• USA and Canada play out dull goalless draw in Houston
• US fringe players fail to convince before Hexagon
That was pretty grim. The US looked really ponderous throughout. I used the word "dutiful" in the first half and I think I'd stand by that - the players weren't individually bad exactly, they just seemed to be executing drills rather than playing with initiative. And against a young Canadian side with limited ambition of their own, that's very disappointing.
Gonzalez and Besler didn't have a lot to do and probably did their chances no harm. Feilhaber was at the center of what limited second half chances there were, while not always convincing with his decision making. Wondolowski and Davis, to name two players tipped to break through, just didn't do it on the night.
Canada played their game. De Rosario looked menacing, to the delight of watching D.C. United fans wondering how his injury would affect him. Bekker was intelligent on the ball and Jakovic was very strong at the back.
The US will face more teams who play like this in the Hexagon, and will need their bigger players to force the issue better than the hopefuls did tonight...
Thanks for your tweets and emails. I'll leave the last word with a couple that came in in the second half (including a rare appearance by my blessed editor)
To those of you who stayed with me through this, one day we will meet, nod silently and know what we have been through. For now, good night
Feilhaber shapes to shoot then slides the ball to the left for Morales to shoot, but his shot is charged down. And that's that.
As if on cue, the heavens empty and the players trudge off in a downpour.
Final thoughts in a minute.
Last free kick at the half way line for the US. It's pumped long and looks to have been cleared but actually the US pick up a dangerous free kick on the edge of the box... Same spot as the last decent chance...
Agudelo has shown up repeatedly since he was on the field, but always seems to be just missing out on chances, or causing a nuisance rather than a threat.
Feilhaber beats the last man on the right and sends a low hard cross towards the near post, but nearer the keeper than anyone else.
Again a glimmer of space opens up for the US, again the ball goes backwards. Way too predictable from the hosts. Now Canada make another substitution - Porter on for Bekker, who's been decent tonight.
Canada definitely finishing on the front foot, but Bekker's diagonal ball is too long for Jonke and the US will have a goal kick.
Evans gets forward again on the right but his path to cross the ball is blocked off and his team go backwards once more. Now Agudelo twists and turns to spread the ball wide for Evans again, but can't direct the return on goal.
Four minutes to be added on.
The field opens up briefly for Bekker and he strides forward with the ball. Now it's the US team's turn to have to re-organize behind the ball, which they do comfortably enough.
If anything though, Canada are pressing more in these closing stages than they have throughout the rest of the game. It's all pretty relative though.
The game was not the prettiest and it's getting uglier as the substitutions break up what little continuity there was. A lot of fouls in this half breaking up the play further.
...Agudelo does well to head the corner clear at the near post, but Canada trying to keep pressing forward having temporarily seized the initiative. No they have a free kick wide left, that Bekker is over...
He sends in the inswinger, but his driven ball fails to clear Bedoya on the edge of the box. Still Canada retain the ball and they're frustrating the US right now.
De Rosario will be wishing he was still on the field. Canada have a corner...
Can anyone break the deadlock as we head into the last ten minutes?
Agudelo tries to get turned on the edge of the box, but he's dispossessed fairly this time (despite his appeals to the contrary). It's still USA 0 Canada 0 and Klinsmann will be very disappointed by the lack of invention all evening. The game is petering out.
De Rosario comes out for Jonke by the way.
Jakovic wins a slightly dodgy free kick and now there's another free kick as the game gets choppy. This one's for the US on the edge of the box, as Agudelo is fouled, earning Morgan a yellow. Feilhaber over it....he drives it into the wall. Groans of frustration from the crowd.
15 minutes for someone to seize the day here. Of those on the edges of the main squad, Beckerman looked solid without being spectacular today - though for him at least, that's very much his brief.
Gatt burst into the box on the left and looks to have overrun it before retrieving and scooping the ball too strongly over everyone in the box. That was a decent opening.
Now Bedoya drives in a great cross from the right that Agudelo can only glance across goal.
Johnson off. Bruin on. Beckerman off, Morales on. Two more debutants...
Canada have a free kick in a similar place to their last one. Besler clears this one firmly and then DeRo is offside when the ball is knocked back in.
Back to US pressure (of a sort). Now Bruin and Morales are warming up on the sidelines...
