CHESTER, Pa. – Eric Lichaj and Brek Shea made their U.S. national team debuts. Coach Bob Bradley experimented with another new formation.
The post-World Cup Americans are a work in progress, finishing the home portion of their 2010 schedule with a dull 0-0 draw against Colombia on Tuesday night that extended their three-year winless streak against South American opponents to nine matches.
"It's a game that in the first half, we didn't find a good rhythm," said Bradley, who changed five starters from Saturday's 2-2 tie against Poland in Chicago. "We're not playing forward fast enough, so we couldn't put passes together that took us somewhere. As we go forward, as we work on playing some different ways, we have to work on our movement. As a result, even when we put passes together, we didn't get anywhere."
The U.S. is 4-5-4 this year, in danger of its first losing record in a year since going 5-6-7 in 1997. The Americans complete 2010 play on Nov. 17, when they return to South Africa for an exhibition against Bafana Bafana in Cape Town.
Since a 3-1 exhibition win over Ecuador in March 2007, the Americans are 0-7-2 against South American nations.
After trying out a 4-2-3-1 formation Saturday, Bradley experimented with a 4-3-3 in the first half that turned into more of a 4-5-1, with son Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu and Jermaine Jones all in defensive midfield roles. The Americans wound up playing deep and narrow, with Shea failing to get forward in a pairing with Stuart Holden on the outside.
"It's a new system for us, so we're going to have some communication problems that we need to work on," said Edu, who had been shifted to central defender against the Poles. "I think over time, if we work on this system, we can do well with it. Today wasn't our best game but we can take the positive from it and move on."
Jones and the 21-year-old Lichaj, who entered at right back for Jonathan Spector at the start of the second half, had strong performances. Lichaj's 86th-minute cross set up Jozy Altidore, whose header was saved by 39-year-old goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon.
"It's just about bringing some energy," said Lichaj, who made his Aston Villa debut in August. "I'm just trying to do my part."
Shea, a 20-year-old with FC Dallas, started and was replaced by Clint Dempsey at the start of the second half.
"I was excited more than anything," Shea said. "We struggled a bit tonight. I was a bit nervous understandably. I feel the next time I get to play in a match, I think I definitely will be more comfortable. I think I'll do a lot better and hopefully the team will get a win."
Jones, a Schalke regular, played three exhibition games for Germany before switching nationalities and making his U.S. debut Saturday. He missed all of last season with a shin injury.
In three games since the World Cup, Bradley gave four players debuts. Los Angeles Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez started in the August 2-0 loss to Brazil.
"It was an interesting game for us," Bradley said. "We got an opportunity to get Brek Shea and Eric Lichaj some national attention. That's an important step for both of them."
Without Landon Donovan, who stayed with the Los Angeles Galaxy this week, and Dempsey, who began the night on the bench, the U.S. had no attack in the first half. Both sides showed more life in the second half, as the U.S. switched to its regular 4-4-2 formation. Michael Bradley put the ball in the net in the 73rd minute after Benny Feilhaber, who entered in the 59th, passed to Altidore on a free kick. The goal was disallowed because Bradley and Altidore both were offside.
Oguchi Onyewu was the U.S. captain for the first time until halftime, when he was replaced by Nordsjaelland defender Michael Parkhurst and Dempsey took over the arm band. Still recovering from knee surgery last October, Onyewu went 90 minutes Saturday in his first game action since being benched after the first-round match against Slovenia at the World Cup.
Onyewu hasn't even dressed for AC Milan this season and refused to talk with reporters after the game. Another little-used Rossoneri defender, 34-year-old Mario Yepes, was Colombia's captain.
Aston Villa's Brad Guzan started in goal, while Everton's Tim Howard, the regular No. 1, was on the bench.
Colombia coach Hernan Dario Gomez gave Mondragon his first appearance for the national team since the 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup against Panama.
NOTES: Parkhurst's appearance was his first since July 2009 against Haiti in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. ... The U.S. was without regular captain Carlos Bocanegra and right back Steve Cherundolo. Both returned to Europe after the Poland match. ... It was the first 0-0 tie for the U.S. since an exhibition against Argentina in June 2008.