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Reaction and player ratings: Honduras 2–1 USA

On Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. endured a hot and steamy game against stiff opposition, as they returned to World Cup Qualifying play with a 2–1 loss in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. It was a game where both teams were quite evenly matched, and the U.S. should feel chagrined to have let a point slip through its fingers due to individual errors.

First half

The U.S. lineup had a couple of surprises, with Omar Gonzalez taking the place of usual captain Carlos Bocanegra alongside Geoff Cameron in central defense. Jermaine Jones also started, alongside both Michael Bradley and Danny Williams, but as a withdrawn wide player, with Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore switching around up top, and Eddie Johnson on the wing.

The first half was notable for early Honduras pressure, and nerves showing in the U.S. back line, but the U.S. soon settled, and the game, while not end to end, was evenly balanced. Honduras had a couple of half chances midway through the period, but nothing that unduly troubled Tim Howard in goal. The U.S. slowly grew into the game, and it was the Americans who struck first. A good passing move through midfield saw Jermaine Jones, of all people, loft a delicate chip over the Honduran defense, where Clint Dempsey was making a late, untracked run. His first-time volley was deceptively deft, and flashed across the face of goal and into the far-post side netting.

After that, the U.S. looked to assert its dominance, but Honduras responded swiftly. A Honduran corner flew harmlessly over the U.S. box, but Honduras collected the ball and sent it back across. The U.S. defense, while well-positioned, did not challenge the ball as it fell into the box and was chested down to Juan Carlos Garcia, who seemed harmless, facing away from goal. But, as Geoff Cameron strode forward to challenge, Garcia executed a textbook-perfect bicycle kick, sending an unstoppable volley past Howard and into the U.S. net.

Honduras had all the momentum, but the U.S. did well to marshal things and get to the break without conceding a second.

Second half

The second half continued the pattern of the first, with neither team seeming dominant offensively, or likely to give up a goal. The day was hot and the field, with it’s long grass, was playing slow and heavy, and as the half wore on, it was clear that fatigue was affecting both teams. Timmy Chandler, a starter at right back and finally cap-tied to the United States, was perhaps the most obviously tired, getting turned several times, but Jurgen Klinsmann left him on, replacing Williams, Jones, and Eddie Johnson with Maurice Edu, Graham Zusi, and Sacha Kljestan. The game was there to be won, and Klinsmann clearly wanted all three points.

As it was, the substitutions could work no magic, and it seemed, even as early as the 75th minute, that a draw was on the cards. Unfortunately, even if both teams are content with a draw, if one team stops playing, the other is under no obligation to stop, too. In the 79th, a ball was sent through the U.S. defense. Geoff Cameron, the closest defender, could have tackled the ball away without incident, but instead chose to let the ball run on to Howard. Whether Howard called for it or not, he was too far away, especially considering how slow the surface was playing, and Oscar Boniek Garcia stole in and poked the ball across goal as Howard ran out to close him down. Gonzalez, otherwise steady, had let his own man pass him by, perhaps thinking (with reason) that Cameron and/or Howard had things under control. In control they were not, however, and Honduras’s Jerry Bengtson stole in to poke the ball home. The U.S. had a few late chances from set pieces, but nothing came of them.

Conclusions

This one is difficult to take. The team played well enough to get a draw and, under other circumstances, might even have won. Instead, individual errors led to an entirely preventable goal, and the U.S. starts the Hexagonal with predictable drama. Yes, the conditions were difficult—the heat and the field combined to make for some very tired legs—and Honduras pressured the U.S. all game long, but those aren’t worthy excuses. The truth is that, at this level, errors get punished, and the good teams don’t make them in important situations.

While Cameron and Gonzalez are better athletes than the missing Bocanegra, if there was a problem with the U.S. defense all game long, it was a lack of organization, something Bocanegra’s vocal style might have helped correct. Cameron also no longer plays in central defense (or defense at all) for his club team, and that may have contributed to his decision making in the decisive moment.

In the end, getting no points instead of one is no crisis, but with two of the next three games also away from home, the U.S. could see itself with a mathematical hill to climb, and every point matters.

