USMNT Winners and Losers in Tuesday's Canada Friendly

Paul MillerContributor IIIJanuary 30, 2013

HOUSTON,TX - JANUARY 29:  Joshua Gatt #19 of the USA looks to move the ball past Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgalt #12 during the second half at BBVA Compass Stadium on January 29, 2013 in Houston, Texas. USA and Canada played to a 0-0 tie.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

The biggest losers of the night were the least deserving of that title. They were the people who bought tickets to see the USMNT play Canada on Tuesday.

Adding insult to injury, near the end of the 0-0 final, the Houston skies rained on those in attendance at BBVA Compass Stadium.

Though drier and not out the cost of tickets, there are the fans who spent 90 minutes of their lives watching the game, which featured some of the poorest touches, worst feeds and more unimaginative play seen for a long time from any USMNT.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann is a lesser though more deserving loser here, for two reasons.

First, Canada did not send a team that could allow him the most important evaluations this game could offer. Though the Canadians had a few seasoned players, like Dwayne de Rosario (who may have been the best player on the field), the youthful support was not sufficient to allow consistent build up and thus did not challenge the USMNT back line.

The Canadians played much of the game in a shell, and the Americans were short on ideas how to break that down.

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Second, after three weeks of camp and an earlier scrimmage against Tijuana reserve players, this group of players should have been more in sync. They needed a playmaker at center mid, but for some reason Mix Diskerud wasn't even dressed for the game.

Even if they were more in sync and more tactically able to penetrate the Canadian space cloggers, it may not have mattered, because as a whole the execution by American players was rather poor. It was so poor that this article is not going to replay that litany of errors.

Suffice it to say that one accurate cross out of every 10 or so doesn’t cut it at international levels. And because creativity was so lacking, crosses into the box were a major part of the attack.

Every once in a while, a creative passing combination would appear out of nowhere, only to have possession lost with an off-target effort or something that would break the play up earlier.

So let’s rename this article as the handful of modest winners and everyone else.

Modest Winner: Sean Johnson

Johnson won the camp competition and earned the start. The Chicago keeper had a nice parry over the crossbar early to deny a dangerous shot that de Rosario seemed to create out of nothing. Another De Ro effort went just wide, and Johnson seemed to have that covered had it been on frame.

Beyond those two threats, most of Johnson's performance was limited to displays of his distribution. He was fairly average here. Not bad enough to hurt his interests, but showing his youthfulness and inexperience.

As young keepers often do, he reacted to pressure on few back passes with long 50-50 balls over midfield, though defenders were actively moving to space for him.

Modest Winner: Tony Beltran

Beltran (Real Salt Lake) had an interesting first half in attack phase, providing width on the field and rare consistency with good passing decisions. In defense phase, Beltran was mostly unnoticeable, meaning pressure rarely came his way.

All in all, a modest winner that few seemed to see coming.

Modest Winner: Kyle Beckerman

The Real Salt Lake midfielder wore the captain's armband and denied space in front of the center defenders. He was serviceable in a key position, which in this game makes him a modest winner.

However, these opponents aren't a good measure of a defensive midfielder's ability to control space.

Modest Winner: Josh Gatt

Gatt came on in the second half and provided an immediate spark. He displayed speed as well as emotion, and created a couple dangerous moments for the Canadian defenders. In this game, that was enough to stand out as a positive.

However, Gatt also opened new questions about his technical skills and reliance on his right foot. Playing on the left, he slanted almost every dribbling run toward the center. There could be numerous reasons why, but it is what a right-footed left winger without a left foot would do.

One highlight of his playing time was a push into the box and toward near post, dragging Canadian defenders out of shape. He opted for a low-percentage flick across the goal mouth with his right foot instead of turning the hips for a left-footed low drive toward others crashing the box. The Canadian defense easily cleared that flick. 

Modest Winner: Eddie Johnson

Johnson, a Seattle forward, was active off the ball. It might have come to something if he had more accurate service. There was nothing Tuesday night to suggest he isn’t the most international-ready of the MLS forwards.

Kudos to Klinsmann for that surprise call-up last year.

Implications for Honduras

Not listed as winners are Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler. Both were close calls.

Gonzalez (Los Angeles) did get on the end of a couple set kicks in the Canadian box. And while nothing was headed on target, they weren’t embarrassing headers.

Besler (Sporting KC) seemed to have some chemistry with Gonzalez, which in itself is interesting. Besler is more positional, and distributed some nice passes forward off the back line. 

Gonzalez almost certainly will travel to Honduras next week, and may even enter the discussion as a potential starter at center back. Both may be on the roster for that qualifier.

If Klinsmann was impressed with that chemistry, there is an outside chance both could start against Honduras (though the coach may have to gulp hard before replacing EPL regular Geoff Cameron with an MLS player).

Beltran may have won a trip as well, especially given injuries from which outside backs Fabian Johnson and Steve Cherundolo are trying to recover.

Beckerman provides steady leadership and effort, and while he may not play in Honduras, he likely will be on the roster.

Graham Zusi (Kansas City) and Gatt (Molde) probably will be rostered as well. Zusi started against Canada, which presumably means he had the inside track to start at right wing against Honduras.

He would have lost that position Tuesday night, stiffled as he was by this youthful Canada team, except for the fact that Gatt simply doesn’t look ready to start yet. The USMNT A roster still needs Landon Donovan, who won’t be in Honduras.

Actually, Klinsmann may now have a more focused eye on a creative playmaker who wasn’t in camp because of an injury. If there’s an MLS deep select for qualifiers, that might just be Chris Pontius from D.C. United.

Up top, Johnson seems like a lock for the Honduras roster. Other attackers demonstrated an ability to use space and position themselves dangerously, but the skills weren't there last night. If any travel to Honduras, it will be because Klinsmann is looking at an entire body of work over the last three weeks.

The Johnson at the other end of the field can now safely be viewed as the fourth keeper, meaning he'll be rostered for any game one of the other three keepers above him can't play.

Then again, Klinsmann may opt to take Sean Johnson to Honduras because he has camp time over third keeper Nick Rimando. If so, that probably will be the only reason for what at the moment would be a temporary move.

After Brazil, Johnson seems poised to take on Brad Guzan for that future first keeper position.