Well that was uninspiring.
After three weeks of training together and eyeing Tuesday's friendly as an opportunity to claim some places on the A-Team, the U.S. men's national team had a hard time breaking down an inexperienced Canadian side and settled for a 0-0 draw in Houston. The result was never going to be of much consequence, but the fact that no player was really able to stand out with so much potentially on the line from an individual standpoint speaks volumes of the disappointment at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Billed as a chance to seize a permanent place on Jurgen Klinsmann's World Cup qualifying radar, few players stepped up over the course of the 90 minutes to show they belonged with the A-Team. Klinsmann has said that he will be taking about seven players from this roster to Honduras next week for the beginning of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying hexagonal, and if that is indeed the case, few of those players will be chosen based on Tuesday's performance. Here are U.S. player ratings from the match (as always, on a scale from 0-10):
GK, Sean Johnson, 6 -- Johnson got his palms to the best chance of the game, saving Dwayne De Rosario's early chance with a great instinctual move. From that point on, it was smooth sailing for the Chicago Fire goalkeeper, who beat out Bill Hamid and Tally Hall for the chance to start the match and wound up going all 90 in earning the clean sheet. Not that he was tested all that often, but having a faultless night is something to build off for a talented goalkeeper who has been known to commit the more-than-occasional blunder.
D, Tony Beltran, 4.5 -- Beltran earned the start at right back, one that presumably would have gone to San Jose Earthquakes defender Steven Beitashour had he not had to leave camp with an injury, but the RSL man did not do much to distinguish himself in his first cap and was yanked at halftime. When he did get forward, his service was so-so, with his one big opportunity to contribute being a mistimed cross that Chris Wondolowski could not turn on frame. Beltran also allowed De Rosario to sneak behind him for that opening chance.
D, Omar Gonzalez, 6.5 -- All eyes were on Gonzalez Tuesday to see what he could do in a national team uniform. Only problem is, he was never really tested defensively, so it's hard to take much away from his performance. Gonzalez's distribution was sound, and he was an asset in the attack, with his header off a feed from Benny Feilhaber in the second half being the closest USA came to scoring. Even though Gonzalez didn't do anything to really raise his stock, he did not hurt it either. He likely has himself a ticket to San Pedro Sula next week for a place on the U.S. roster that will take on Honduras.
D, Matt Besler, 6 -- Like Gonzalez, Besler, the reigning MLS Defender of the Year, was under a microscope to see how he would perform. In his first cap, Besler was fine, but he wasn't tested much either. His confident second-half header to clear a free kick opportunity in the U.S. box was his greatest contribution. At the end of the day, Besler did not make any mistakes, and that's a fine takeaway for a player fighting to be in the U.S. center back discussion.
D, Justin Morrow, 4.5, -- Again, the U.S. defense was rarely pressed or tested in its own third, so it's hard to truly judge Morrow, another first-cap earner, on the whole. Morrow did well at times to get forward, earning one corner in the first half. When Canada did generate pressure, it was from Morrow's side, with Tosaint Ricketts working the wing to force the issue on a couple of occasions.
M, Graham Zusi, 5 -- More was expected of Zusi, as one of the senior team A-listers out on the field, but the Sporting Kansas City maestro could not deliver a spark to the attack. He didn't make any catastrophic mistakes that would force Klinsmann to reconsider bringing him to Honduras, and he should fully be expected to make that trip, but there was no real redeeming factor from Zusi's showing on Tuesday.
M, Kyle Beckerman, 6 -- Beckerman was all over the field, taking his duties as captain seriously by facilitating things in the first half and switching the point of attack on occasion with relative ease and efficiency. He also tracked back on defense, managing to win a header as if he were playing center back to cut out a rare Canada foray forward. Beckerman did his job well Tuesday, but perhaps had to do too much, with the attacking talent in front of him incapable of working together to break down Canada's numbers-behind-the-ball tactics.
M, Brad Evans, 4.5 -- Put in a central attacking midfield role, Evans failed to take on any attacking onus and limited what the U.S. could do against Canada's five-man midfield. He lacked the creativity to take on that role, and perhaps he should not have been put there by Klinsmann in the first place. Evans moved to right back in the second half and fared rather well, getting forward and sending in some decent crosses as the game wound down and the U.S. desperately searched for a winner.
