The United States men's national team finished without a victory from its two January friendlies after a scoreless draw with Colombia at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, on Saturday.
The U.S. had the better of the chances, most coming in an engaging first half, but failed to find the breakthrough against an inexperienced Colombia team that, like the Americans, was missing its European stars in the non-FIFA-window matchup.
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Now with just four goals in its past seven games, a lack of cutting edge in attack continues to prove the biggest issue to solve for the U.S. as it begins its build toward jointly hosting the World Cup in 2026.
Interim coach Anthony Hudson opted to field a more experienced side than in the 2-1 loss Wednesday to Serbia, with all five players on the roster who went to the 2022 World Cup getting a start.
There was still plenty of youth, though, including debuts for Paxten Aaronson and John Tolkin and a first start for DeJuan Jones. Aaronson's presence meant he and Leeds United's Brenden Aaronson became the eighth set of brothers to represent the U.S. at the senior level.
"Overall, I think we achieved our objectives,'' Hudson said. "There's a bunch of players we wanted to see with us, to see in competitive situations. It was a case of being able to look at those players in our environment and being able to get through two games physically."
Colombia, meanwhile, fielded four players from Major League Soccer in a lineup featuring only one player with more than five caps.
Despite several players on both sides being in their preseason, there was plenty of intensity in the opening 45 minutes.
And, with both teams looking to attack quickly in transition, there were ample opportunities at both ends, even if a lack of precision in the final third prevented anyone from capitalizing.
The energetic Aaronson had two clear sights at goal, first failing to get enough purchase on a side-footed effort after six minutes that went straight at Colombia goalkeeper Alvaro Montero. Later, a desperate diving block by defender Andres Llinas deflected another Aaronson effort wide of the target.
"Paxten is a really exciting player, hugely confident. He came in a day or two late but you can see his quality. We don't know what his level will be, but we believe in his talent and will see what he can do," Hudson said.
Perhaps the best opening fell the way of Matthew Hoppe. But with Paul Arriola begging for a square pass, the Middlesbrough forward shot straight at the Colombia keeper after being found by Jesus Ferreira's through-ball.
The U.S. defense was still given plenty to think about at the other end, where LAFC's Chicho Arango and Columbus' Cucho Hernandez were looking to make inroads against an all-MLS back four. It was to Yilmar Velazquez that Colombia's best chance of the opening half fell, but the midfielder scuffed his shot wide of the target.
Chances proved to be at more of a premium after half-time. Walker Zimmerman headed a difficult chance over from a corner while Ferreira, playing against the country of his birth, failed to get a shot away when he found a brief opening in the box.
But, with both sides making plenty of changes as the period wore on, the second half turned into more of a traditional slower-paced January friendly. There were USMNT debuts off the bench for Emmanuel Sabbi and Samual Rogers but the U.S. could not find a goal to show for its efforts.
"It's a great group of players, and that speaks to the depth of our player group,'' said USMNT keeper Sean Johnson. "There's good times ahead for us. We would have loved to win, and we had our chances, but it was solid all around. As a group, I feel like this camp was a step forward.''