Player ratings

Tim Howard: 6. Had little to do, but performed when called upon. At no fault for the first goal, but perhaps partially culpable for the back-breaking second.

Fabian Johnson: 5. Provided width and attacking intent, but with little end product. Tired late, and couldn’t help back very quickly.

Geoff Cameron: 3. Didn’t look in sync with Gonzalez for much of the night, and has to take the lion’s share of the blame for the second Honduras goal.

Omar Gonzalez: 5. Outside of the winner, he looked relatively comfortable, more so than Cameron. Had he stayed awake, though, he might have prevented the Honduras win.

Timmy Chandler: 4. Well, he’s cap-tied, which is good news, I guess, but didn’t do much to warrant all the excitement about him.

Danny Williams: 6. Hardly noticed him, which is to say, he did his job of protecting the back four, and then gave the ball to Michael Bradley, as he should. Ran a lot.

Michael Bradley: 6.5. Played well, but not his best game. Had a couple shots, but nothing on target. Passing wasn’t too crisp, at times.

Jermaine Jones: 6. Played his best game for the U.S. in quite some time. Broke up play well, but never in an overzealous or rash way, and contributed meaningfully to the offense—and not just the assist, either.

Eddie Johnson: 5.5. Came close to making good things happen several times, but couldn’t quite connect on anything telling. Was removed just as he seemed to be getting into a groove.

Clint Dempsey: 6. Scored a peach of a goal, but did little else of note. Worked hard and almost combined well with Bradley several times, but nothing materialized.

Jozy Altidore: 5. Looked solid, and worked hard for the team. His hold-up play has improved, but had few touches, in the end.

Maurice Edu (sub): 6. Like the man he replaced, was essentially invisible, in a good way.

Sacha Kljestan (sub): 5. Tried to make things happen offensively, but, like everyone else, had a hard time of it. Covered well for Fabian Johnson’s upfield runs, but is obviously not much of a defender.

Graham Zusi (sub): 5. Looked fine, but couldn’t influence proceedings.

31 Comments

  1. Very forgiving.

    • I tend to be somewhat generous in player ratings. I know my sentiments aren’t shared everywhere, but I thought that the team as a whole played fine (just fine—not good, not great, but fine), but let a point escape through individual errors. Had they held on for the draw, opinions would be very different today, but the performance would have been essentially the same.

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        I disagree. I think that had they held on for a point, US fans would have been relieved, but the general sentiment would have been that they were lucky to get out of Honduras with anything to show for it following that performance. Playing to tie almost always ends in a loss.

  2. Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

    Everyone who reads this should write a comment. GET THAT RAGE OUT PEOPLE! IT’S CATHARTIC!!!

  3. Saw something in the highlights that I had missed live-Mills Lane giving Timmy Chandler a standing 8 count.

    If Chandler had played for the US last summer, we would have found out earlier about his aversion to the heat. I thought he was going to pass out a few times yesterday.

  4. Disappointing. It felt like a like of effort on the USA’s part. Like Los said, you need to take two points off everyone’s numbers except Cameron (only take one) and Tim Howard (stays a six). I’m a Kljestan fan, but he lost the ball multiple times.

  5. At least we only lost 1 point on the rest of the field last night. And Mexico only got the one point at home. The best road to Brazil still looks like 15 points at home and maybe 4 on the road in Panama and Jamaica.

  6. Except for 20 minutes in the first half (minutes 20-40), it did not look evenly balanced to me. USA looked the weaker side. Did those players just meet each other for the first time? The final score could have been 5-1 not 2-1; there were many poor defensive decisions that did not result in Honduran goals but could have. Honduras moved the ball better and defended better.

    • See, I don’t agree. Yes, Honduras had some chances, but none of them were particularly dangerous (Howard had to make two-three saves all night, and none were out of the ordinary; I remember the 3-on-1 in the first half where Honduras should have done better, but otherwise?), and it took a stupid mistake for them to actually score a second goal. Honduras was tired and leggy and turnover-prone, too. It makes sense that the Hondurans were generally on top, as the conditions of playing at home favored them, but I rarely felt the U.S. was under serious threat.

