CHRISTOPHER MCCOLLUM - Monday, June 4, 2012
Canada vs United States
Friendly - Sunday June 3, 2012
BMO Field
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.
Ed C.
Thursday June 7, 2012 7:58 am
Isaac - even worse than losing 1-0 then, the 2-0!! Same point applies though.
Wednesday June 6, 2012 11:54 am
Although I did not catch the 1st half, the 2nd looked very lackluster and disappointing as well as the final result being pathetic. If we cannot get a win against Canada, how do we expect to do well on the international stage, especially in the World Cup. Again our glaring WEAKNESS is in the final third of the playing field. Wondowloski and Gomez are not the answers. Dempsey is our target man. You have got to consistantly feed him and whatever other forwards we throw in there lightly weighted passes!! Our best candidates for these types of passes are Donovan, Jones and maybe Fabian or Bradley who usually is guilty of heavy passes without preciscion. Of course, Freddy Adu is one of our best options except he is not getting a fair chance with the 1st team. We will never be a successful team without great passers who set up strikers. Put Freddy back in and give someone with a "killer instinct" around goal some chances. I know Davies has that aggressive approach. Bring him back in to take a look at where he is, in respect to the Nat team.
Cole Joseph
Tuesday June 5, 2012 11:04 pm
@ Greg...why would Donovan not be in the starting 11? He's one of our three best players so go ahead and explain that one.
BTW I heard this rumor that Junior Hoilett is eligible to play for the USA since his mother was apparently American. And he was supposedly quoted as saying he would consider playing for the US.
Does anyone know for certain if this is even remotely true or if this is just a farce?
Tuesday June 5, 2012 7:17 pm
I think a 4-3-3 is the only way to go. Better to play to your strengths than try to respond to your weaknesses. It’s been a long time since we’ve had the type of offensive firepower we can put on the field. Dempsey, Altidore, and Gomez are all coming off amazing seasons. Why not capitalize on that? Gomez (Altidore) up top with Dempsey and Donovan slashing and poaching just behind. Bradley, Jones, and Torres are a capable second line and all three play the type of game that requires more than one option up front. Three guys up top also pull defenders- something a team that lacks amazing 1-on-1 ball skill like the US needs to open up space. If we had amazing, speedy wing options with 1-on-1 skill, maybe we could look at a 4-4-2. We don’t. Pushing two guys who aren’t going to be difference makers out to the wings only takes them out of the game play or gets them constantly stuffed and dispossessed when they fail to beat defenders with ball skill along the sideline, just like the Brazil match.
Tuesday June 5, 2012 11:59 am
The USA doesnt have the players to play a 4-3-3. And Donavon should not be in the starting eleven.
Tuesday June 5, 2012 11:22 am
An "awful" miss by Clarence Goodson? Who's the idiot who wrote this? Have you ever played a sport in your life? There's no way Goodson could've have reacted to the deflection 5 feet in front of them.
Tuesday June 5, 2012 7:21 am
Was the USA playing for a draw? It sure looked like it. The formation asked for it and the tactics did too. JK has been treating these games like a tournament and I'm wondering if this was a "we need a point to advance" game.
Monday June 4, 2012 5:01 pm
Wow, thought The team was getting away with the long ball game. The boys said that they were getting tired, because of all the practices and no break. I hope that's the case, if not we might have a hard time qualifying. Don't see us beating Mexico any time soon, and what happen to the younger players. We need to get some of the under 20 there.
Mark WNY
Monday June 4, 2012 2:45 pm
Any info on Fabian's injury
Monday June 4, 2012 2:32 pm
As much as I want to read too much into the poor play, this was a tired team playing a friendly 4 days after Brazil. This, the Klinsmann training regimen, 3 games in a week with most players just coming off club seasons, all took their toll. Castillo and Goodson (both coming in on fewer minutes) looked obviously less fatigued: one of the reasons their play stood out. They had the energy to push up too. But the frenetic schedule was an acid test Klinsmann needed. We’ll hope what was learned pays off when the games count.

Canada played the game they needed: hard and pretty much mistake free. With the anniversary fanfare, renewed qualifying hopes, and a couple of good youngsters adding energy, this was the best Canadian team we’ve seen in a while (and coming in well rested). De Rosario and De Guzman both had great games. They earned their result.

Bradley spent most of the game positioned like a central defender. Torres looked good but nobody was biting on his cheeky passes or diagonals so he wound up looking ineffective. Donovan and Dempsey- two world class players- failed to put their mark on this game but weren’t deployed properly. Maybe Klinsmann wanted to test drive the 4-4-2 (more like a 5-4-1) before qualifying starts. Clearly not our game. Hope we get back to that nice looking 4-3-3 that allows us to create more with our stack of central midfielders.
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