Some games are simply unforgettable - no matter how hard you try. Tuesday night's goalless draw between the United States and Canada will fester in the mind as a Z-list contest between B-teams.
The occasion did not work as entertainment or examination. Canada were not bold enough to provide a meaningful test for the Americans' novice back line, while Jurgen Klinsmann's attackers were bland. It was a match so inert and colourless that it belonged on the periodic table.
The US players to emerge with the most credit were the absent first-teamers. Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and the rest all look even more valuable today ahead of the opening Hexagonal World Cup qualifier away to Honduras on February 6.
The squad reconvenes in Miami this weekend, when up to eight of the fringe members who featured yesterday will be invited to mingle with the stars arriving from Europe. Omar Gonzalez, a gathering force at center back, might be the only player from yesterday's match with a realistic prospect of starting against Honduras. The depth chart looks a little shallower today.
It is common for even the finest teams to struggle to smack down obdurate and organized opponents who are intent on defending in depth. But usually the superior side creates plenty of chances, is thwarted by an inspired goalkeeper or cursed by bad luck. Here, the US lacked invention and incision and Canada were never panicked or besieged. Fidgeting like a fire ant on the touchline, Klinsmann, the head coach, was sometimes more animated than his players.
We might wonder whether the rarely-capped thirtysomethings, Brad Davis and Chris Wondolowski, will get another chance. Neither impressed, though a lack of useful supply from midfield meant that Wondolowski was a predator with very little to hunt.
It was a second successive goalless draw between the neighbours after last June's friendly in Toronto: the games a glaring contrast with the exceptional semi-final at the 2012 Olympics that saw the US women prevail over Canada's women, 4-3 after extra time.
The crowd at BBVA Compass Stadium yesterday was 11,737 - some 4,000 fewer than the number who saw the US women beat China at the same venue last month. And 5,500 below the tally who watched the US lose to Italy at Houston Dynamo's home last June... in rugby.
The Texas public's distrust of a fixture short on star quality proved well founded. The kick-off was the sporting equivalent of hitting the snooze button.
Canada's one serious threat was the best of the match, the impressive Dwayne De Rosario forcing a decent save from Sean Johnson early in the first half. Otherwise, the visitors defended well and with the resolution you would expect from a team that had just lost its previous match 4-0, to Denmark last Saturday. The one before that was an 8-1 defeat by Honduras that ended Canada's hopes of qualifying for next year's World Cup.
The flanks were under-used, even though the pitch had been widened by five yards compared with its usual size for Dynamo games. At least the US improved after the break thanks to two substitutes. Benny Feilhaber offered the occasional progressive pass after replacing the utilitarian Brad Evans as playmaker and Josh Gatt brought some speed and gumption. But the US remained in the realm of half- and quarter-chances.
"In the second half I think we created more opportunities than they did. There were some that were close calls. At the same time the longer the game goes at 0-0 the more confidence they have in being able to hold that result and it's harder to break them down with so many bodies behind the ball," Feilhaber said.
"It's a little bit of us not being able to do the things that we really wanted to do, and at the same time you've got to give them credit for really fighting to the end to not let anything through."
A team with five debutants was so obsessed with not doing anything wrong, they forgot to do much right. Dominance of possession was a negative: the US held on to the ball too long, afraid to risk letting it go by making the sort of sudden, speculative pass or dribble that might have unhinged their opponents. We wanted artists; we got bureaucrats. "No surprises," as Klinsmann said when assessing what he learned. No pleasant ones, anyway.
"I guess the frustration is not only with [Canada] but with us," Gatt said. "As a team we did a good job of keeping the ball but in our attacking roles going through we didn't get a lot of quality balls in behind. We needed to put the dagger in them and that was our problem tonight. We did a good job in the two-thirds that was our midfield and defense but in the final third we lacked the killer ball and killer shot."
Given the ripples from the truculent-seeming interview he gave to the Wall Street Journal last week it was understandable that Klinsmann projected a mellow positivity in his post-match comments.
After talking up the value of this fixture beforehand, he downsized it afterwards. We will just have to trust him that the work the players did in private during this month's Californian training camp was far more impressive than their visible efforts in Houston. That this group of hopefuls still represents untapped potential rather than unfounded optimism.
"Overall we are really pleased with what we saw in the last three weeks from these guys and I want to give them a big compliment on how they worked and how much they put in," he said.
"We have a pretty clear picture of who we want to take to Honduras… we also need to see where our Europeans are at, the guys in Mexico," he said. "That was not depending on tonight."
In other words, this event was not significant. So that's a disappointment. And a relief.