The United Sates traveled to Toronto Sunday to face border rival Canada in friendly leading up to World Cup qualifying this weekend. “Friendly” is the only way to describe the US performance in a scoreless draw that saw both teams play with lackluster desire. For those traveling to watch the match, it was a shameful example of heart and passion we normally expect from the US. After a tough match versus Brazil on Wednesday, it seems the squad collectively decided to take the day off and not exert themselves in any competitive aspect. Canada does deserve credit, in a day commemorating the country’s 100th year of soccer; our northern neighbors played with more emotion and intensity than the opposition. After such a heated battle versus Brazil and crucial qualifying matches ahead, the national team was in an awkward position. Any competitor wants to win, that’s why they play the game, but Sunday’s bland performance did not concern the players or the coaching staff.
From the fans viewpoint, the match was merely a scrimmage, with both squads saving energy for their World Cup qualifiers beginning this weekend for CONCACAF countries. Both teams began to substitute players heavily in the second with only two players not being used for the US. As far as the play on the field, both teams had multiple chances throughout the match, especially Canada, who would have scored if it weren’t for world-class saves from Timmy Howard. From the beginning of the match, the US didn’t show any urgency when controlling the ball and never had the pace offensively like the match against Brazil. One positive coming from the US was the defensive side of the ball, which held a clean sheet despite the fact of losing Fabian Johnson in warm-ups. In post-match comments, both the players and Jurgen Klinsmann remained calm, showing no signs of worry, stressing the importance of the upcoming matches.
There are two viewpoints when looking at Sunday’s match versus Canada. One is to view the match as a careless and lazy performance by the US, with problems highlighted in the midfield and offensive rhythm. Second is to view the match as merely a scrimmage and a way to stay in form for Friday’s qualifier versus Antigua and Barbuda. Either viewpoint causes concerns moving forward for the United States. After such intense and controversial statements surrounding the Brazil friendly, there seemed to be minimal attention in the preparation, performance, result, and reaction versus Canada. It may be nothing, it may be hypercritical, but the United States cannot behave so “friendly” when a spot in the 2014 World Cup is on the line.