Canada, U.S. men battle to scoreless draw in Toronto friendly

Canada's men national team played the United States to a 0-0 draw in Toronto on Sunday in an international friendly.
Tim Howard (1) of USA makes a save against Canada during their international friendly match on Sunday at BMO Field in Toronto. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Stephen Hart took a lot of positives away from Canada's 0-0 draw with the United States in an international friendly Sunday.

And the coach of the Canadian men's national team hopes to carry that momentum into the next stage of World Cup qualifying, which begins Friday.

"Overall, two different halves for us," Hart said. "In the first half we showed good discipline, good organization but we were a little sloppy with the ball at times and a little bit, too, maybe nervous.

"But I was very pleased with the way we played in the second half."

The game's most exciting moments came in second-half stoppage time as both teams missed glorious chances to snatch a winner.

Canadian substitute Simeon Jackson failed to hit the target from in close after taking a pass from Dwayne De Rosario in stoppage time in front of the crowd of 15,247 at BMO Field.

Then seconds later at the other end, Canadian goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld knocked a ball over the bar on a header from Clarence Goodson off a free kick.

"We were unlucky at the end not to score and the U.S. also had a big chance at the end," Canadian defender Kevin McKenna said.

Canada, which has not defeated the U.S. in 27 years, will travel to Cuba for a World Cup qualifying game Friday as the country looks to make the tournament out of the CONCACAF region for just the second time.

"I thought we showed good organization, good patience defensively and it allowed us to get several opportunities on the transition, on the counter attack," Hart said.

McKenna said the Canadians played committed to the system.

"I think it was just not at the back four," said McKenna, the team captain. "I think the whole team, as unit, we defended very well."

While the U.S. was playing its third exhibition game in a little more than a week, the Canadians were on the pitch together for the first time in more than three months.

Canada hadn't played since a 3-1 loss to Armenia in February and the rust showed in the early going. But Canada began to mesh as the game wore and had a goal called back because of a foul in the latter stages of the first half.

The Americans, meanwhile, were coming off a pair of contrasting friendly results, having defeated Scotland 5-1 last Saturday and then losing to Brazil 4-1 on Wednesday.

"I think the first half we were doing quite well in terms of possession and moving the ball around," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "I think what we were lacking was in the final third failing to create more chances and getting down the end line and getting crosses in.

"The second half was more open and either team could have scored a goal, particularly in the last couple of minutes."

The U.S. had most of the early possession with Jermaine Jones having a shot blocked in the second minute and Goodson missing to the left with a shot from close range about a minute later.

But the Canadians settled in and began to do some attacking of their own. De Rosario roused the Canadian fans in the ninth minute when he had his shot from the left side go past the post.

Hirschfeld then tipped a shot from Edgar Castillo over the bar in the 15th minute.

Canada stepped up the pressure and it resulted in a chance in the 23rd minute when Tosaint Ricketts forced U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard to make a save on his shot from the centre of the box.

Nik Ledgerwood put the ball into the top left corner of the U.S. goal in the 34th minute but it was waved off because of a foul by a Canadian player in the 18-yard-box.

De Rosario said he was not told by the referee what happened on the disallowed goal.

"I have no idea," De Rosario said. "I asked the referee and he didn't give me an explanation. He just said it's a free kick. Unfortunately that's to be expected. To get that call at that stage of the game is probably something we'll face in coming games.

"And the way we kept our composure and kept our heads and kept plugging away shows our experience and it shows our professionalism and our growth as a team."

Late in the first half, Hirschfeld stopped Clint Dempsey's shot from the right side of the box.

Jackson ended a nifty jaunt in 68th minute by launching a ball from just outside the penalty area barely over the crossbar.

"Canada proved tonight that they are right there," Klinsmann said. "They are highly competitive and they give you everything they have. And they will make it difficult for every team to play against."