U.S., Canada post listless performances for scoreless draw in friendly.
By Robert Wagman
(Wednesday, January 30, 2013) - The United States men employed a squad of mostly young, Major League Soccer players and the result was a disappointing 0-0 draw with an even younger and inexperienced Canada in a friendly before 11,715 at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston last night.
The U.S. could not break down the bunker tactics of Canada.
Canada, coming off a dismal 4-0 loss to Denmark, which used mostly reserves, and not much was expected of the team. The Canadians responded, however, with a strong defensive effort. The two best players wear the MLS jerseys of D.C. United -- striker Dwayne De Rosario and central defender Dejan Jakovic.
Canada did bunker in, playing five in the midfield with only De Rosario on top. It was able to bog down the American attack coming through the middle. When the U.S. tried to attack down the wings, the resulting crosses were repeatedly high, long or both.
In the second half, U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann made a couple of formation changes. He went from a 4-4-2 to a more attack-minded 4-3-3, moved an offensive-minded midfielder to right defense and brought more pace into the left side. It had little effect.
About the only time the Americans looked dangerous were off set plays -- corner kicks or free kicks -- some coming from very dangerous positions, but almost all were poorly taken. When the U.S. did look to have gotten to an advantageous position, the finishing was woeful.
Klinsmann tried to put the effort in the best light. "Overall we are really pleased with what we saw the last three weeks from these guys and we want to give them a big compliment on how they worked and how much work they put in," he said. "You could see that all that work wore on their legs and they were missing the last little piece to it in creating final chances, playing the killer ball into the box and finishing things off.
"Unfortunately, we couldn't do that tonight against a very defensive-minded Canada. We tried a couple of different formations and all kinds of combinations, and it was good to see the players trying to find ways to score that one goal that didn't come."
Before the match, Klinsmann said he would like to take seven or eight players from Tuesday's roster with him to Honduras February 6 to start the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. Only a couple of players looked ready for that and with several American first- teamers out injured, that could add up to a big problem.
U.S. Player Ratings:
Goalkeeper Sean Johnson - 6: A surprise starter, whom is clearly a Klinsmann favorite, made a good stop on De Rosario's early effort, getting his hands up lest he would lose his head. Not called on to do much more, but ended up being credited with four saves.
Defender Tony Beltran - 3.5: In his first international appearance, he was pretty much not ready for a prime-time effort. He could not get forward and was pulled at halftime.
Defender Omar Gonzalez - 6: He did fine tonight, winning every duel in the air, and he was rarely out of position, although he could be faulted on the De Rosario shot. He is being looked upon as a possible starter should the U.S. qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and it would have been interesting to see him put under more pressure last night.
Defender Matt Besler - 5.5: He certainly did nothing wrong and his passing out of the back was better than average, but he did not look like he is ready to challenge for a regular first-team role.
Defender Justin Morrow - 4.5: In his international debut, he was not much of a factor. He did manage to get forward a bit, but to no effect. Had a major problem marking on Canadian set pieces and it came close to costing the U.S.
Midfielder Graham Zusi - 5: As one of the few players in the squad with first-team experience, he was expected to do more. He could not make much headway against the packed Canadian midfield in a generally disappointing outing.
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman - 6.5: The most effective U.S. player. He did very well as the defensive midfielder, both in stopping some Canadian thrusts and linking up with the attack. He is a first-team player and showed why.
Midfielder Brad Davis - 5: It was hoped the veteran, playing in front of his home crowd, was to be the leader of the U.S. offense, but he wasn't. He didn't make much happen as he was almost completely shut down in the crowded midfield.
Midfielder Brad Evans - 4.5: He started the night in a pivotal role in the midfield, but he too got bogged down there and was not very effective. In the second half, as the right back, he was able to get forward, but his crossing was poor.
Forward Chris Wondolowski - 3.5: Possibly the American with the most to prove, but he didn't help his case. A big goal scorer in MLS, he never came close last night. A couple of his efforts were dismally wide or high and he was the night's biggest disappointment.
Forward Eddie Johnson - 4.5: He also never put much pressure on the Canadian defenders. He often drifted wide and made some good plays there, but not in front of the Canada net, where he was needed. Another disappointment.
Forward Joshua Gatt (46th minute for Wondolowski) 5: Brought both high energy and pace into the match, but accomplished little. Instead of bringing the ball all the way down the flank and crossing, he swung into the middle, beating the first defender, but then getting swallowed up by multiple defenders.
Midfielder Benny Feilhaber (46th minute for Beltran) - 5.5: Did his best to help break through the tight Canadian defense. To his credit, he was the most creative American, but accomplished nothing when taking two free kicks.
Forward Juan Agudelo (64th minute for Zusi) - 5.5: He looked better up front than the starters. He shows improvement, but still has a long way to go to claim a spot at the international level.
Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya (64th minute for Davis) - 4.5: He is not getting first- team playing time in Europe and it shows. He did not contribute much.
Forward Will Bruin (74th minute for Johnson) - 4.5: Not a long appearance, but with fresh legs on his home field, and with reports he was an outstanding player in the just completed training camp, he might have been expected to do much more than he did. A non-factor.
Midfielder Alfredo Morales (74th minute for Beckerman) - 5.5 A solid appearance for one of the German-Americans. Settled in quickly and looked to give another option as a backup defensive midfielder.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Kyle Beckerman.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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