FRISCO, Texas (Wednesday, March 28, 2007) -- Goalkeeper Kasey Keller recorded his 46th career shutout, but the United States attack was stifled, leaving the Americans to settle for a dreary 0-0 draw with Guatemala tonight before 10,932 at Pizza Hut Park.
Keller needed to make only two saves in his 97th international appearance. He passed Alexi Lalas to move into 10th place all-time in caps and should become the ninth American to reach the 100 milestone sometime in June.
Neither team generated much offense with the U.S holding a 7-6 edge in shots, 3-2 on frame. While the Americans maintained a significant edge in possession, it had little success solving the packed defense of Guatemala, which was satisfied waiting for the occasional counterattack.
"I think it was a good learning experience, particularly for our younger players," said interim coach Bob Bradley, who was the first to win his first three matches at the U.S. helm and is now 3-0-1. "It's a different kind of game, one that they need to see because we all understand that we are going to see these kind of games in (World Cup) qualifying. At times tonight, it seemed like we were afraid to make a mistake. We have to find the confidence to push the game harder. There is a mentality that goes along with it, that even if the goal doesn't come easily, it's not something that you allow to frustrate you. Those are things that hopefully we can learn from."
The U.S. and Guatemala meet again June 7 to open Group B in the CONCACAF Gold Cup at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. U.S. striker and captain Landon Donovan expects the same tactics from the Chapines. "Sure. Why not? It worked, right?" he asked. "They don't care what it looked like, they were there to get a result. Give them credit, they did what they needed to do."
Bradley said his team had gained "an understanding of the possibility of another game that feels like this. Knowing how to stick to the task a little bit better, knowing how to break things down. . . It's certainly good for us to experience this kind of game."
Donovan, coming off a sensational three-goal effort in Sunday's 3-1 triumph over Ecuador in Tampa, Fla., was held scoreless after finding net five times in the first three outings of the year. He remained at 30 career goals, tying him with Brian McBride for second all-time for the U.S., four behind Eric Wynalda.
Guatemala's best chance came moments before intermission when striker forward Carlos Ruiz, who plays his club ball here with Major League Soccer's FC Dallas, slipped the mark of U.S. defender Jimmy Conrad to receive a corner kick and hit a side-winding blast that bounced once over the crossbar.
In the 55th minute, Ruiz tried to catch Keller off his goal-line, but the keeper easily caught up with the Guatemalan's shot from 30 yards. Otherwise, limited by Conrad's tight coverage, Ruiz most notably lived up to his nickname "El Pascadito (Little Fish)" by flopping around on the ground, feigning injury, usually on phantom fouls. He was lustily booed throughout the match by a crowd that consisted of his usual home fans.
The U.S.'s first good chance to score came in the 61st minute when Donovan's entry pass into the penalty area was weakly cleared to wide-open U.S. defender Jonathan Spector. The 21-year-old mis-hit his attempt from 15 yards and it trickled over the end line.
A minute later, a nice combination of passes culminated with Clint Dempsey freeing fellow midfielder Justin Mapp, who shot low and just wide right from 12 yards.
"There were a few decent (opportunities), but still, in a game like that, you're probably not going to see a lot of chances," Donovan said. "We didn't do a good enough job to get the ball into the places where we needed to create chances."
After that, Guatemala seemed increasingly content to leave with a draw and the Americans, despite more and more time with the ball, were powerless to crack the bunker.
Notes: Two defenders based in England made their international debuts for the U.S. -- Frank Simek (Sheffield Wednesday) on the right and Jay DeMerit (Watford) in the middle.
"It was pretty cool. It was something I've wanted to do for awhile now and it was a great honor to get my first cap," Simek said. "The result could have gone better for us, I thought, but (Guatemala) sat in and frustrated us. All in all, it was a decent performance, but we should have ended up better."
Said Demerit: "It was good. I enjoyed every minute of it. Obviously, there are still things to improve on, but as a first time out, we held together and kept a clean sheet. It would have been great to get a win in your first cap, but overall I enjoyed it and we got a decent result. It was a great challenge and hopefully, there is more to come."
Three Americans earned their second caps, including FC Dallas' Kenny Cooper who entered the front line, moving Donovan back to midfield. Midfielder Benny Feilhaber, whose international debut was Sunday against Ecuador, and midfielder Brian Mullan joined Copper.
The U.S. will face China June 2 at Spartan Stadium in San Jose, Calif., before facing an important summer. The Americans will attempt to defend their title against 11 other contenders in the Gold Cup, the championship for the region of North America, Central America and the Caribbean, June 6-24 in several U.S. cities
Then comes Copa America, a 12-nation battle for the South American championship, June 26-July 15, competed in nine cities in Venezuela.