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Inept U.S. "B" Team Fails to Create Against Canada

Canada parked the bus against the U.S. national team Tuesday night in Houston, securing a 0-0 draw. Presented with a golden opportunity, Americans barely made a positive impression in the dull contest.

BY Josh Deaver Posted
January 29, 2013
7:06 PM
HOUSTON, Texas—On a night when 17 U.S. national team fringe players had a chance to show they deserve a roster spot in the coming Hexagonal, few made a positive impression. And for the second time in less than nine months, a Jurgen Klinsmann squad displayed poor energy and initiative in a scoreless draw against Canada.

Yes, it was an ugly match.

But it didn't have to be. While the American roster featured mostly "B" team players, they had been training together for three weeks—plenty of time to develop chemistry and implement a game plan. Instead, the players seemed befuddled by a resolute Canadian side that was more than happy to sit back and watch their opponents flail about.

"We would have loved to give them a couple of goals, but it didnt happen unfortunately," the head coach said after the game. "You could see through the three and half weeks a lot of work, but there was missing the last little piece to it, creating final chances, playing the last killer ball into the box, finishing things off. Unfortunately we didn't do that tonight against a very defensive-minded Canada."

In front of a sparse crowd at Houston's BBVA Compass Stadium, the game got off to a sluggish start and never really recovered. The first half was painful to watch—both aesthetically and from a player development standpoint.

Tony Beltran earned his first cap at right fullback but could not create any chances and was subbed off at intermission.

Brad Evans struggled badly in a central midfield role and was only marginally better when he moved to the right side after the break.

Chris Wondolowski, Eddie Johnson, Justin Morrow, and Brad Davis all had chances to shine, but none of them did. Their timing was off, their energy was low, their ability to connect with one another was minimal.

"The team tonight is absolutely able to beat Canada on any given day, [given] their quality," Klinsmann said. "Maybe it will be different if they were five or six weeks into the training process. But it is what it is."

Among the starting outfield players, only Kyle Beckerman and central defenders Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler came away unscathed. But not because of anything positive they did: Canada never really threatened the American goal. The U.S.'s central defensive trio didn't make any mistakes, but neither did they face much in the way of a challenge.

Possession-wise, the U.S. dominated. But the final third proved to be a daunting challenge. Lacking any sort of overlapping runs from the wings and devoid of any creativity from the central midfield, the team's best opportunities came off spot kicks. But even those went awry: Davis scuffed several chances in the first half, and Graham Zusi did not do much better.

In the second half Klinsmann abandoned his 4-4-2 formation in favor of a width-building 4-3-3, and at first it seemed to help. The coach also subbed off Beltran and Wondolowski in favor of Josh Gatt and Benny Feilhaber, and those changes put a charge—albeit a short-lived one—into the team. Feilhaber's vision and Gatt's relentless runs down the flank seemed likely to make a difference.

In the 52nd minute, Evans intercepted a Canadian clearance and found a centrally positioned Zusi in space. The Sporting KC midfielder then feathered a pass to Johnson on the wing, who delivered a (deflected) cross that fell to Davis in front of goal. The Houston Dynamo captain scuffed his chance, however, wasting the chance.

But surely there would be more opportunities like this one, right? There would be plenty of quick-passing exchanges that would break down the Canadian defense, yes?

No.

That was the best moment of the night for the Yanks, and it wasn't even that good. Zusi and Gonzalez nearly connected on a pair of spot kicks, but those were not even half-chances.

The game didn't build in intensity or excitement or intrigue. It just wore down like a dreary old grandfather clock in a forgotten hallway.

The U.S. now prepares to face Honduras on February 6 in the first match of the Hexagonal. Klinsmann said holdovers from the January camp will report Saturday in Miami, while European- and Mexican-based players arrive on Sunday and Monday.

"Obviously we are looking forward to next week to the World Cup qualfier that is on the plate," the coach said.

Josh Deaver is covering the U.S.-Canada match for ASN. Follow the former academic turned soccer obsessive on Twitter, @USFootballGuy.

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