HOUSTON — The United States prepped for its opening game in the final round of World Cup qualifying with a dull 0-0 tie against Canada on Tuesday night as defender Omar Gonzalez returned to the American national team lineup after a two-year absence.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann changed all 11 starters from November’s 2-2 tie at Russia and is likely to change the entire lineup again for the Feb. 6 qualifier against Honduras at San Pedro Sula. These players were auditioning for backup roles on next week’s trip.
Gonzalez was the senior member of the backline. Making his third international appearance, the 6-foot-5 Los Angeles Galaxy center back was joined by three players making their national team debuts: right back Tony Beltran, center back Matt Besler and left back Justin Morrow. Will Bruin and Alfredo Morales made their debuts when they entered in the 74th minute.
Gonzalez made his national team debut in August 2010 against Brazil and played against Chile the following January. He tore his left anterior cruciate ligament last January on his first day training with Nuremberg and returned to the field for the Galaxy on July 4.
With Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore and the other regulars remaining with their clubs in Europe for weekend matches, the U.S. started an all-Major League Soccer lineup for the first time since January 2007 against Denmark.
The game, which followed the annual January training camp in Carson, Calif., was the second straight 0-0 game against Canada, following another yawner at Toronto last June.
On a night when the 28th-ranked Americans’ movement was slow and accuracy was sloppy, Benny Feilhaber generated the only U.S. shot on target in the second half.
No. 64 Canada, rebuilding after getting knocked out in the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying last fall, were coming off a 4-0 loss to Denmark on Saturday. Hard rain began falling with about 10 minutes left, putting an extra damper on the night for the U.S. team.
Still, the Americans extended their unbeaten streak against Canada to 16 games (8-0-8) since a 2-0 loss at Vancouver, British Columbia, in April 1985.
Canada goalkeeper Simon Thomas easily scooped up Feilhaber’s shot from the right side in stoppage time, and when Honduran referee Raul Castro blew the final whistle, several Americans bent over and shook their heads in frustration.
MLS scoring leader Chris Wondolowski had the first two shots for the U.S., a soft bicycle kick in the 13th minute and a long try from the top of the penalty area in the 18th. Otherwise, the Americans looked disjointed on offense, misfiring on most of their passes and giving away sloppy turnovers in traffic.
The U.S. team finally created some chances in the final minutes of the first half, including two corner kicks.
The Canadians, who fielded their youngest squad since 2006, tended to drop back and look for counterattacks.
Feilhaber entered at the start of the second half for his 32nd international appearance and seemed to give the Americans a spark.
He passed to Brad Evans down the flank, and Evans squared the ball for Eddie Johnson, who skied a point-blank shot from about 15 yards. Feilhaber sent a free kick to Gonzalez, whose header was over the bar in the 68th.