      • I thank you for the post, and the comments, and I respect you, but we’re going to have to disagree on this match. Tim Howard is a good keeper and we’re somewhat accustomed to his solid work, but I maintain that against a team that finished better, the scoreline would have been much worse.
        The save at approx 22:20 was because of excellent positioning and suboptimal striking, but a better opponent buries that one.
        The save at approx 32:20 was not out of the ordinary for Howard, but if you do not consider that a “dangerous chance,” I don’t know what to say.
        The equalizing goal was set up because NO ONE CLOSED DOWN Victor Bernandez. That was shit defending. The finish was brilliant, but it never would have happened with better defending.
        The shot at 51:50 went wide, but the chance looked particularly dangerous to me. The defending looked lackadaisical.
        Please clarify “I rarely felt the U.S. was under serious threat.” A one-goal disadvantage is fairly serious, no?
        There are many more matches left in qualifying, and the points lost are points lost, nothing more, but the USA did not play well against a bunch of guys we’ve mostly never heard of. That’s the disappointing part.

      • I would say that the team as a whole played poorly, not fine, not okay but poorly.

      • Jeremy Lane says:

        Fair enough. What can I say? I’m an optimist. As to the “serious threat” comment, I was referring to the time leading up to the second Hunduras goal (which was the bulk of the match).

  7. Maybe I was influenced by the fact that I watched Kljestan play the other day for Anderlecht and look great at his position, but I thought that he looked very freddy adu ala Philadelphia Union while playing at left wing. He was trying to take people on and successfully losing the ball consistently. Also Chandler’s decision making and even technical ability did not seem to fit the level…realize everybody has a bad day but whoa. I thought the team as a whole looked like they almost weren’t interested…definitely didn’t feel like a WC qualifier.

    • They looked like a US team from the 80’s as Rocky said this morning at the Daily Football Show. Sad that is has come to this. But is was great that we finally could watch this game (albeit on Be-in) and that I could watch England – Brazil at the same time during the first half. Klinsmann has lots of work to do; looking forward to the other 9 games! Hope some (those in June) will played on the East Coast!

      • That’s funny my Wife said it was like we where watching soccer with a 80’s Television feed. The US better get there heads in the game or they won’t be joing the party in Brazil.

    • Putting Kljestan on the left was a recipe for disaster, especially against an athletic side like Honduras. I’m not sure why Klinsmann thought that was a good idea.

  8. The lack of energy and inability to cope with the environment is concerning. Makes me question the team’s training leading up to this game. I can’t imagine the high, choppy surface or the stifling humidity were surprises to the coaching staff. Very disappointing to start this way, regardless of the bad result.
    I actually liked the starting formation, with the exception of Boca on the bench. The subs were weak though. Zusi and Kljestan don’t seem well suited to that type of slow and grinding match, and they didn’t mesh with the remaining players on the pitch.

  9. The ratings are made through rather rosey colored lenses. That being said…
    .
    …the individual players and team never had a chance from the start. Poor coaching before and throughout the game.
    .
    Suspect lineup. Poor tactics. Horrendous in-game management. Rushed Subs. Under-estimated opponent
    .
    It wont be long before the coach loses the team.
    .
    I can see the Union looking very similar to this US team…is Le Toux gonna be tracking back into our own 18, will Casey and Mack run into same space. No width…unfamiliar CB pairing…dont get me started on players out of position.

  10. Does this mean Sheanon gets a chance? Yes I acknowledge a touch of homerism, but he plays the exact type of game Klinsi is looking for. I’m really starting to tire of the whole German recruiting system. Tim Chandler? really? “we” were holding our breath for this? And does a Danny Williams really need to start over Mo Edu, Jones over Zusi? I don’t think we gain that much in recruiting. It’s not just in the U.S. either, the global recruiting trend is annoying.

    • Totally, completely, 100% agree with your comment about Tim Chandler. Jumping Jesus On A Pogo Stick, that’s the great Tim Chandler? Jürgen PLEASE…

  11. That game all but lulled me to sleep. It’s a big problem when you play with no wingers AND both backs do little to provide width in the attack. Eddie Johnson was just ok, and you could also tell that Kljestan did not have the speed or quickness to make anything happen on the left.
    I understand the USMNT has a lot of CM options, but at some point you have to bring in players that FIT, rather than just your best 24. If Landon isn’t available, that means giving calls to Gatt, Shea, Beasley, even Gyau to provide speed and width. They might not be the best players available, but systematically they can make it work.

