If Scotland was about unleashing the United States offense, and Brazil was about testing their defense, the final confrontation prior to World Cup qualifiers against Canada was meant to give them a taste of their competition ahead.
The team’s glaring questions going into this series may be as uncertain as they were when they started their journey.
Facing their third game in nine days, the U.S. fell flat against their northern rivals, slinking out of Toronto’s BMO Field on the heels of a 0-0 draw. Canada played a compact style that repelled the U.S. offense for large parts of the match and the United States struggled to break them down. Both team’s had their chances, but neither was able to capitalize on them.
An uneventful first half was highlighted by a one-timed shot from spot starter Edgar Castillo, who filled in for regular left back Fabian Johnson after he picked up an injury during training. A lobbing attempt forced Canadian keeper Lars Hirschfeld to stretch and bat the shot over the crossbar.
While he enjoyed a solid start to the match, Castillo nearly cost the U.S. a goal after carelessly giving away a ball from the team’s defensive corner, clearing possession towards the box. There, Nik Ledgerwood gathered the errant clearance and blasted the ball past Tim Howard. The goal was negated after a late foul call was rewarded to the U.S. based on a light shove by De Rosario on Castillo prior to the giveaway.
The U.S. started the second half aggressively but continued to be flummoxed by the Canadian defense and counter. Canada had the best scoring chance of the half on a stellar Dwayne De Rosario feed that found Simeone Jackson alone in front of the net. Jackson’s attempt was shanked wide of the goal.
Hirshfeld would be forced to make one last big save in extra time. A U.S. corner kick found Clarence Goodson in the middle of the box. The defender sent a direct header that challenged the Canadian keeper but was ultimately denied.
“I think the first half we were doing quite well in terms of possession and moving the ball around,” said U.S. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann. ” I think what we were lacking was creating more chances in the final third to get down to the endlines and get crosses in. We trained on that and wanted to do that more. The second half was more open. Either team could have scored a goal, especially in the last couple of minutes. Overall the result is fine, and we’re now 18 or 19 days into the camp where we have done a lot of hard work. Now we will really be able to focus on the World Cup qualifiers, and we’re looking forward to getting the process started.”
In the end, the U.S. ended their friendly stretch on an even 1-1-1 record. Their unbeaten streak against Canada grows to 15 games with a solid 8-0-7 record. The offense showed well in stretches, while the defense looked thin. Goodson was perhaps the lone bright spot on the American side during the Canadian match, directly addressing one of the team’s most glaring issues.
World Cup qualifiers begin this Friday as the U.S. takes on Antigua and Barbuda at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Fla.