CHESTER, Pa. -- Maybe it was because it was a school night in October, or perhaps it was the match's designation as a meaningless "friendly." It's kind of hard to figure out, really.
Add the fact that star striker Landon Donovan wasn't part of the United States roster named for Tuesday's match against Colombia at PPL Park here (which could have hurt walk-up sales) and you have the recipe for a paltry crowd of 8,823 showing up.
The soccer on display wasn't much to write home about, either. U.S. coach Bob Bradley continued to chop and change as we enter a new FIFA World Cup cycle. But while the U.S. played an exciting brand of attacking soccer in tying Poland 2-2 in a friendly in Chicago last Saturday, Tuesday's 0-0 tie with Colombia featured none of that spark.
Michael Bradley, the midfield fulcrum of the U.S. attack on most occasions, was employed so deep that he almost looked like a fifth defender. Brek Shea of FC Dallas got his first appearance for the team in a pairing up top with Jozy Altidore, but the two players got little to no service.
In fact, Colombia (no doubt buoyed by the pro-Colombian crowd, as small as it was) looked game in the beginning, forcing a few good saves from U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who got the start over Tim Howard. Jonathan Spector, who has lost his starting place with West Ham in the English Premier League this season, was burned out wide early, and the Colombians pressed the ball into their attacking third.
The whole game, in fact, was an exercise in lateral possession by both teams, with very few probing balls toward the strikers. That makes for a nice coaching video on the merits of keeping the ball, but for spectators, it rings a little hollow. Even when Altidore did get the ball, the Mexican refereeing crew seemed intent on whistling him for a foul even for breathing on his opponent.
I know Bob Bradley is trying things out ahead of the more important Gold Cup and 2014 World Cup qualifying matches that loom down the road, but leaving Clint Dempsey on the bench for a half and not even naming Donovan to the squad robs this U.S. side of some precious skill.
The team that played against Colombia looked a lot like the "B" version who made the Gold Cup final but lost to Mexico 5-0 last time around. There's tons of American athletic ability, but very few players who can unlock a defense and produce sustained attacks on goal.
As far as the low crowd number, one hopes its just an anamoly. The Philadelphia Union draws extremely well, and the U.S. vs. Turkey match before the World Cup drew nearly 60,000 to the Linc. Heck, maybe Phillies fever is so pervasive, people just gave this game a pass. I guess we'll never know.