TORONTO — The USA-Canada soccer rivalry might be more intense than in past years, but a largely tepid 0-0 draw in a friendly on Sunday evening at BMO Field won’t add any fuel to the fire.
In a game contested mainly in the midfield, both teams struggled to create many clear-cut chances until stoppage time, when each side had a glorious opportunity to pull out a win.
First, in the 91st minute, Canada’s Simeon Jackson shanked a stoppage-time sitter just wide of the target after Dwayne De Rosario beat the US’ Michael Parkhurst to the byline and served a low cross into the area.
A minute later, the Americans nearly pulled off the win when Clarence Goodson got great power behind his header off of a Michael Bradley free kick. But after being largely untested through the match, Canada’s Lars Hirschfeld was alert and tipped the ball over the bar.
But the largest talking point of the match was a called-off goal for Canada in the 34th minute. After the US’ Edgar Castillo got caught in possession deep in the corner, under pressure from De Rosario and Tosaint Ricketts, the ball popped out and fell to attacking midfielder Nik Ledgerwood. The SV Wehen Wiesbaden midfielder drilled his shot past Tim Howard from an acute angle for what appeared to be the opener.
But the assistant referee’s flag was up, and the goal was called back as the referee whistled De Rosario for a foul on Castillo. The call came late and raised a shout from the Canadian fans.
The match marked the final tune-up before Friday’s CONCACAF semifinal-round openers in 2014 World Cup qualifying, and both sides used the exhibition as a chance to integrate their players.
US coach Jurgen Klinsmann lined up his side in a rare 4-4-2, with Clint Dempsey and Herculez Gomez up top. But the real changes came at the back. Goodson started on the backline, the third center back partner Carlos Bocanegra has had in the past three matches, and a warm-up injury to Fabian Johnson meant Castillo was at left back.
The Canadians, meanwhile, played a very effective 4-2-3-1, and their midfield, in particular the defensive holding pair of Will Johnson and Julian de Guzman stifled the Americans all night. De Rosario lined up on the left flank and attacked Steve Cherundolo.
The night began with a festive atmosphere, as the match marked the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Soccer Association. The crowd of 15,247 included a decent-sized contingent of US fans, and they braved an unseasonably chilly evening at the stadium in hopes of seeing an entertaining contest.
Instead, they were stymied by a lackluster affair that had only seven total shots on goal and only 21 shots total.
In the end, it was just a friendly. The real games come on Friday, when Canada take on Cuba in Havana and the US host Antigua and Barbuda in Tampa, Fla. Then, regardless of the opponent, intensity will be vital.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Julian de Guzman||Fine performance from the TFC man on his home turf. JDG expertly snuffed out the US midfield's ability to get anything going.|
|2||Will Johnson||Much the same as de Guzman, Johnson gave a more athletic edge to Canada's shut-down tactics. Would've liked to see him get forward more.|
|3||Clarence Goodson||Arguably the only US player to show well for himself, lanky center back played mostly solid as defense looked shaky, nearly had late winner off thunderous header.|