USMNT

World Cup qualifying match report: Honduras 1-1 USMNT

Photo: Earl Gardner

Honduras went ahead in the first half, but substitute Bobby Wood’s late equalizer earned a road point for the Americans. In a match short on good chances, the home side had more opportunities to leave the US behind, but they couldn’t notch a second goal and Kellyn Acosta’s late free kick rebounded off the woodwork to set up Wood’s 85th minute effort.

Bruce Arena made significant changes to his lineup both because of suspensions and the opponent.  Brad Guzan took over in goal behind Graham Zusi, Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, and Damarcus Beasley. Kellyn Acosta joined Michael Bradley in midfield with Christian Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe on the wings behind an all-Seattle Sounders frontline of Jordan Morris and Clint Dempsey.

First half

In the 20th minute, Pulsic snuck up the right and cut the ball back to Dempsey at the top of the box, but the Sounders striker was under pressure quickly and lofted a tame effort at goal.

Three minutes later, Honduras broke down the left, with Zusi left in the dust. Although the resulting shot was easily handled by Guzan, it was a sign of things to come.

A minute later, Honduras had an even better chance. They broke up the left again and a cross to the center should have been turned in but for Beasley providing late pressure on the shooter. The US left back was hit in the head on the play but was eventually able to play on.

In the 28th minute, Honduras took the lead through Houston Dynamo winger Romell Quioto. The US defense was easily punctured up the left once more, with both wingers high and both midfielders central. Honduras had time to pick out a simple pass behind the defense and then it was just a matter of hoping Omar Gonzalez would choose to let the ball run through rather than kick it as it rolled directly next to him.

Luckily for Honduras, Gonzalez inexplicably let it roll and Quioto finished against the inside of Guzan’s far post.

Moments later, the home side nearly doubled their lead up the left once more. A cross came in inches in front of two attackers crashing the six yard box but spun through to the far side of the pitch untouched.

After a water break, Honduras was at it again. Besler committed a foul at the top right of the box, but the ensuing free kick was lofted into the stratosphere.

In the 36th minute, Beasley collected a caution after he was easily turned. It was an easy call and most memorable for how unsurprising it was to see Honduras once again treat the American defense like they played for Adrian Heath.

The half ended appropriately with Michael Bradley airmailing a free kick well over the heads of everyone on the pitch.

Second half

The second half started slowly, but Honduras once again tested Guzan in the 52nd minute. The keeper stopped the initial shot and collected the rebound, but moments later Honduras was exploring the right side again, only for Kellyn Acosta’s late help to bail out Beasley. The young midfielder then released Morris through the left channel but the resulting cross was aimless and cleared.

Pulisic finally got on the ball in the 56th minute, and was lucky to have a call go his way 25 yards out. Dempsey too the ensuing free kick and blasted it into the wall.

In the 61st minute it was once again Honduras on the attack, with Guzan gathering a long, fiery shot.

Bruce Arena called on Paul Arriola and Geoff Cameron to replace his fullbacks as the final half hour began, switching to a three-back shape with Bradley protecting the center.

Little was gained from the change and in the 73rd Arena completed the formation change by bringing in Bobby Wood for Nagbe and letting Dempsey and Pulisic run off the striker. It nearly produced immediate dividends as Woody occupied both center backs and allowed the ball to pop out to Dempsey for a poor-angled volley that was cleared out for a corner. Three Honduras players and Omar Gonzalez ended up on the ground and the home side was awarded a free kick.

Honduras should have doubled their lead in the 76th minute. Poor coordination meant a 4v3 against the US backline, but Bradley quickly dropped and the transition passing was lacking. Even so, space opened up for a shot at Guzan from 15 yards out that was deflected and landed in the goalie’s arms.

Moments later, Antony Lozano was in a footrace with Michael Bradley down the right channel, but his shot zipped wide of the near post. Almost immediately after, Honduras once again had a 4v3 that last ditch tackling cleared away from the box.

Finally, in the 85th minute, the US won a scramble drill following a wonderful Acosta free kick and got on the board. Pulisic won a free kick 28 yards out in the center, and Acosta whipped it torward the top right corner of the goal. Luis Lopez palmed the shot off the bar, but Matt Besler was onto it first and flicked the ball inside to Wood. THe striker calmly chested it down and poked it into the net to even the match.

