U.S. sputters in 0-0 draw with Canada in prelude to qualifying.
By Robert Wagman
(Monday, June 4, 2012) -- The United States men could not get their offense moving last night against Canada and had to settle for a 0-0 draw before a crowd of 15,247 at BMO Field in Toronto.
For the U.S., the bid news was attacker Clint Dempsey earned his first start after recovering from a groin injury he suffered near the end of his club season. He was teamed with midfielder Landon Donovan for the first time since coach Jürgen Klinsmann's arrival, now nine months ago.
Canada responded by clogging the midfield and marking Dempsey very closely to deny him the ball or space if he received a pass. Except for one give-and-go that was broken up by a desperate lunge by a Canadian defender in their penalty area, Dempsey and Donovan really didn't work well together. In fact, Dempsey's teammates seemed to be too taken by his presence and often tried to force the ball to him when they would have been better off pressing forward on their own or looking for other openings.
There was simply no flow in the U.S. attack. Unlike in the 4-1 loss to Brazil on May 30, where the U.S. found little time and space, there were times when Canada did give the Americans a lot of room, even in the middle, but closed the U.S. down in the final third.
The Canadians did not threaten, usually looking to midfielder Dwayne De Rosario to create something on his own. He actually did on a couple of occasions, narrowly missing once as he moved laterally from the left.
The U.S. defense was fine. It was not sorely tested and when Canada attacked, it was mostly down the sides. Canada had some pace in the middle, but U.S. defensive midfielder Michael Bradley and the central defense easily handled the pressure
The best chances for both sides came in the final seconds with numerous substitutes on the field for both teams with players who went the distance seeming visibly tired.
"I think the first half we were doing quite well in terms of possession and moving the ball around," Klinsmann said. "I think what we were lacking was creating more chances in the final third to get down to the end-lines and get crosses in. We trained on that and wanted to do that more. The second half was more open. Either team could have scored a goal, especially in the last couple of minutes. Overall, the result is fine, and we're now 18 or 19 days into the camp where we have done a lot of hard work. Now we will really be able to focus on (two upcoming) World Cup qualifiers and we're looking forward to getting the process started."
The U.S. tonight simply could not break down an improving Canada. This is the kind of match the Americans will see often during qualifying with teams bunkering in and trying to counter-attack.
The U.S. begins CONCACAF semifinal World Cup qualifying Friday against Antigua & Barbuda at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., a game broadcast on ESPN2 and Spanish-language Galavision at 7 p.m.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Tim Howard - 6.5: Had a strong match, making three saves, including a beauty against Tosaint Ricketts in the 24th minute. As usual, commanded his area well. A completely professional outing.
Defender Edgar Castillo - 5.5: A late starter after Fabian Johnson suffered a calf strain in warm-ups, he settled into the match surprisingly quickly. Was good at both ends of the field and able to get deep in the Canadian zone.
Defender Clarence Goodson - 6: Was very active in the back. Canada's big threat down the middle was Olivier Occean and Goodson handled him with ease.
Defender Carlos Bocanegra - 5.5: Did not have a lot to do and went off fairly early to get some rest ahead of the Friday qualifier.
Defender Steve Cherundolo - 5: He seemed to be a bit weary after his effort against on Wednesday. He did not push forward, but was very steady and teamed well with Castillo, who became a Canadian target. With an appearance Friday, he will pass Brad Friedel, Eddie Lewis and Eddie Pope in career caps, moving up to 17th on the all time list with 83.
Midfielder José Torres -5.5: A uneven performance. He was good early, attacking down the wing but thereafter was not much of a factor. He had one good free kick almost resulting in a headed goal, but his crosses and corners were off. Came out relatively early.
Midfielder Michael Bradley - 6: He spent most of the first hour in an almost purely defensive role in front of the back four, and handled the job well. When Donovan went out, he had a more offensive role in the last 20 minutes, but could not move through the packed-in Canadian defense.
Midfielder Jermaine Jones - 5.5: Made his share of mistakes, but he is still the best passer on the team. He was good defensively, repeatedly breaking up Canadian thrusts, but could not find open men ahead very often with Canada clogging the middle.
Midfielder Clint Dempsey - 5: In his first start after reporting to camp with a slight groin injury, he was tightly marked all night and saw little of the ball in an attacking position. He came back deep into the U.S. end to get the ball himself, but that pulled him well away from goal and he was ineffective.
Forward Landon Donovan - 5.5: He, too, had his moments, one good scoring chance and a few point-on passes, but really had a quiet night before a relatively early exit.
Forward Herculez Gomez - 4.5: Despite a hard night of running, he rarely saw the ball. Spent a lot of time out wide where he is not that effective. Needs to be more in the middle.
Defender Oguchi Onyewu (62nd minute for Bocanegra) - 6: He had a solid half hour, teaming well with Goodson and often they were the only defenders in place when the U.S. tried to press the attack down the wings.
Forward Jozy Altidore (62nd minute for Torres) - 5: Active, but ineffective is the best way to term his half hour on the field. His biggest contributions came deep in defense as he came all the way back to help clear balls after Canada pressed forward.
Midfielder Maurice Edu (73rd minute for Donovan) - 5.5: He took over the defensive midfield role and did fine.
Forward Chris Wondolowski (80th minute for Gomez) - 4: Had no impact whatsoever.
Defender Michael Parkhurst (80th minute for Cherundolo) - 4: Almost gave up a goal in the dying seconds.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Clarence Goodson.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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