Are Canada finally getting a little stretched? Johnson gallops clear on the right and forces a free kick to the side of the box.The big men come forward. Feilhaber again...
...Gonzalez dives towards it, but Ricketts forces it clear for a corner. Another great delivery into the six yard box.
The corner is cleared at the near post. USA 0 Canada 0
Agudelo earns a free kick right of center that's taken quickly, only for DeRo to step in and intercept and burst forward. He's met by an interception of his own by Kyle Beckerman, who's been disciplined tonight.
Now the US have another free kick, right of center and some thirty yards out. Feilhaber over it. And he curls in a lovely dangerous ball that Gonzalez gets to and glances just over. Good chance for the US. Good ball by Feilhaber, who's on his own personal redemption trail.
Agudelo and Bedoya both, for different reasons, could do with reminding their coach of what they're capable of. The US back to a 4-4-2 now with Bedoya wide right and Agudelo up front with Johnson.
Patrick Sheehan is back to defend Brad Evans
Yeah, I wasn't particularly singling him out by calling him, er, anonymous...
Agudelo comes on for Davis. Bedoya, the forgotten man, comes on for Zusi.
Josh Gatt is looking busy on the left, but his agitating hasn't opened up clear chances yet. Now he concedes a free kick and what little pressure there was on Canada deflates a little.
For a moment space opens up for Zusi on the right, but his cross is cut out. A minute later he tries again, but it's long. The US keep the move going but Canada regroup and we're back to that densely packed midfield battle.
A little more movement now as Evans gets forward on the right to stroke a cross to the edge of the box for Johnson, but Stinson does enough to put him off as he shoots, and it's well over. An hour gone and it's USA 0 Canada 0
Rather like last year's turgid friendly match, this one just never igniting. Davis tries to force the issue with a long diagonal ball behind Jakovic, but the defender is alert to the danger and cuts the ball out easily before Johnson can get in behind him.
Canada have a free kick right of center and 35 yards out. It's whipped in by Teibert and De Rosario pulls away from Morrow for a free header that almost gets past Johsnon. Another warning from the Canadians, who've been dangerous on set pieces. The US meanwhile, have had plenty of possession and very few sights of goal. DeRo looking the nearest this game has to a game winner at the moment.
Good chance for the US as Feilhaber inventively finds a pocket of space to release Johnson on the right of the box, and his ball to the near post is controlled by Davis, only for his shot to squeeze across the face of goal. Better from the US for sure, and good vision by Feilhaber.
Boos ring out as Zusi is called for a foul. American frustration is sweet music to Canadian ears. Canada have a throw on the far right og the field but are in no rush to take it. Dunfield comes out for Stinson, who's earning his first cap for Canada. He takes the throw with his first touch, but Gatt rushes forward to intercept. Nothing comes of it, but that at least looked urgent.
Beckerman bundles DeRosario over in the Canadian half. DeRo looking very strong for a player doing back from injury. Canada trying to play a little bit of possession soccer of their own right now. They're looking comfortable early on - no sign of that increased US tempo. USA 0 Canada 0
Will the 4-3-3 change the dynamic? No changes for Canada by the way. Both sides trying to figure out the new pattern early. Klinsmann urging his defenders forward when the US are in possession.
We're off again. Gatt will slot in on the left. Feilhaber on for Beltran by the way - so Evans will drop back to right back for now. Gatt on for Wondolowski.
It should also be pointed out that Canada are not contractually obliged to play any other way than the way they are currently playing and they're sticking to their task well. Down to the US to change the story.
Klinsmann on the sidelines telling ESPN the US have "dominated the whole game," but are bringing in Gatt and Feilhaber and going 4-3-3 and playing faster to try and force the issue.
Who will we see? I think Bruin might have a little more joy against Jakovic at the heart of that Canadian defense. The latter has been very solid and winning everything in the air.
Not quite sure where Phil Bradford's coming from with that Evans claim by the way. He's been pretty anonymous. Think Feilhaber will be in in the second half.
Phil Bradford emails in, clearly thinking one guy has staked his claim so far:
"....I see the cats who didn't think Bradley was US National material are eating their hairballs. The Sounders FC star can feed from the middle all night..."
