CHRISTOPHER MCCOLLUM - Monday, June 4, 2012
Canada vs United States
Friendly - Sunday June 3, 2012
The US and Canada played out to a dreary scoreless draw in Toronto.
As part of the centennial anniversary of the Canadian Soccer Association, the U.S. traveled north of the border to meet the good neighbors. While the crowd of just over 15,000 was 6,000 short of capacity, the lively Canadian and visiting American supporters created an atmosphere that ended up being more entertaining than the game.
A drab affair is an accurate term but still doesn't quite do justice to the game which saw few opportunities for either side, and not much entertainment on either half of the field. The ball mainly stuck in the middle third where Michael Bradley attempted over 70 passes, completing 86% of them. It was a testament to the game that over half of his incomplete passes were long balls down field that failed to connect with its recipient.
The kind of searching, probing game that Bradley played was what the United States as a whole attempted for most of the 90 minutes, rather than moving the ball forward as a unit. While the visiting Americans enjoyed a good deal of possession in the first half, it was mostly possession without purpose as they knocked the ball around the middle and back thirds of the field, making few attempts to break down the rigid Canadian defense.
In contrast to Bradley's relatively high passing percentage, Jose Torres did not enjoy one of his better games, as his low number of passes resulted in a low completion percentage of just 71% before he was subbed off in the 62nd minute. To Torres's credit, many of his missed passes were the lone American attempts to break down the Canadian defense, with searching through balls and diagonal passes to stretch the defenders.
Despite the advantage in first half possession, creativity was nowhere to be found and there simply did not appear to be any urge to take the game to the Canadians. An awful miss from Clarence Goodson in the opening minutes saw the ball go painfully high over the goal from the wide open center back who was poaching inside the six-yard box. This would be one of the best chances of the game, and also one of the few chances.
It was an ugly game from the get-go, as starting left back Fabian Johnson was hit with a calf injury during pre-game warm-ups, forcing Jurgen Klinsmann to withdraw him from the lineup. Tijuana's Edgar Castillo replaced the Hoffenheim man in the lineup, despite him not being on the match day 18.
Castillo began a frenzied warm-up about 15 minutes before kickoff, and was the only man on the field as he rushed to get stretched out and ready to play. Perhaps this was as good a thing as could have happened for the New Mexico native as he played one of his better games in an American uniform.
Despite some shaky play in the defensive third, which is the worst place to have shaky play from a defender, Castillo had an overall positive game, even cracking a full volley from 25 yards out in the first half that almost dipped over Canadian goalkeeper Lars Hirschfield, but was ably saved. Castillo got himself in trouble shortly after, as he tried some tricky moves in his own corner against Dwayne De Rosario, and was stripped of possession. Only a debatable foul called by the linesman stopped the Canadians from scoring the opening goal, as they marched clean in on Tim Howard.
Along with Castillo in the back, Goodson was one of the few players on the U.S. team that could be said to have had a good game. Nobody on the team had an outright bad game, but there was such an equal spread of unappealing, ineffective and purposeless play it's difficult to give anyone a rating above mediocre. Goodson was one of the few, as he capitalized on a poor performance from Oguchi Onyewu against Brazil to earn the starting spot tonight. Goodson did not disappoint, doing everything that could be expected of him to shut down Canada's smaller, faster and more nimble forwards. His glaring miss in the first half aside, Goodson did nothing but help his case to move above Onyewu, at least for the time being, among the center backs in the player pool.
The nearly year-long wait to start Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey together on Klinsmann's team was a fruitless effort that saw only one real opportunity for the two best American field players to combine. Donovan deftly fed Dempsey into the box early in the game, but Hirschfield was quick to get off of his line and stop Dempsey's opportunity before the Texan could properly get on the ball.
After this one promising sequence, there was nothing else to show for them being on the field together, and Donovan was subbed off for Maurice Edu in the 73rd minute.
Canada's Simeon Jackson equaled Goodson's missed opportunity late in the second half, as the game shifted more into Canada's control. With a ball played on the ground into the box, a scarcely marked Jackson found himself in front of the goal in the six-yard box and able to get a clean touch on the ball, but his one touch shot went wide left sending roars of disappointment through the home crowd.
The U.S. would have one more chance to pull off the victory in the second minute of the allotted three minutes of stoppage time, as a free kick from Bradley swung into the box and found Goodson's head, but the Brondby man's attempt was spectacularly saved by Hirschfield, touching it over the cross bar.
The result stretched the U.S.'s unbeaten streak against Canada to 15 games, but raises questions about the mental strength of the team at the wrong time, as they enter World Cup Qualifying with a stiff road test against Guatemala in less than two weeks.
With meaningful games right around the corner, it will be a necessity for the United States to figure out how to penetrate a rigid defense, which they were unable to do tonight in Toronto. It should be a grim trip back to Florida where the team will regroup and surely get back on track against Antigua & Barbuda on Friday.