EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions below are those of Soccer Outsider Jeff Maurer and not Soccer Insider Steven Goff.
This match against Canada is the U.S. men’s soccer team’s tuneup for Antigua and Barbuda. How do you like that, Canada: You’re a steppingstone on the way to Antigua and Barbuda. You’re warmup for a match against a Club Med with a flag. When we take on the Benna Boys, we will be grateful for the practice we got against our warmup opponent.
Of course, that’s just me being a jerk (or, ahem: snarky). Canada is always a good match, and you could also say that the Americans are a warmup for Canada’s upcoming clash with Cuba. This match is all about gaining fitness, building cohesion and not getting injured. Which is why it’s good that we’re playing Canada — those are some polite, rule-abiding people.
Here’s tonight’s lineup: Howard | Castillo, Bocanegra, Goodson, Cherundolo | Torres, Jones, Bradley, Donovan | Dempsey, Gomez. Johnson is hurt, so the only other left back on the roster (Castillo) gets to show whether he’s worthy of the spot. Torres is ostensibly playing on the left, but he’s about as comfortable on the left as Sean Hannity; he will inevitably drift toward the center (and that’s where the Hannity analogy ends).
Here’s kickoff from BMO field . . .
2’ — Goodson with a chance off a set piece, but he can’t make contact. Did you ever notice that Manchester United never miss chances in the first five minutes? Just one of the reasons why they’re really annoying.
4’ — The Canadian Soccer Association is continuing organizations’ fine tradition of commemorating meaningless milestones by recognizing the 100th anniversary of the organization’s establishment. Hat’s off, everyone: 100 years ago, paperwork was filed. Let’s all take a moment to reflect.
8’ — Canada with a shot just wide. Sluggish start for the red, white and blue, and I say that because both teams are wearing red, white and blue. Makes sense for us, but where is the blue in Canada’s flag?
15’ — Castillo with a dipping shot from distance, but the save isn’t difficult. I don’t watch much Mexican league; can anyone in the comments section tell me how Castillo’s been playing? Usually if I make a request like this someone pipes up with detailed stats, eyewitness accounts and an in-depth knowledge of the player’s diet and exercise regimen.
22’ — Canada musters a shot after a long throw-in. I think we’re not long from seeing every team trying to carry a long-throw specialist, like a left-handed reliever. Call it the Rory Delap effect.
33’ — A complete phantom call denies Canada . . . well, not a goal, but a pretty good look at goal. It would have had the ball in a good spot (Goodson stopped playing before the ball was in the net). The linesman flagged for a foul in what can only be described as one of those “I have a flag and want to use it” calls. Blame the linesman, and also blame the linesman’s parents for not giving him enough attention.
37’ — The United States looks apathetic. Jones and Bradley look slow, Torres and Donovan look bad. Canada doesn’t look much better. Maybe they’re practicing for if we have to achieve an arranged draw in tournament play.
39’ — Donovan plays it to Dempsey, but Hirschfeld smothers Dempsey’s attempt. So far, that counts as a highlight, but it wasn’t much.
43’ — Torres and Castillo are forming a partnership on the left side, but so far the results are less Lennon and McCartney and more Kurt and Courtney.
Halftime: 0-0. Ordinarily, I would assume that one team or the other would come out guns blazing after such a lethargic first half, but we may just be witnessing the inevitable, cautious approach to a friendly before meaningful games.
50’ — With our new flag unis, I think the U.S. players should get stars on their shorts for good plays like Ohio State players get buckeyes on their helmets. Only stars awarded so far: Goodson, Dempsey, maybe Gomez.
62’ — Dempsey with a free kick over the bar. They could score the highlights to this match with Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” and it would still be boring.
70’ — Some people associate Canada with being boring. This match will not do anything to dispel those opinions.
77’ — Jones is given a yellow, but he disagrees. And really: when Jones disagrees with getting a yellow card, he’s probably right. The man gets a yellow card practically every match; he knows when he’s earned a yellow. Nobody’s gotten more yellows than Jermaine Jones — the man is an expert.
85’ — I wouldn’t even call this match a snooze-fest, because I love snoozing. Sleeping is the best. I could go for a snooze-fest right now — sounds awesome. This is more like when I was 5 and I tried to stay up to see Santa: I’m forcing myself to stay awake but nothing is happening.
90’ — Simeon Jackson with a shot just wide from three yards out! Finally some excitement, for the people who have to put together the highlights package of this match if no one else.
90’ + 3’ — Goodson with a header off a corner kick, but Hirschfeld makes the save! Both teams woke up and decided to play a bit of soccer during extra time.
Howard: 6. He had a bit of work to do today, though most of it was routine.
Castillo: 5.5. Enigmatic game: He was forward all the time and contributed a lot to the attack, but he was suspect on defense and gave the ball away in bad spots. I worry that his touch and his passing are a real liability at the international level.
Bocanegra: 6. Solid game. My wife gave him a 9, but that was looks-based, not soccer-based.
Goodson: 6.5. I think he pairs with Bocanegra when the competitive matches start.
Cherundolo: 5.5. He’s not always the most visible player, but you notice when he’s not there.
Torres: 4. I’m still iffy on Torres but I’m not sure what the alternatives are at the moment. Probably to bring Edu in and play 4-3-3, which I’m not in love with, either.
Jones: 4. He looked like he was conserving energy.
Bradley: 4.5. Same as Jones.
Donovan: 4. Same as Jones and Bradley.
De Rosario: 6.5. Did not play for the United States, but I’m giving him a rating out of habit.
Dempsey: 5.5. I heard someone say he needs to round into form before the Antigua and Barbuda match. Let’s be realistic: He needs to round into form before the Guatemala match.
Gomez: 5. I think Altidore displaces him when healthy, but he’s first behind Altidore.
Altidore: 5. He didn’t look match fit, but I hope Klinsmann realizes he’s our best striker when healthy.
Onyewu: 5.5. I’m a big fan of Gooch, but he hasn’t been quite right since 2009, and Goodson looks confident.
Parkhurst: 4.5. He’s obviously Plan B at right back if Cherundolo goes down.
Edu/Wondolowsi: no rating. Oh wait: let me give Edu a 1.5 just to stir up some trouble among the Terrapins who frequent this blog.