(he's talking about Brad Evans btw...in case the Bradley reference was confusing)
Forward out wide, back, lateral, lateral, lateral, forward out wide (repeat to fade)
It's not been bad exactly from the US - just uninspiring. They're playing a side who clearly feel their best chance is to play behind the ball and counter, and who are doing that well. Canada have had the most dangerous chance through that early DeRo snapshot - and as isolated as he is up front, he's always capable of something special.
Wondolowski has tried to put himself in dangerous positions, but it's been a case of little flashes rather than clear chances for him. He could do with a little more urgency from those supplying him - particularly some more commitment forward from the debutant full backs to counteract the Canadian numbers in defense.
USA 0 Canada 0
Half time thoughts in a moment
Last chance for the US - as they look for a way through the Canadian defense. Long ball forward by Morrow towards Johnson, but Jakovic wins the header - as he has been doing all night.
The US get the ball back and knock it around tidily some more, but without forcing the issue. And that will be that for the half.
...wicked delivery from Davis, who's found his stride in the last few minutes. Canada fumble it clear though.
Two minutes added on time...
Brad Davis comes alive with a whipped cross that almost finds Johnson, then a corner kick that briefly threatens to cause havoc in the six yard box. He's not had many chances to show himself tonight. Now the US has another corner on the right...
Johnson does well to stay on his feet as he rides successive tackles on the edge of the box. Eventually the ball comes into the box for Wondolowski, but he's dispossessed quickly by Jakovic, who's been strong all night. Still USA 0 Canada 0
Canada stringing a move together with some neat touches from Bekker in the build up, though Brad Davis has dropped inside in a timely way to block his attempted shot.
Now Canada have a free kick, central, some 35 yards out. DeRo over it and he sends it wide and short and sets off into the box to almost meet a lovely chipped return in to the six yard line. Well worked free kick from a Canada side who've not shown a lot of ambition but have stuck to their game plan admirably.
A little more urgency from the US as Beckerman elects to cross early for once - and almost gives Wondolowski a chance. The striker gets his head to it in the box, but the cross is just too high for him to get any power or control on it.
Johnson has the ball at his feet facing goal and he slots a low ball wide to Davis, whose attempted cut back is cut out, but that's a little better from the US, and particularly Johnson - who has had his back to goal a lot.
Canada have another free kick in the center circle, as Beckerman handles. Dunfield floats it wide towards De Rosario, who keeps the move going until Beckerman intervenes. The US try to counter, but Canada get men back behind the ball quickly and we're back to the status quo.
Bekker does well to draw a foul for Canada and they throw men forward for the set piece, but it's cleared easily enough on the edge of the box. The US looking kind of ...dutiful in the way they're circulating the ball. Doing it neatly without being incisive. And the score is still USA 0 Canada 0.
Dunfield hobbles off to get a little treatment and we have a short break in play.
From the restart the US knock the ball around before a lovely ball out wide from Zusi, picking our Beltran on the flank as he looked to be running into traffic himself. Beltran sends a low cross in, but it's not quite enough to open up the Canadian defense and Wondolowski can only direct the ball for a goal kick at the near post.
Ledgerwood again picks up the ball out wide and looks for the cross for De Rosario as Canada make a rare foray forward. It's a decent enough ball, but his captain is pretty isolated up there. Still, he's already shown what he can do with half a chance...
Wondolowski misses out on a challenge in the box, but he's at least trying to be proactive in looking for the ball in recent minutes. Meanwhile Johnson has drifted out wide looking for some space, but this Canadian side looking organized in closing things down at the moment.
The US work the ball back and wide to the other flank again - a repeat pattern so far. Never mind tempo - a little directness would be welcome.
Decent defense to take the ball off the toes of Johnson at the edge of the box as he tries to turn to set something up.
Game in a little lull at the moment as the US try to regroup and find a different angle to come at the Canadians with. They're dominating possession but maybe need to up the tempo a little to force an opening.
Canada press up a little to keep the US back line knocking the ball around among themselves. Patient keep ball then suddenly Davis and Wondolowski combine in a neat one-two through the middle and while Wondo's shot was not strong it made Thomas work in the Canadian goal and will have given the striker confidence. Still USA 0 Canada 0 though.
Haven't done a liveblog of a game since the MLS playoffs and am realizing I could have done with a preseason regimen more structured than coffee.
