Commentary

Far from vintage

An uninspired 0-0 performance against Canada wasn't one for the U.S. history books

Updated: June 4, 2012, 1:52 AM ET
By Roger Bennett | ESPN

All in all, a game to forget for Jurgen Klinsmann and his team. After thrashing the sweaty Scots and being schooled by the ruthless Brazilians, a lazy U.S. side toiled in the final third against a vigorous Canada. The final tuneup before the start of World Cup qualifying proved to be anything but as the United States' midfield and attack appeared particularly unhinged.

[+] EnlargeOnyewu
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesOguchi Onyewu didn't shine against Canada, but he did rebound from his difficult outing against Brazil with assertive play at the back.

The most disappointing feature of the evening was the dismal lack of chemistry between Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan. This was the first time the two national team's stars had started together under Klinsmann. The duo feels like the Robert De Niro and Al Pacino of American soccer but despite the hype surrounding their reunion, their play was soccer's equivalent of "Righteous Kill."

The United States rarely impressed during a stale first half as it frantically pinged the ball around without manufacturing real openings. Clad in its swanky retro jerseys, Canada appeared organized and disciplined, content to keep enough men behind the ball and patiently wait to pick off the inevitable sloppy American pass.

The U.S. didn't help its cause by creating little in the first 45 minutes, except for a looping 40-yard Edgar Castillo volley that had a panicked Lars Hirschfeld scampering back to parry. Castillo was a lone live wire, clearly relishing the chance to play as a late addition to the lineup when Fabian Johnson pulled up lame in warm-ups. However he was given a let-off when Dwayne De Rosario relieved him off the ball by the U.S. corner flag and set up Nik Ledgerwood to clip home coolly, only for the linesman to cancel the goal for an imagined infringement.

In his half-time comments, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann offered little evidence that a tactical change would be forthcoming, blaming a tailwind and the sun shining in his players' eyes as the key factors hampering play; Klinsi conveniently neglected to mention his side's ability to manufacture space behind the Canadian backline.

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Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesJose Torres just couldn't pull it together against Canada on Sunday night, rarely providing much influence or threat from attacking midfield.

With Michael Bradley playing deep and Jose Torres looking timid, the U.S. was unable to muster the creativity and intelligence necessary to unbalance their opponents. As the second half wore on, Canada grew in confidence, pressing relentlessly and using speed to run through the gut of the American midfield.

The game came to life in the final two minutes as both sides gifted each other golden chances. Canada's Simeon Jackson will appear on highlight reels for all the wrong reasons as he whiffed from two yards out before Clarence Goodson's powerful header forced Hirschfeld into an instinctive save.

Ultimately, the 0-0 tie will be celebrated by Canadians, Antiguans and Barbudans alike. The United States will play Antigua and Barbuda, CONCACAF's fairytale team, on Friday night in Tampa, meaning that Klinsmann has five days to push this game out of mind and devise a way to untether Bradley from his perch in front of the back four. Without the menace of his inventive passing, Canada could have played the Barenaked Ladies in defense and the score would have been the same.

Performance of the night: Clarence Goodson. Vigilant and efficient at the back, while his set-piece header was the closest the U.S. came to a goal in the second half. It would be a surprise if he did not start alongside Carlos Bocanegra on Friday night.

A game to forget: Jose Torres. The game cried out for his tactical awareness and ability to slip a pass but the impish midfielder was sluggish and shied away from the ball.

Roger Bennett is a columnist for ESPN, and with Michael Davies, is one of Grantland's "Men In Blazers." Follow him on Twitter: @rogbennett.