Wednesday, January 30, 2013

USA Shows little in listless draw with Canada

Article by Zach Hall

Coming into this game, I had high expectations. Canada was fielding a young team and they were coming off a dismantling at the hands of the Danes four days before. The US was coming off a three-week camp, conceivably playing soccer at some point during that time. It was hard to tell by 11pm. When the referee blew his whistle, most US fans breathed a sigh of relief. Not that a draw against our neighbors to the north would hold, but that we could return to our lives after spending almost two hours watching one of the most unentertaining, uninspiring efforts by the Yanks in recent memory.

Now, we’re all supposed to keep in mind that this friendly was more about individual efforts going into World Cup Qualifying that are coming up in just eight days. However, the effort was simply so poor it’s hard to conjure up many good thoughts about this match.

Let’s go ahead and get the bad out of the way. Tony Beltran seemed to be the focus of a lot of my scorn during the first half from his position at right back. While he was getting into the attack just fine, his first touch failed him on multiple occasions. One of these incidents could’ve been at least a half-chance in front of goal, but his bad touch meant getting out of step with the on-rushing Chris Wondolowski. Speaking of the San Jose hero – he put in another poor shift for the national team on Tuesday night. 

At this level and against a team like Canada, a player of Wondolowski’s caliber at the club level should be able to do better. I know that his 27-goals in 2012 or 60+ goals in the past 3 years isn’t going to translate to the international level, but forwards are judged on their number of goals. Wondo just isn’t clicking with the national team. Eddie Johnson deserves equal blame, though his longer shift gave him a couple extra part-chances to get at goal.

Brad Evans as a central-midfielder during the first half was laughable. His first touch was just about on par with Beltran’s and Evans could not find the final pass to bring a forward in on the play. His switch to right back for the second half was uneventful, so I guess we can put him down for fifth-string on the depth chart.

Despite all the negativity, there are a few players whose stock rose – center-back pairing Omar Gonzales and Matt Besler chief among them. Both young guns were looking to make a mark on the national team and while this game will do next to nothing in growing the trust of fans and pundits, there’s something to be said to limiting Canada to one chance at goal. That chance came directly as a result of De Rosario being allowed too much space by Tony Beltran – absolutely no fault to the central defenders. Also on the shortlist of good efforts: central midfielders Kyle Beckerman and Benny Feilhaber. Beckerman’s job was simple on Tuesday night: clean up in front of the central defenders. Dealing with Canada’s park-and-counter tactics was a huge role – one made even more important due the inexperience on the national level of the two central defenders behind him – and he handed it extremely well.

Feilhaber was the bright spot of a second half without a single shot-on-goal. To be perfectly honest, I have no earthly idea what Klinnsman was thinking putting Brad Evans in that spot to start the game. Feilhaber brought accuracy in dead-ball situations (Brad Davis was having his one off-night apparently), good vision and the best passing in the final third all night. My only knock on the new Sporting man was the final free kick before the fulltime whistle. That most likely wasn’t his own design, but a pre-conceived plan from Jurgen and his team. If only Roy Miller had been available.

Lets take our eyes off the field and over to the man supposedly pulling the strings on this marionette of a team. He had three weeks, three weeks, to prepare for this match. Yes, it’s a friendly. Yes, this wasn’t the purpose of the January camp. Yes, we still got a look at a lot of young and fringe players. Lets just throw the scoreline out of the equation: the performance on the field was still well below the expectations that fans, media personnel and I hope Klinsmann put on this match. The performance was definitely not the kind of performance you would hope to see out of a group who have been together for three weeks.

Klinsmann was apparently putting the team through three-a-days, which to an uneducated bystander, looks to be a lot for 30 guys in their off-season. Those three-a-days didn’t seem to pay off. If you’re going to bring these players in away from their families, away from their time off from the sport and put them through grueling exercises in the sun of Carson, California at least put together a game plan that works.

Evans starting in the central midfield over Feilhaber is a huge red flag to me, especially considering the two stark contrasts of what those two players brought to the field during their time at that position.

Surely the coaching staff knew that Canada was going to come out and play with 10 men behind the ball. They did it June! We all had basically the same reaction to that game that we did on Tuesday night. Messages of “snoozefest”, “boring”, “horrible”, “Are we going to make it out of the hex?” all littered our Twitter timelines. Yet the team cannot break down a Canada side that lost to Denmark 4-0 on Saturday and was crushed humiliatingly by Honduras 8-1 back in October. Don’t you worry – we’ll that same tactic again from CONCACAF teams in World Cup Qualifying this year. Where is the attractive and attacking style of soccer that Klinsmann heralded on his hiring? Why can’t the US seem to get that one final pass that unlocks a parked bus?

Until those questions are answered, I for one will be hesitant to think anything has changed for the US Men’s National Team under Jurgen Klinsmann.


USA: Johnson; Beltran (Feilhaber, 45’), Besler, Gonzales, Morrow; Zusi (Bedoya, 63’), Beckerman (Morales, 74’), Evans, Davis (Agudelo, 63’); Wondolowski (Gatt, 45’), Johnson (Bruin, 74’)

Canada: Thomas; Morgan, Jakovic, Bekker (Porter, 89’), Attakora (Henry, 63’); De Rosario (Jonke, 81’), Beaulieu-Bourgalt, Ledgerwood, Teibert (James, 89’), Dunfield (Stinson, 51’); Ricketts


  1. You do know these guys are in pre-season, right?Maybe thats why their first touch was off?It takes players multiple games to get into the groove.

    1. After three weeks of camp, I fully expect the "pre-season jetlag" to wear off. They even had a competitive scrimmage against the Tijuana reserves.

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