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Good performances hard to find in U.S. draw with Canada

Jan 29, 2013, 11:10 PM EDT

Canada v United States Getty Images

If the idea of a January match is just an exercise in January camp motivation, a way for U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann to get his players through three tough weeks of conditioning with a little more skip in their daily step, then Tuesday’s dullard of a friendly hit the note, I suppose.

On pretty much any other account from the U.S. side, there wasn’t much good to say about this one, a scoreless draw at BBVA Compass Stadium against a visiting Canadian that should have been easily overmatched.

Credit to well-organized and hard-working Canada for a worthy response after getting the maple leafs knocked out of them against Denmark just three nights back. Even so …

These matches aren’t about results, of course. But they are about opportunities, about getting a couple of individuals to distinguish themselves. The chances to do so were certainly there for U.S. attackers as Canada happily ceded possession.

Finding someone in the U.S. blue to take advantage? Those were pretty tough to pinpoint out there.

Three take-aways from the match in which plenty of opportunities turned into swinging misses:

(MORE: Individual opportunities wasted; too few sharp edges)

The lineup didn’t work. And then some.

What an interesting choice by Klinsmann to put Brad Evans in the chief playmaking position, at the top of a midfield diamond. The versatile Seattle Sounders’ midfielder may be a lot of things, but he’s not the guy to punch holes in tightly packed Canadian defensive stack-up.

The Canadians played a relatively high line and dropped their attackers – few that they were – back. So it was up to the U.S. midfield and overlapping backs to break through 10 Canadians in a 30 to 40-yard box. With Kyle Beckerman almost always making the safe choice, and with Graham Zusi reliably restrained on the right, unable to find a bit of joy in getting past Nik Ledgerwood, there just wasn’t much happening.

If Klinsmann’s lineup selections were all about rewarding performance over three weeks of training, fair enough. But as a tactical selection for a one match, Benny Feilhaber or Mix Diskerud would have been a better central, attacking choice.

Even Evans’ positioning relative to strikers Chris Wondolowski and Eddie Johnson indicated “safefy first,” as he was generally too far away.

Quite a few U.S. men showed their offensive limitations.

Evans … we already addressed. And he wasn’t much better as a right back, although that’s not his position, so it’s a tough ask. Johnson can clearly be dangerous around goal, but he’s not as adept in a game that requires the United States to handle the ball most of the time. Same with Wondolowski.

Zusi was wide right in the 4-4-2 and simply wasn’t effective, mostly just stuck in the mud over there, so to speak. Some of that was due to Tony Beltran being less aggressive than Justin Morrow on the other side in pushing into attacking spots.

Nor could Beltran manage to release the crosses when he did get forward, which he did a bit more after about 30 minutes. Beltran, who had such a good camp, was subtracted at halftime.

Further back, as the ball moved back and forth across the field, Beckerman rarely turned with the ball or pushed aggressively toward the few gaps in Canada’s alignment. As we’ve seen, at the international level, Beckerman is a better in a match where the United States is defending more than attacking, where he’s more destroyer and less distributor.

It was crowed and tough out there, no doubt. But this is where Zusi and Brad Davis, who similarly failed to distinguish himself, needed to show something. Something!

None of the forwards did any distinguishing either. Wondolowski needed to do better with a couple of half chances that came his way. Juan Agudelo, in for the last 30 minutes, did not look particularly sharp.

Good nights? Yeah, a couple.

Matt Besler was the best passer, managing at least to look occasionally for the passing lanes that would help break up the logjam. Morrow was easily the best offensive threat of the two U.S. outside backs.

Omar Gonzalez demonstrated that he can be a bother at international level on those attacking set pieces, which we’ve all seen him do in MLS.

Josh Gatt certainly kept his stock pointed in the right direction, enlivening the left side. He was easily the best U.S. man at taking on defenders and showing a willingness to ask some questions of the Canadian back line.

Feilhaber looked OK in possession, and his set pieces fell dangerously.

  1. dfstell - Jan 29, 2013 at 11:23 PM

    That was crappy…..but in hindsight, I’m not sure who we thought was going to score the goals for the US tonight. Here’s the good news: virtually nobody who played in tonight’s game will be a started next week in Honduras. There are a few guys who played tonight who showed they could be on the bench.

    The lineup really was puzzling. Even little things like putting Gatt on the left? Why?

    On the positive side, we answered a lot of questions. Now we have game film to show people who think that Wondo or Evans deserve a call-up. They just proved tonight that they aren’t good enough. I don’t really want to hear about them with the USMNT again.

  2. player169 - Jan 29, 2013 at 11:25 PM

    I thought Zusi looked good on the outside all night. He was getting plenty of balls in. Once Bedoya came in, the right side shut down and the team lost it’s shape. Eddie Johnson looked good on the ball, but failed to get his head in anything in the box. Morrow and Beltran showed next to nothing and the lack of attack from the back was the difference maker in my opinion. Besler and Gonzo looked like a good team in the middle and I hope to see them again.

