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June 3, 2012
U.S. draws Canada 0-0 in final tuneup before World Cup qualifying

Clint Dempsey got his first start, and put in his first 90-minute shift, since arriving at U.S. camp from Fulham in Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Canada.
Clint Dempsey got his first start, and put in his first 90-minute shift, since arriving at U.S. camp from Fulham in Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Canada.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
TORONTO—It’s probably a good thing that the United States opens World Cup Qualifying on Friday against one of the tiniest minnows in the CONCACAF pool (Antigua & Barbuda), because if Sunday’s scoreless draw with Canada at BMO Field is any indication, coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s strategy of “training by tournament” has taken a toll on the legs and wind of the team tasked with taking the USA to Brazil in 2014.

After last Wednesday’s drubbing by Brazil, Klinsmann said he wanted his team to be more aggressive, and they took him at his word, racking up two corner kicks within the first 2:01 of Sunday’s match, and getting their first good look at goal with Clarence Goodson’s side-volley from inside the six-yard box off the second dead ball.

The most spectacular U.S. chance of the half came from left back Edgar Castillo, whose 40-yard Hail Mary volley forced Canada ‘keeper Lars Hirschfeld to parry the ball over the bar in the 15th. But it was Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan – paired in the starting 11 for the first time under Klinsmann – who brought the U.S. closest to the scoreboard, with a give-and-go from the top of the penalty area ten minutes before the intermission. Donovan took the initial pass and threaded the return through to Dempsey, but Hirschfeld came off his line to block the ball off Dempsey’s foot.

The half was not totally one-sided, however, and the blue-clad Canadians exposed some holes in the U.S. backline. Reigning MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario was the first to break through, sending a low shot just wide of the right post. And in the 23rd minute, U.S. ‘keeper Tim Howard had to dive to his left to pick off a shot by Tosaint Ricketts that deflected off a defender’s toe.

After the break, Canada exerted the early pressure, but without generating much danger, and within less than ten minutes, the U.S. seized the momentum. Jermaine Jones, in addition to playing take-no-prisoners defense throughout the match, dove toward the left post to get his head on Donovan’s cross from the far side of the penalty area in the 52nd minute, only to see the shot blocked out for a corner kick. Seconds later, Castillo brought the ball deep on the left side before centering a pass for Dempsey, who missed contact. And in the 55th, Jones drew a foul from Canada defender Andre Hainault to set up a 20-yard Donovan free kick that Carlos Bocanegra headed over the bar.

But with every minute that passed, and every substitution that Klinsmann sent onto the field –starting with Jozy Altidore for Jose Torres and Oguchi Onyewu for Bocanegra in the 62nd minute and continuing with Maurice Edu for Donovan in the 73rd, Michael Parkhurst for Steve Cherundolo and Chris Wondolowski for Herculez Gomez in the 80th – U.S. possession and attacking momentum seemed to suffer. Substitutions, meanwhile, especially the insertion of Simeon Jackson for Olivier Occean in the 65th minute, energized the Canadians.

Just three minutes after entering the game, Jackson made a run through the U.S. backline and sent a dangerous shot looping just over the bar. Around the same time, Howard came up with saves on Nik Ledgerwood and Julian DeGuzman. But solid U.S. defending left most of the Canadian forays sputtering in the penalty area.

Neither team was content with the scoreless result, however, and they traded heartstopping chances in the closing seconds of stoppage time. Canada brought the home crowd to its feet when De Rosario beat Parkhurst to the left end line, then cut a sharp ball across the goalmouth for Jackson, who sent a sitter well wide of the net. The action quickly moved to the far end, where Michael Bradley sent a U.S. free kick into the mixer for Goodson, whose blasted header was slapped away by Hirschfeld. The ensuing corner kick was cleared as the final whistle blew.

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