned anything, it’s that its time to let go of ANY hope surrounding these career MLS’ and realize the we need to focus on the new generation if we want to improve soccer in this country.
      Cameron is a great story, but he is an outlier. The entire process we currently employ, the “Waste away for 4 years at a college, then 4 more years meddling in the MLS, then transfer to Stoke!!!” is not a winning development strategy.
      All Klinsmann could do was bring in these guys fans clammer about, show them his new style, and see who is capable of playing in it. As we saw, unsurprisingly, the majority of career MLS’ cannot.

      • Disagree. The guys they played had the same background. A better coach would have gotten a lot more out of our guys. Klinsmann either tired them out or confused them too much, or both. Also, like I said he should have worked more on set pieces.
        Another problem is the guys working for him like Ramos. He was on Counter Attack yesterday with John Harkes and talks about the only problem these days is not having decent center backs. THese guys are all in la-la land

      • Oh well, I definitely agree we should have looked better and its inexcusable to not blow out Canada.
        But in a big picture sort of way, I would rather take these hits in our attempt to move on to the next era of US Soccer, than aim for continued mediocrity by not trying to move into a new system with different emphasis on abilities than in the past.

      • Check out bigsoccer youth forum discussion under the Messi article. Kids need to have more touches on the ball; that’s the only way to improve soccer here – not with a guy like Klinsmann.

    • Agreed…Klinsmann’s coaching ability is vastly overrated by many…his Germany should have won cup…it seems only the Germans know he just isnt that good of a coach.

  4. Maybe it’s the Union homer in me, but I can’t help but think that Michael Farfan and Sheanon Williams would have had a much bigger impact on this game than their respective counterparts.

    • Doh! Easy there Homer, while their potential may be vast they are not quite ready for the big leagues. In reality Williams may never reach national team regularity let alone a look at right back unless he plays across the pond.

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        That said, I’d take Beitashour (injured), Franklin, Lade and Williams before Beltran, who STUNK

      • Generally, I agree with you that they aren’t ready for the full team, but I’m specifically speaking about yesterday’s game. Beltran was awful, as was Davis and Evans. Both are aggressive players that would have done much better against Canada.

  5. That game was not only a poor showing for the national team but also for MLS, since it was an MLS heavy team.

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