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U.S. Men's National Team

Villafaña 'honored' to be part of USMNT following strong performance against Honduras

Jorge Villafaña faced one of the biggest games of his life on Friday night. He had previously started in an MLS Cup, Liga MX play and earned his first U.S. Men’s National Team cap. He had even battled against over 2,000 other competitors to earn his first MLS contract, becoming the league’s first reality TV show hero in the process.

But make no mistake, all of Villafaña’s previous accomplishments and personal victories built towards Friday’s World Cup qualifier and, when the moment hit, the fullback passed every test that came his way.

Villafaña earned the starting left back spot on Friday night as he helped the U.S. cruise to a lopsided 6-0 win over Honduras. The win helped the U.S. reintroduce themselves to the Hexagonal race while also solidifying Villafaña’s status as a legitimate contributor as the team march’s towards Russia 2018.

Friday, in many ways, was a dream come true for a player long nicknamed “Sueño”. With his mother and several other family members seated among the Avaya Stadium crowd, Villafaña announced his arrival in his first true taste of the international game.

“I’m really happy, honored,” Villafaña said. “I couldn’t explain every piece. It was a really important game for me to be part of the qualifiers. I had to give my best and just enjoy the moment. Now I’m just enjoying this moment and I’m really happy and honored to be a part of this group.”

The Santos Laguna left back was put under a lot of pressure on Friday night. Less than two months after his international debut, he was thrown into the starting lineup for what was virtually a must-win qualifier. He was surrounded by USMNT veterans, leaving just himself and Sebastian Lletget as the lone newcomers. They were the only two looking to make their non-friendly debut, and each stepped up in a big way.

While Lletget earned plaudits for his goal before succumbing to injury, Villafaña put on a quietly solid performance. He completed all but two passes, helping connect the backline with a forward group that ran Honduras ragged.

Defensively, facing up with one of the region’s most talented players in Andy Najar, Villafaña was all but lockdown, leaving the Honduras attack stuck in the mud throughout Friday’s match. It was the performance of a veteran, one that showed poise, intelligence and the ability to read the game at this next level. Villafana’s efforts in the 2015 MLS Cup demonstrated his ability to rise on the big stage, but Friday’s effort confirmed it in a big way.

“I think I had a solid game,” Villafaña said. “There was still some room for improvement. I reviewed the game yesterday and today a little bit more and, as a group, we did a really good job on the backline and we were really connected. We have to keep doing that.”

Now, the question is what comes next. Panama is next on the horizon as the USMNT looks to build momentum from Friday’s match. It’s certainly going to be a tougher match as most away matches in CONCACAF tend to be.

Head coach Bruce Arena has options at left back, with Villafaña certainly remaining one of them. Veterans DaMarcus Beasley and Matt Besler have been a part of World Cup qualifying before, perhaps making them more qualified for a vital away match.

Regardless of who starts on Tuesday, Villafaña is proud to be an official part of the USMNT as he now looks to help the team move even further towards realizing his next dream: the 2018 World Cup.

“Coach Bruce is the one who makes decisions,” Villafaña said. “Everyone is here because people like the way you play or, like he said, everyone deserves to be here. At some point, everyone is going to have to play and step up.

“I always try to do my best whenever I get an opportunity to play. I always try to give 100 percent to show that I want to be there and deserve to play, but at the end of the day coach Bruce makes the decisions and we have to respect that. If I’m going to play or if I don’t play, I’m going to support my team. That’s part of our job too.”

14 comments
  • Gary Page

    I would say he is still untested. Can he handle the attackers from Mexico and Costa Rica? could he handle the World Cup? Remains to be seen. I’ve always liked his story and have pulled for him, but it’s too early to anoint him as the answer to our LB problem

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    • Lost in Space

      Yes he’s still untested against the high level international competition, but he’s performed well in the couple games he has played in. Does he still need to prove himself….Yes he does. Is it worth giving him more looks….Yes it is.
      Villafana & Nagbe were club teammates for a while so they’ve got a nice starting point to build for a strong partnership on the left side. Once Fabian & Yedlin are healthy we’ll have a speedy & dynamic right side. As Pulisic’s continues his development he could finally give us that Creativity in the final 3rd.
      That still leaves us to finalize our best formation (2 strikers or 2 CMs) and finding the right rotations/substitutions for players.

