FOX Soccer Exclusive
USA fails to impress, draws Scotland
The United States men's national team drew Scotland 0-0 Friday night in a late-season friendly here at Hampden Park. It was just as exciting as it sounds and if you stop reading here, dear reader, I will not blame you.
It’s difficult to totally convey the smothering apathy exhibited in this match. Dreadful doesn’t quite sum it up. The most apt comparison, a reference to the pan-galatically painful poetry of the Vogon race, would go right over most people’s heads. So let’s just say: it was dull, but it was long.
Despite outward appearances, and the fact that most of the men here wore boots and jerseys, there was virtually no football played at Hampden this evening. Neither team tackled -- with reason; after all it was a late-season friendly -- and neither team really ran, either. But most games have a few chances, and one or two players usually try to impress a manager. None did despite the fact that there were more than a few fringe players on the rosters on Friday night.
How poor was it? Just one shot actually looked like it might go into the net, a free-kick hoisted up and over the American wall by Robert Snodgrass that Tim Howard saw all the way, and subsequently palmed over his bar. The USA’s closest response was a low cutter wide and left of David Marshall’s post, fired from range by Jozy Altidore off service from Geoff Cameron.
Why the match was so poor deserves closer examination. The Americans, of course, had nothing to prove and little to play for. They quickly settled into the rhythm set by the Scots, which was little more than a canter, and they can be excused. The late introduction of Brek Shea and Aron Johannsson at least introduced two players with points to prove, but the fact is that the USA seemed to sense this was a game not worth fighting for. The best of this bunch is in mid-season, and there’s no profit in getting injured in Glasgow when the real games are yet to come in Europe, and later, Brazil.
The Scots, who have a bit more work to do to convince, looked like they wanted to huff and puff, but their essential quality is so lacking that they spent more time adjusting to errant passes and miskicking the ball. This, again, was in a game played at a pace more befitting a testimonial. There was no pressure on the ball, plenty of space for runners to roam, and a cutting diagonal ball would have wreaked havoc.
As it stands, the fact that the Scots kept the USA off the scoreboard might stand as a triumph. Last time they met, the Americans whipped them 5-1. But also keep in mind that this is a team with a very low bar for success. They have been very poor for a very long time: so poor, that one columnist here in Glasgow noted, with some satisfaction, that very few of the Scottish players had refused a call-up to this team. That stands as a step in the right direction.
Some in the States will ask why the Americans didn’t put this team to the sword. There is little doubt they had more quality, and in the dying moments, Altidore might have won this but for a strong tackle from Grant Hanley, poking the ball up and over his own bar. Johannsson might have also netted late, but his attempt was well wide and right despite having all the net to shoot at.
The Scottish fans, who know a great deal about the sport, dealt with it all with their typical good humor. There were shouts for a penalty when Barry Bannan was felled-- some 30 yards from net. The stands began to empty ten minutes before time. The fans cheered when only two minutes of stoppage were given. More would have been torture.
The sad thing is the fans continue to be the best thing about Scottish football. As Jurgen Klinsmann noted, they will be sorely missed in Brazil. The team, on the other hand, will not be.
Scotland: 1-David Marshall; 2-Alan Hutton, 3-Steve Whittaker (18-Lee Wallace, 69), 4-Grant Hanley, 5-Gordon Greer; 6-Barry Bannan (14-Steven Naismith, 81), 7-Charlie Mulgrew, 8-Scott Brown (capt.), 9-Steven Fletcher; 10-Robert Snodgrass (20-Ross McCormack, 69), 11-Craig Conway (19-Gary MacKay-Steven, 84).
United States: 1-Tim Howard (capt.); 6-Brad Evans (2-Eric Lichaj, 72), 3-Omar Gonzalez, 20-Geoff Cameron, 7-DaMarcus Beasley; 4-Michael Bradley, 13-Jermaine Jones (10-Mix Diskerud, 62); 11-Alejandro Bedoya (19-Chris Wondolowski, 81), 16-Sacha Kljestan (9-Aron Johannsson, 62), 18-Eddie Johnson (21-Brek Shea, 62); 17-Jozy Altidore (15-Terrence Boyd, 90).