M, Brad Davis, 5 -- The Dynamo star got his chance to perform in front of his home fans, but the opening part of the first half was far from his finest showing on his own turf. Davis' service was uncharacteristically off for the most part, although it did improve as the first half wore on. He appeared to start developing a rhythm with Chris Wondolowski, and the two generated the best combination play for the U.S. in the first half. Before he was subbed off, Davis had a great chance to put the U.S. ahead, but he took perhaps one touch too many off a feed from Eddie Johnson and shanked a deflected, close-range shot wide.
F, Chris Wondolowski, 4.5 -- Wondolowski, whose 61 goals in the last three MLS seasons are by far the most in the league, got his chance to start and get that elusive USA goal. Once again, though, the reigning MLS MVP failed to deliver. He worked well with Davis as the first half wore on and had a few half chances, but couldn't really put any on frame, including one redirect off Beltran's cross that went wide of the mark. The times he did test Canada's Simon Thomas were fairly simple for the out-of-contract goalkeeper, including his early shot from distance that forced a diving save, and an overhead kick from inside the area. With the Gold Cup roster this summer likely being a full second team, Wondolowski should get more chances to score for the USA, but it's highly doubtful that he parlayed his performance into a World Cup qualifying place.
F, Eddie Johnson, 5 -- Like Zusi, more assertion was expected of Johnson, who failed to deliver the same contribution that made him a hero during the final games of the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying. Johnson was really the only U.S. player who attempted to take on a Canadian defender 1-on-1 in the first half, and one of the more dangerous moments was when he got by his man and lofted a curling ball to the far post, only for it not to be met by anyone. He also set up Davis for a great chance in the second half with his cutback look from the right. Johnson did show a lack of composure by flinging a ball at a defender after harmless foul early in the match, a play that another referee could have deemed card-worthy. Not the resurgent Johnson's best showing.
M, Benny Feilhaber, 6 -- Feilhaber delivered the most incisive passes of the night, sparking the attack when he entered the game as a halftime substitute in the middle of Klinsmann's reworked 4-3-3 formation. If anything, Feilhaber showed what he displayed during the last World Cup qualifying cycle and even in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa: He has what it takes to be an impact attacking player off the bench. His late set pieces left plenty to be desired, though, with two 20-yard looks from an identical spot failing to lead to any danger whatsoever. Even so, Feilhaber was one of the few players to help himself, even if it was just marginally.
M, Alejandro Bedoya, 5.5 -- Bedoya returned to the national team for the first time since the 2011 Gold Cup and showed that he has what it takes to bring a spark to the wings, an area of dire need in the U.S. player pool. No, nothing Bedoya did led to a golden U.S. chance, but he took defenders on and added another element to the attack. Had Klinsmann opted for a less conservative starting XI, Bedoya would have been able to have more time to have an impact rather than 26 minutes.
M, Alfredo Morales, 5 -- Earned his first cap as a late substitute and didn't have time to do much. Feilhaber laid off a ball for Morales with the last-second free kick, and the Hertha Berlin man's blast was deflected long before it could reach the intended target.
F, Josh Gatt, 5.5 -- Captain Intensity was brought on as a halftime substitute on the left flank and used every opportunity he could to run at defenders and try to make things happen. One of the only U.S. players to show any urgency and passion on the field, the speedy Gatt's best chance to contribute was when he burst by his defender and got to the end line only to shy away from using his left foot. Gatt, typically a right-sided player, has his strength is to his right, and that showed. High-energy players with an attacking prowess always have a place, and the rather raw Gatt gave Klinsmann some food for thought.
F, Juan Agudelo, 5.5 -- Agudelo joined Gatt in showing that he truly wanted to make something happen after entering the game just after the hour mark. He did not shy away from contact, drawing two yellow cards late in the second half, and he did what he could to retrieve the ball in the attacking half of the field. Never really got a solid look on goal, but appeared hungry from the moment he stepped onto the field.
F, Will Bruin, 5 -- Bruin earned his first cap in front of his home fans, but hardly had a chance to make in impression in his brief time on the field. There was one opportunity where Bruin was the intended target for a long pass, but the goalkeeper Thomas gathered it with ease before Bruin could run onto it. Hard to fairly assess.