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    • Twomilerule

      Unproven but plays with no fear and full of grit. Villa’ never backs down and keeps answering questions throughout his career. Is he world class? Not sure but can he be piece that fits well in part of an overall sum of total parts, could be?
      I like what Arena has done with both left and right sides and should have more options when players get healthy. Rather then be very vertical with limited possession players. Arena has asked for great shape and interchange with backs and mids. Also, keepin shape with midfielders keeping balance and shape when a midfielder goes from wide to the middle. Nagbe had more chalk on his heels then I’ve ever seen him play, yet drove the ball into the middle a few times. Nagbe’s ability to flip the field makes Villafana and Bradleys job way easier. Also, Villafana, Bradley, and Nagbe’s quick combos force whatever attacking players on that side play defense and track back.
      Still remains to be seen if Villafana can continue to grow and improve but tactical acumen helps with entire eleven.
      Lost in Space I agree questions will continue to be asked with one or two strikers. Is Wood a better target guy then Altidore? I think the biggest question is who surrounds Pulisic and makes him most effective? Two critical things for me is what players can play with the ball at their feet and still read the play allowing for defensive balance.

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    • len

      I agree with this. We had a makeshift back line but when your offense is clicking (read Pulisic), it makes up for a lot of sins. Nevertheless, Villafana did fairly well and deserves to be in the mix.

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      • Turkmenbashy

        you’re blind. He was average at best against a terrible Honduras team that was getting pummeled, and I am being nice. Gonzo was worse… but still…

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      • Twomilerule

        Turk, how many attacks went down the left side and how much service came from that side?

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      • Turkmenbashy

        Twomilerule… how many Honduras attacks happened during the entire game? During the second half I saw a lot of attacks down Villafana’s side.

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      • Twomilerule

        Turk, not an attack but a question! I was wondering and thought you had some opta data. I know Honduras wanted to attack on the counter with their wings. I can recall two quality crosses coming from well outside the box I know at least two goals came from a build up from the left side.

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  • Rob

    This is how disappointments are born. Somebody does “well”against a bad team and he’s immediately anointed a star, only to crash against real competition.
    wash, rinse, repeat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Turkmenbashy

      I agree… I have no idea what crack Tomlich is smoking to write this article: “Defensively, facing up with one of the region’s most talented players in Andy Najar, Villafaña was all but lockdown, leaving the Honduras attack stuck in the mud throughout Friday’s match. It was the performance of a veteran, one that showed poise, intelligence and the ability to read the game at this next level. Villafana’s efforts in the 2015 MLS Cup demonstrated his ability to rise on the big stage, but Friday’s effort confirmed it in a big way.”

      Hahaha… a better team scores at least 3 on us with the mistakes our back-line made… and Villafana couldn’t stop Honduras from making a single cross all game… as for passing… he was absent on the offense (in a game where we put up 6), and totally untested on the back end. How exactly did he show “poise, intelligence, and the ability to blah blah blah?” please Tomlich pray tell!

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      • len

        May not be God’s gift to defense but after watching the game twice, I think he played reasonably well and did the job that he needed to do. Certainly better than Omar, and for that matter, Cameron did not have that great a game. I agree that the competition was not great and stronger teams will exert greater pressure and he may not be up to it. I still think he earned the opportunity to be in the mix especially since the depth at the left back is very limited.

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  • alndres ventura

    the dinamic duo-pullisic-Altidore and Villafaña and the team will batle Panamá in a hard game
    but i am confident whit the professor or coach Bruce Arena,because all the team play whit the
    heart and fast

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  • Dennis

    There are, I think, three metrics for a defender: 1) If you didn’t notice him defensively, he probably had a good game, 2) The better the opposing attack was, the better the defender had to be. 3) Did he exhibit the ability to stay focused for the entire 90+ minutes.

    Villafaña did well enough on 1) and 3). Since he can only defend the attackers he faces, it will require better opponents to see what his limits are.

    Like

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