  12. I thought the whole team looked a step slow. Not a big fan of the French WWII “retreat, retreat” defense I saw. As soon as HON got the ball 6 people were running backwards, away from the ball, surrending the entire middle third of the pitch.
    ***
    Also a WHOLE LOT of “kickball” just kicking it out from the defensive third to nobody in particular. I agree with Eli that getting out of there with a point would have been a huge win for the team – Honduras controlled much more from what I saw.
    ***
    I thought the braodcast was downright AWFUL. Poor camera feeds, going to replys while the ball was in the attacking thirds. It was like the producer was off his ADD meds and did 10 espressos and a couple lines of blow beore the broadcast. Seemed like a local cable operation.
    ***
    I also question whether Klinsman was trying to “outthink” things, from almost none of the starters from this game playing in the earlier friendly, to the incorrect leaked line-up before the game … it was almost, dare I say, Nowakian of him.

  13. This game was a joke as was the game in Jamaica. These players are supposed to be professionals at what they do, yesterday they were not even close. Professionals adapt, always motivated, giving 100%, and perform as a team. I am so sick of hearing that the “environment was tough” suck it up and play through. Just about the whole team was playing on a selfish, individualistic level. Lack of communication, of “killer instinct”, lack of many things.
    Sure it was hot, the grass looked way too long, there were people in the stands chanting against them….shocker, I know. If this was a U-20, 18 team I can understand those excuses, that’s whole different environment for them. For the senior squad those players experience hostile environments every away game in Europe, even in the MLS there are some pretty intense environments.
    Now this is not just on the players. Klinsmann made a classic ‘away game’ mistake. He put 3 defensively minded midfielders in and no attacking minded mids in. I have said this before about Union games, STOP, for the love of pete, stop sitting back during away games, just stop it. You might as well just give the other team 3 points. At first I thought it was just the players being lazy but as the game went on there was no sense of urgency to attack or get forward until it is too late; once again a classic outcome of classic ‘away game’ mistakes. I understand there is a counter attacking tactic to sitting back. I watch Napoli play just about every weekend. There was just no sense of urgency from the players or the tactics and the subs were so rushed and taking the wrong players out. The right players went in, in my opinion. The players that went in should have started the game. And no Donovan is not the answer and the more games I watch the less I think Klinsmann is the man for the job

  14. I like JK more than most, but man what a terrible gameplan. Playing players out of position, not calling up enough kinds of playings, leaning on certain players for no reason.
    Still like him, but the weird part is I feel like we certainly have enough talented players to play more attractive than we are.

  15. Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, and Clint Dempsey when I hear these names I picture USA players with HEART!!!! And some type of FIGHTING SPIRT! Very few others on this squad give me the feeling that they are going to fight till the end for the WIN. Doesn’t the USMNT have anyone else that has the skills and the heart to go out there and give it all each and every game? In some way watching the USMNT is like watching the movie “The Replacements” USMNT is all the big stars playing for the money and fame. Maybe the USA would be better to create four or five teams made up of U.S. players from open try outs and have them play a tournament to see which team will represent the USA as the USMNT because this country has many of the best athletes in the world but they have to be TEAM to win. And that team needs lots of HEART.
    Now, as to a rant I only got to see the highlights and I must say this about every Match Tracker online they ALL SUCK!!!! When trying to follow the match. I would love to be able to just listen to the audio play by play of the match why doesn’t one of the big networks ESPN, FOXSOCER, NBC SPORTS broadcast the play by play.
    Ok done for now sorry if I didn’t make sense but the rant did make me feel better.

  16. Has anyone questioned the impact of Klinsman’s Germanamericans on the team spirit and coordination? US teams in the past, whether showing good technique or not, could be counted on for passion and team cohesion. These guys just seem limp.
    I wonder if that is why LD is staying away?

  17. James Korman says:

    Very poor outing from Stars & Stripes….again! USMNT has not really looked good in a while. When was the last match where they looked any good?

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