HOUSTON – A collection of US hopefuls took the field at BBVA Compass Stadium with dreams of Honduras dancing around in their heads. Unfortunately for them, they never woke up to realize them.
Few would have blamed the assembled crowd for nodding off at points as well during the insipid 0-0 draw against Canada on Tuesday night. This encounter between two weakened sides never promised much, but it somehow managed to deliver even less.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said in the buildup to this match that he planned to bring six to eight players from this group with him for next Wednesday's trip to San Pedro Sula. On this evidence, he may struggle to meet that modest goal.
The early stages of this affair offered warning signs that this U.S. side comprised entirely of MLS players lacked the necessary incisiveness to dispatch a side that lost 4-0 to reserve-laden Denmark on Saturday. Dwayne De Rosario forced Sean Johnson into a smart save with an early volley, but it proved a false dawn in a match that produced few genuine chances.
Canada ceded plenty of ground and nearly all of the possession in its 4-2-3-1 setup in the early stages, but the Americans lacked the ingenuity and the tempo to create much in the way of opportunities. Even as the Canadians pushed forward occasionally as the half progress, the U.S. failed to carve out the chances required to truly open up this dour affair. Modest efforts from distance and one low drive from Chris Wondolowski represented the sum of the American forays before the interval.
Klinsmann made two changes at halftime and switched from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 in a bid to perk up the attack. His charges offered a modest response as play resumed without putting Canada under extended periods of pressure.
On another night, the U.S. might have found the only goal required to win the game. Brad Davis dragged wide with his right foot after good work by Eddie Johnson eight minutes after play resumed. Omar Gonzalez - one of the few players under intense scrutiny ahead of the trek to San Pedro Sula - headed over the bar from a free kick by halftime substitute Benny Feilhaber. Fellow halftime insertion Josh Gatt tested the Canadians with his speed on the left, but he failed to provide the service necessary on a handful of occasions.
The incremental improvement stagnated as the half progressed and Klinsmann emptied his bench. Canada - even with a host of second-half changes to interject more untested players - retained its diligent shape and tracked effectively when required to do so. Then again, they weren't tested much, either.
Rain descended upon the stadium as the final ten minutes petered out to cap off a truly underwhelming night for the Americans. Several of the players hoping to make that trip to Honduras trudged off the field with their goals likely dashed. At least Klinsmann will take solace from the fact that he can once again turn to his regulars for the considerably more difficult challenge ahead in San Pedro Sula next week.