This game was a bit dead. With Clint Dempsey getting the start, the pre-game hype machine was ready for some fireworks, but Fabian Johnson’s very late withdrawal during warmups threw something of a wet blanket over proceedings, and the game never sparked to life.
The first half was dull, frankly. The U.S. had more of the possession, but did little with it, and only a friendly linesman kept Canada from opening the scoring. With Dempsey coming in, Klinsmann didn’t drop the obvious player, José Torres, and instead changed the formation to a 4-4-2. Maurice Edu made way and Dempsey played up front with Herculez Gomez. This meant that for the second straight game, Michael Bradley played at the base of the midfield, shielding the defense and starting the offense, but as against Brazil, the deep position limited his impact.
The second half was more of the same. Both teams had a few chances, but neither was able to exert much control. Jozy Altidore made an appearance after an hour. The U.S. continued to do little with their possession, so in the 73rd minute, Maurice Edu came on for Donovan, and Klinsmann switched the team to 4-3-3, at least until Chris Wondolowski came on in the 80th, but little changed.
In the end, the two best chances of the night came in stoppage time, as first Canada’s Simeon Jackson missed a sitter from inside three yards after a cross from Dwayne De Rosario, then barely a minute later Clarence Goodson powered a header in on goal from a free kick, but his attempt was saved with some style.
- Edgar Castillo: Castillo came in to the side when Johnson dropped out, and was involved in the two most interesting incidents of the first half. For the first, he took a falling clearance from a US corner out of the air and unleashed a vicious, dipping volley from 40 yards. Only the keeper’s stretched fingertips pushed the ball onto the crossbar and out. For the second, Castillo had the ball deep in the U.S.’s left corner, under the close attentions of De Rosario and David Edgar. He was dispossessed, and Canada promptly scored from a very tight angle, but the goal was disallowed for a soft foul on Castillo. He was the liveliest U.S. player in the first half, but was also guilty of overplaying, and nearly cost the U.S. a goal. His second half was quieter, which was for the best.
- 4-4-2: This should not be the U.S.’s starting formation. The fluidity and movement that were present in both the Scotland game and the second half against Brazil were totally absent against Canada. As I feared after the Scotland win, Dempsey’s return has given U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann some problems. Dempsey must play, but 4-4-2 does not work to the team’s strengths.
- Fatigue: The U.S. team hasn’t had a day off since camp opened, training twice daily, and they looked tired, both physically and mentally. Especially late, the U.S. seemed content to take the 0-0 draw, perhaps looking ahead to the start of the meaningful games on Friday, when World Cup Qualifying begins.
- Um, yeah, there weren’t any, though Canada may feel aggrieved they didn’t leave with at least one.
- Fabian Johnson’s injury was reported on the broadcast as a calf strain. Castillo played adequately in his stead, but the U.S. must hope that Johnson is able to return quickly.
- Clarence Goodson looks to have won the starting job along side of Carlos Bocanegra in central defense. He’s not fast, but reads the game very well, and is excellent in the air.
- Anthem Watch: Well, the anthem today gets a +1 for being sung by another laid-back dude, but a -1 for that dude being a Canadian. He sung both anthems, wearing a Canada jersey, which I think technically nullifies any possible American-ness in the performance. Luckily, the U.S. fans sang along loudly.
So, the U.S. finishes the first three games of this five-game stretch at 1-1-1. The points start counting on Friday, against Antigua & Barbuda. Look for Klinsmann to return to a 4-3-3, and get Michael Bradley further upfield. Let’s hope he gives the team a bit of recovery time before then, as well, so they get their legs back.