Not a lot of frantic action to cover so far though, though the US are inching into deeper territory with each attempted build up as they squeeze Canada back. The US having a lot of possession, but not committing their wide players forward too often just yet, so Canada coping fairly comfortably so far.
...Zusi and Davis combine to whip in a cross to the near post, that has to be cleared sharply. Canada can't get the ball clear though as Beckerman intervenes, and Johnson and Wondolowski both get half chances in the box as the ball comes back in. Wondo's attempted overhead kick is weak though.
The US pressing, Canada holding...
Davis gets forward down the left and tries to lay the ball off but Wondolowski is crowded out on the edge of the box and Canada can get a a little possession going.
Now Morrow and Davis combine well and the left back gets forward to earn a corner as he tries to cross...
...it's an uncharacteristically poor ball from Davis and cleared by the first defender.
Now Johnson picks up the ball in the corner from a speculative ball by Evans, and wriggles free to float a teasing cross, just over the heads of everyone in the box, including Wondolowski, who's been quiet so far.
USA 0 Canada 0
DeRo looked fit enough getting to that chance when nothing much looked on. Great invention. Poor marking from Beltran though.
Besler tries to find his Sporting KC team mate Zusi, but his ambitious pass is long and that will be a Canada throw.
Canada lining up with a packed midfield and inviting the US onto them. They're having no luck with that so far, but here'a free kick out wide right with Davis over it...
Taylor Twellman reminding us on the ESPN feed that 7-8 players will go to Honduras from this camp, according to Klinsmann. Morrow getting pulled around a fair bit by Ricketts on his audition, but holding up well enough so far.
Suddenly a sweeping cross from Ledgerwood finds De Rosario at the back post, and he contorts himself to whip a vicious looking shot that Johnson has to palm away, with Beltran nowhere at the back post.
Evans and Beckerman combine to open up a little space in the center of the park, then Zusi's cross almost finds Davis in space at the back of the box, but he has to lay the ball back to keep the move going, and eventually a Zusi lunge from a tight angle can only concede a goal kick.
First half chance for Canada as De Rosario spreads the ball wide right for Ricketts, who does well to race clear and get a cross in, but it's over the bar.
The US forge forward and Johnson and Evans both try to hustle through, but there's no opening in the Canadian box.
The US get us underway and immediately pass it around the back to get everyone on the ball.
Davis just avoided a mascot pile up there, by directing the kids safely off to one side as the handshake stampede began. Such vision. He'll get a big tick on Jurgen's clipboard for that...
Almost underway, on a humid night in Houston...
Three of that back four for the US are making their debuts: Besler, Morrow and Beltran. No place for Tally Hall anywhere though...
USA: S. Johnson; Beltran, Gonzalez, Besler, Morrow; Beckerman (c), Zusi, Davis, Evans; Wondolowski, E. Johnson
Canada: Thomas; Ledgerwood, Attakora, Jakovic, Morgan; Dunfield, Bourgault, Bekker; Ricketts, Teibert, De Rosario (c)
So Beckerman captaining a team that looks like a 4-1-3-2 with Wondolowski and Johnson up front. Gonzalez and Besler starting at the heart of defense and a look at San Jose’s Morrow and RSL’s Beltran in the full back positions - nice to see a full debut for the latter in particular. Chicago’s Sean Johnson gets the nod in goal.
DeRo starts for, and captains, Canada and there’s another look at that midfield pairing of Dunfield and Bekker. Toronto fans will be watching with interest.
Canada were sent into freefall at the end of last year. Going to Honduras with a chance of qualification for the next round of World Cup play still in their hands, they were crushed 8-1 and forced into talking about the Gold Cup and the 2018 World Cup like it was the plan all along. So it was that a very young looking Canadian side lined up for their game against Denmark a few days ago, and while they still leaked goals (four of them to be exact), there were signs in the second half of an improved performance and also a diamond in the rough performance from young Kyle Bekker, who went from being drafted by Toronto the week before, to making his international debut - going 67 minutes alongside Toronto team mate Terry Dunfield. Having watched him at the MLS Combine, he looks like a neat player, if perhaps still a little lightweight - so it’s perhaps for the best Jones isn’t in the US squad midfield tonight. But it’s good to see some young talent coming through.
And of course there’s the heartening return of Dwayne De Rosario, who got his first hour of soccer in some five months in the other night and will be an attacking threat for whatever time he’s on the field tonight. Generally though, this is a Canada side at a rather different stage of development than their opponents and looking as much to give young players experience for the future, rather than force a result tonight.
