It is one thing for the United States national team to spend an entire 90 minutes against a weaker Canada side without finding the back of the net. But truly pressing concerns arise from a group that was utterly futile in terms of chance creation and dangerous play.
With firepower from European-based players set to reinforce the punch in Honduras, there is no need to panic just yet. However, the absence of superstars Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan very obviously crippled Klinsmann's offensive engine. Here are some technical and tactical explanations as to why the January version of the USMNT could not produce encouraging opportunities in Houston on Tuesday night.
Canada was in full-on "park-the-bus" mode, notably content to concede the majority of possession. As such, the U.S. desperately required a string-pulling conductor to thread balls through an organized and tight back line.
The potential was there: Benny Feilhaber has been known to see glorious passes and spray them elegantly with a silky touch historically, and Brad Davis and his magical left-peg is always a dead-ball threat. But with Brad Evans in the hole behind the strikers to start, Feilhaber utilized for only the second half and Davis deployed mostly on the left flank, this type of visually superior service was absent. Passes were unimaginative and often pushed square or backward.
Since combination play and gorgeous soccer was stifled, another option would have been to try to break down the stingy Canadians off the dribble.
A willingness to beat defenders was scarce, though. Step-over enthusiast Eddie Johnson and substitutes Juan Agudelo and Joshua Gatt were the best candidates for this job. Yet, according to OPTA's Chalkboard on mlssoccer.com, U.S. players completed only three successful dribbles. Gatt and Agudelo looked eager on a few occasions but were almost always engulfed by imposing white shirts whenever any space arrived.
The last serious issue came in the form of minimal and poor crossing. OPTA's Chalkboard indicates the U.S. attempted a scant 25 crosses, of which nine found Americans and only six resulted in shots.
Klinsmann, whose outside backs are best when barrelling down the wing offering overlapping runs, got minimal off-the-ball movement from fullbacks Tony Beltran and Justin Morrow. Wide-right starter Graham Zusi only managed to whip five crosses into the box himself as the flank play was underwhelming.
This was definitely a drowsy affair for the United States, particularly in attack. We knew before the first whistle that the studs who normally stir the drink for the Yanks could not save the team. Hopefully in about a week this flop will be a meaningless memory replaced with eye-candy soccer full of one-touch sequences, teasing through balls aplenty and, most importantly, a handful of goals.
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