The result leaves the US tied for 3rd place in their hex with Honduras, six points behind Costa Rica and eight back of Mexico, with those teams facing off later tonight.

6 Comments

  1. pathetic

  2. soon to be eleven points behind a not very good mexico is disheartening.
    .
    apologists be damned.

  3. They did not look good. If Brooks isn’t available, the US should always be in a 3-5-2 because everyone else is too soft except when Cameron plays with Brooks. Only positive is that Arena is navigating the hex, which he was brought in to do. This isn’t saying much though.

    • phil in wilmington says:

      I think for my own sanity I need to not well on these past two qualifiers. I saw some good, but I also saw some young players still learning, but more revealingly was established players who are either showing thier ceiling or that they are starting to be a little past things. It’s frustrating, but that’s part of what qualifying should do.

      I personally think a 3-5-2 makes the most of the talent of our current players and would like to see more of it going forward.

      A healthy John Brooks and Cameron plus any one of Ream/Besler is a solid enough back 3. Plus, Matt Hedges or Matt Miazga can sub into that trio if an injury demanded it. I’m done with Omar Gonzalez and his Johnathan Bornstein dumpster fire impersonation nonsense. If we’re committed to being a pressing team, he is no longer a defender that is appropriate for the pool, as he has shown over at least a half-dozen games now that he does not know how to do that. That’s not his fault, but it’s clear he’s been a square peg being put in a round hole too many times now.

      The past few matches have also revealed that we curently have no true international caliber fullbacks. However, DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Johnson have proven themselves to be capable wingbacks (Yedlin more so than Johnson as of late). They both have speed, attacking threat, and chemistry with the players that would sit higher up the field on thier respective sides, and are servicable enough as emergency defenders. Villafana and Lichaj as injury backups lose attacking bite and speed, but would be serviceable in a pinch as “defend first attack second” subs. Personally, I’m done with Zusi as an international fullback, nor do I want him as the backup to Yedlin. He’s just not a defender, emergency of otherwise. If he’s being burned so often in qualifying, I cannot fathom what will happen to him on the world stage. Making that call now gives the squad time to adjust and build chemistry. Not to take anything away from his contributions to the MNT, but again, if we are going to be a high pressing team and we’re looking to put out best players on the field, then we have to turn the page. Wingbacks also address how underwhelming Fabian has been higher up the pitch (even when he was healthy he was not in synch with the other midfielders) and solves the issue of where to play Nagbe. It also gets Arriola on the field on the right side and keeps Pulisic central, with either Wood or Morris as the #9. I would then reserve Altidore and Dempsey as 60th minute subs up top coming in to replace any of Pulisc, Arriola, Nagbe, Aor Acosta/Bradley to play centrally as a second striker or extra attacker (in MLS Altidore likes to drop deeper to find his success… he’s not a true #9, same for Dempsey but for different reasons).

      That would offensively create overload situations and passing triangles all over the field that would allow for multiple avenues at unlocking bunkered teams (read: Trinidad and Tobago and Panama) as well as facilitate possession and allow for counters from either flank (Yedlin or Johnson) or centrally (Morris Wood Pulisic) against teams we’re judged to be the underdog against.

      That then leaves Acosta/Bradley/McCarty (plus maybe a healthy Lleget, an in-form Williams, or a revived Jermaine Jones) as your defensive midfield pairings, with one sitting just ahead of the back three and one ranging a little forward. This provided more cover on the counter and addresses the maddening “two banks of 5” that we saw both against costa rica and honduras for long stretches.

      As for goalkeepers, staying the course with platooning Guzan and Howard and whatever third keeper that lets you sleep at night through Russia makes sense.

      But this team needs to stop leaking goals and needs to put players in positions where they can sucess in pairings that play to thietr strengths and minimizes thier weakness or poor tendencies. I think a 5-2-3-1 best accomplishes that.

  4. Horrible decision by Omar to slide tackle Quioto. This sets up a must-win home game against a very motivated Panama.

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