One positive note for Canada - eight members of the U-23 team that beat the US during last year’s Olympic qualifiers are in the squad tonight.
So here’s the squad for the most recent camp and tonight’s game:
Goalkeepers (3): Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)
Defenders (9): Steven Beitashour (San Jose Earthquakes), Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), A.J. DeLaGarza (LA Galaxy), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Connor Lade (New York Red Bulls), Alfredo Morales (Hertha Berlin/Germany), Justin Morrow (San Jose Earthquakes), Jeff Parke (Philadelphia Union)
Midfielders (8): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (out of contract), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg/Norway), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Joshua Gatt (Molde/Norway), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Forwards (5): Juan Agudelo (Chivas USA), Will Bruin (Houston Dynamo), Edson Buddle (Colorado Rapids), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
Of the standouts who might force their way into more regular consideration there are a few players who you’d feel are on the “now or never” list: goal machine Chris Wondolowski, and perhaps Brad Davis - who has been in and around these camps before, but has only a handful of caps. Klinsmann’s had positive thngs to say about his brain and set piece prowess this week. Could he bring an added dimension to a sometimes rather stolid midfield? His Houston team mates are also intriguing presences. Tally Hall was very solid en route to MLS Cup final last year, and Will Bruin reportedly grabbed a couple of goals in a behind-closed-doors scrimmage game last week, and you wouldn’t put it past him to barrel his way into more regular contention.
Other players look a little more like they’re in the position Graham Zusi was last year - Omar Gonzalez forced his way back from injury to end up as MVP as the Galaxy took the MLS Cup in December and as regards his international credentials, the general feeling is “if not now, when?” His club coach Bruce Arena thinks he’s ready, as do most neutrals. Klinsmann is playing his cards close to his chest though.
Alongside Gonzalez in defense, you see players like Matt Besler and wonder if the Sporting KC man might become a more regular squad player.
Of the rest of the squad, well you could always read this piece I wrote when the squads were announced (and which I’d forgotten about until halfway through writing this section - Bah!).
One of our regular Toronto correspondents drops by...
While not to be outdone, a friendly passing New Yorker pops up with his friendly take on things. Real friendly like:
Now normally, I might have put a video clip at the end of the last section to give you a nice taster of previous clashes, but, well...
...Let’s have a look at what didn’t happen the last time these two teams met - a dire goalless draw last June, made to sound rather more exciting than it was by a thoroughly engaged Arlo White in the NBC commentary box.
Hopefully that’s not representative of what we’re going to see tonight - would be nice if we got something a little more like this:
We can but hope it's this exciting...
Welcome to the first USA friendly of the year, and one that has a profoundly local feel. Not just because the opponent today is Canada, but because this is the one time this year where you’re likely to see a USMNT squad dominated by MLS players. Said players will possibly be wearing their flashiest boots and attempting wildly optimistic overhead kicks tonight, hoping to stake their claim for a more regular place in Jurgen Klinsmann’s plans. They're playing in the absence of some of the more established European-based stars, who are currently bogged down in their winter campaigns. And of course the absence of Landon Donovan - currently contemplating his future...
Speaking of the future, it’s the start of the centenary year for US soccer and a big year for Jurgen Klinsmann. We’ll have Gold Cup play in the summer and of course the Hexagon qualifying round for the 2014 World Cup kicks off next week in Honduras. There are plenty of decent players in this US squad looking for the chance to make a break through at just the right time for next year in Brazil, but with stories already floating around about Timothy Chandler committing for next week’s competitive game against Honduras, for example, the likely open spots and opportunities are going to be pretty limited from here on out, and with the Hexagon starting imminently, this is some of the MLS fringe players one and only chance to impress. Will anyone seize it?
Canada are coming off a bruising defeat to Denmark, but it was with a young side selected with the future in mind. Interesting to see how they line up tonight and how tight this game turns out to be.
Anyway, I'll be watching every kick, so tweet and email your insightful and/or deliberately parochial comments to @KidWeil or firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll try to use them. I'll be back with more build up and team news around 8.45pm ET. In the meantime, treat yourself to Tom Dart’s scene-setting story for tonight’s game and remember to stretch - it’s going to be a long year...