January 30, 2013
By Michael Lewis
Two sides of the scoreless tie
After watching Tuesday night's disappointing scoreless draw between the United States and Canada, I have two streams of thought about the National Team: long range and short term.
While not scoring or defeating a relatively young Canadian team can be cause for alarm, it is not the end of the world or World Cup qualifying hopes. The team that U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann used isn't expected to be anywhere near the one he will deploy at Honduras in the first CONCACAF hexagonal match of World Cup qualifying next Wednesday.
The likes of Clint Dempsey, Herculez Gomez and Tim Howard, among others from over the border, are expected to represent the red, white and blue in such a vital match in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
Few, if any U.S. players impressed enough to crack the starting lineup; perhaps as midfield or forward reserves.
What was quite disappointing was the attacking performance and creativity, or lack thereof, especially when the USA ventured close to the Canadian goal. There was very little of it.
True, Canada packed the middle with five midfielders, making it difficult for the hosts to penetrate, but that was the job of the U.S. midfield and sometimes the forwards, finding ways to crack the Canadians' back. While the American defense played relatively well, there was little depth to be mined for next Wednesday's encounter.
Given the constraints of official FIFA international playing dates and a much longer MLS schedule, I would love to see Klinsmann and U.S. Soccer schedule more internationals off those official dates to give some of the younger, up-and-coming players more of a taste of international experience, whether it be in the U.S., Caribbean or Central America.
Let's face it. The European contingent is the backbone of the team. Outside of a Landon Donovan and Graham Zusi (who should be a candidate to move across the Atlantic soon), MLS players are not necessarily impact players at the international level.
They usually have to take the next step to raise their game in Europe, Mexico or even in South America.
While some MLS folks don't like to hear that, it is a fact.
There is nothing wrong about that at the present time. While the competition in MLS has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, American players, for the most part, won't be challenged like they would be in Europe or Mexico.
And, those challenges vary, whether it is battling for a spot just to dress, fighting for a starting position, playing or promotion or relegation, performing against the likes of Manchester United or Bayern Munich or getting an opportunity to play in the Europa League or perhaps the UEFA Champions League.
There are exceptions, such as Donovan, although I wonder how good he really could have been if he had transferred to Everton a few years back.
But back to the matter at hand.
The best players on the U.S. at BBVA Compass Stadium started and ended from the back -- goalkeeper Sean Johnson, defenders Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler and holding midfielder Kyle Beckermann. They certainly earned Klinsmann's eye to be considered for the Honduras roster.
The midfield and attackers? Don't ask. There still needs to be creativity there. Whether the likes of Chris Wondolowski will have more opportunities to impress Klinsmann, it remains to be seen. Time has run out. The real big show, where it really counts, begins in San Pedro Sula next Wednesday.