A snoozer of a first half improved slightly after the half Friday in Scotland, but the United States and its European hosts still played out a scoreless draw in a friendly at Glasgow’s famed Hampden Park.
It was just the fourth scoreless draw for the World Cup-bound Americans in 26 months under manager Jurgen Klinsmann, and the team’s first since playing Mexico to a valuable 0-0 draw at Azteca Stadium in March.
Young U.S. forward Aron Johannsson (pictured), who came off the bench, had a couple of chances late for Klinsmann’s team, and Jozy Altidore got had a couple of near misses, too, as the visitors were the more dangerous team after the break.
Tim Howard was tested just once at the other end; the longtime United States No. 1 saved impressively on a well-placed Robert Snodgrass 53rd-minute free kick.
This was the first of two friendlies in Europe connected to this November FIFA fixture window; the United States travels east into Austria for a friendly Tuesday in Vienna. Neither Scotland nor Austria qualified of the World Cup, whereas the United States just advanced into its 7th consecutive finals tournament.
Scotland had more of the ball and most of the half-chances, which is about all either team could muster in an uneventful and slightly ragged opening period. Craig Conway scruffed his team’s best chance of the first half, shooting harmlessly wide after some good arrangement work from Steven Fletcher and Snodgrass.
At the other end, Sacha Kljestan arranged something for Altidore to create the best U.S. chance before intermission, but the luckless-of-late Sunderland man went well high from 17 yards with his side-winding volley.
The lack of punch in the U.S. attack probably wasn’t suprising considering the chief U.S. playmakers in the final third, Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan, were out due to injury. So Kljestan had the keys to the offense, assigned to the role Dempsey or Donovan would typically occupy. Playing just ahead of Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley in Klinsmann’s preferred version of a 4-3-3, came out after 60 minutes having held his own, although no one would call it a game-changing performance.
Second half introductions of Brek Shea, Mix Diskerud and Johannsson put a little more pop in the U.S. attack; Klinsmann’s team had gained just 43 percent of possession prior to intermission.
Bradley was back into the U.S. lineup, as the linchpin midfielder – truly, the most important man to next year’s World Cup endeavor – got on the field for the first time since his freak injury just before a September World Cup qualifier.