  3. mvktr2 - Jan 29, 2013 at 11:29 PM

    Stock Report:
    Up-Gatt, Beckerman, Morrow, Beasler
    Down-Davis, Beltran, Bedoya
    No Change-everyone else

    I saw some nice moments from many players, but tactically this was a farce. I’m still on the Klinsy-wagon, but this makes 3 efforts against packed in mediocre Canada with similar games played each time.

  4. Southern Philly - Jan 29, 2013 at 11:32 PM

    “What an interesting choice by Jurgen Klinsmann to put Brad Evans in the chief playmaking position, at the top of a midfield diamond.”

    And not at all surprising. Klinsmann playing someone out of position is a running theme.

  5. charliej11 - Jan 29, 2013 at 11:42 PM

    Hmmm. I don’t get a chance to play for a spot and come out with that energy. I guess the idea of slow passing and little movement doesn’t work. There are.going to be more than one guy who looks back at that opportunity and thinks, what was I doing….that was my chance.

  6. stpatsbaby - Jan 29, 2013 at 11:45 PM

    I can’t believe how bad both teams played, and even worse, some crappy sports network televised it. These players need to be locked in a room for a month watching film of the top of the line teams, Barca, Real Madrid, any UEFA team, or all of them, over and over until they get an idea how to play football.

  7. wfjackson3 - Jan 30, 2013 at 12:02 AM

    I agree about Beltran and Morrow. Neither of them were even remotely effective at overlapping, attacking the end line, and putting in a cross. This allowed the men marking Zusi and Davis to get all up in their business and limited their ability to do anything positive from the corners of the 18.

    I thought Feilhaber was just what we needed in the 4-3-3. When we changed out of that formation, he became much less focal and didn’t impose as much. Both Feilhaber and Gatt added a badly missing component in the first half by actually dribbling at defenders to create overload situations. Unfortunately Gatt either doesn’t know when to pass or nobody bothered to remember that he always cuts into the middle and couldn’t make good supporting runs.

    Brad Evans was almost completely absent in the first half. I actually thought he did better at RB that Beltran seeing as he didn’t need to do any actual defending.

    Davis does some nice things, but I have a hard time seeing him being effective for the MNT. Maybe he would do better with a better supporting cast.

    EJ still looks good when he cuts outside, but he also seemed slower than his usual self. Again, I don’t see him being as useful if he isn’t burning it up with wheels.

    Besler had several really good passes out of the back, especially on the long ball. No surprise from this SKC fan.

    Gonzales also did a decent job with service when we managed to create a lane for him to pass to anyone other than Beckerman.

    My takeaway is that we had the wrong formation and personnel to attack a bunkered opponent. We had enough retreating passes to give Klinsmann an ulcer. Of course, that is the result of nobody in our midfield being able to keep the ball in tight spaces and still make a pass. This game really asked more questions about our players than it provided answers. The only guys I see having any business being on the WCQ roster are the guys that were already likely to be on it. Zusi, Feilhaber, Gonzales and Besler just because we still haven’t really seen them defend, and Gatt. Maybe EJ. Nobody else even looked remotely good enough.

  8. bigdinla - Jan 30, 2013 at 7:15 AM

    Stock up on Beckerman? That is a joke. He is where build ups go to die and I mean USMNT build ups. There is no reason for the slow and unskilled destroyer to continue to get called up.

    • dp2310 - Jan 30, 2013 at 9:31 AM

      bigdinla – Totally agree. He has the best back pass in the league. We should start a drinking game every time he passes it back, we’d be drunk in 15 minutes

  9. pensfan603 - Jan 30, 2013 at 7:33 AM

    Fire Jurgan, he is a terrible coach, ya we dont lose alot but hell this team never wins, he doesnt know how to use strikers at all he has so much talent but yet all he can do is earn draws. Seriously a U-20 Denmark team crushed them and all we can do is get a draw this is the saddest thing ive ever seen i want him fired so bad, he hasnt done anything for this team. Ya we beat Italy by 1 once, but we also almost lost to trinadad and Tabago, he plays this team keeping it 0-0 and hopes we can win off of sher luck. This wont work once we have to play good teams like Hunduras and Mexico. Not to mention he then starts to critize his best players, if i was them id just be pissed, i mean look at landon he doesnt even want to play for the national team anymore, and i dont blame him, Klinnsman is a terrible coach he needs to go, i know we havve world cup qualifiers this year but he is just so bad.

    • wfjackson3 - Jan 30, 2013 at 3:21 PM

      That is a baseless accusation. I don’t care if we won or lost the game. I am just upset that it doesn’t appear we have anyone that looks ready to make a move up to the USMNT roster other than Gonzales and maybe Besler.

  10. dp2310 - Jan 30, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    Goes to show you that maybe Jogi Low was the mastermind behind the German team in 2006. Klinny is a great skill developer, but tactically, he’s poor.

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