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USA 2, Honduras 1: A Look Back

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What a difference three days can make.

Last Thursday morning, after the U.S. national team's 3-1 loss to Costa Rica, pessimism was king and there was little reason for optimism regarding the U.S. team and it's future this summer and beyond. One gutsy comeback win later, there is once again reason to believe that there is something to look forward to in the coming months if you are a U.S. fan.

Yes, the Americans needed a comeback to beat Honduras, but they delivered one of their gutsiest performances in recent memory. That, and the inspired performances of players such as Carlos Bocanegra, Ricardo Clark, Benny Feilhaber, Jonathan Spector and Jonathan Bornstein (to name a few) bodes well for the U.S. team's summer.

Here are my grades for the U.S. players on Saturday:

Tim Howard (7) – Very aggressive in the area, thwarted several aerial attacks from Honduras.

Jonathan Bornstein (7) – The left back job is his for the foreseeable future after this stellar performance.

Carlos Bocanegra (7.5) – A rock in the back and showed tremendous courage on game-winning goal.

Oguchi Onyewu (7) – Slow start but helped lead the defense, especially once Bocanegra left the match.

Jonathan Spector (7) – Effective getting forward and never got beaten, Spector played a smart and effective game. Absolutely should start in the Confederations Cup.

Landon Donovan (7) – As aggressive as I have seen him be with the national team in some time. Still struggling with his set piece delivery, but did hit the corner on the game-winner to go along with his clutch penalty equalizer.

Pablo Mastroeni (5) – Struggled to deal with the tandem of Amado Guevara and Wilson Palacios in the first half. Played better than Wednesday, but has fallen down the pecking order in central midfield.

Ricardo Clark (7.5)– Best national team performance of Clark's young career. He definitely struggled early, but came on strong before halftime and looked completely poised in the second half. Made a few clutch defensive plays.

Clint Dempsey (5.5) – Shocking mistake led to the Honduras goal, but Dempsey made up for it with the header on Bocanegra's goal. Still not having the impact expected of someone coming off such a good EPL season.

Jozy Altidore (5) – Wasn't overly dangerous but put constant pressure on the Honduras defense and put in the type of defensive work coaches love from their strikers.

Conor Casey (4.5) – Wasted a handful of chances, and struggled as one might expect in a first game in four years, but he was active and aggressive and should get some Confederations Cup minutes.

Benny Feilhaber (6.5) – Got off to a slow start after coming in, but quickly found his rhythm and played some beautiful soccer. Looks capable of sliding into a starting role and providing some sorely-needed creativity.

Jay DeMerit (6) – The U.S. team has needed a reliable third centerback for some time and DeMerit sure looked like that player after replacing Bocanegra. He should get some good playing in the Confederations Cup considering the compact schedule.

DaMarcus Beasley (4.5) – Came in to play on the right flank but quickly had to move to left back after Bornstein cramped up. Proceeded to make some awful plays that nearly gave Honduras a chance to equalize. Bob Bradley will be hard-pressed to trust Beasley with starts given his recent form and lack of club playing time.

(NOTE- Player's grades are affected by playing time, so someone who plays 45 minutes and plays great won't get the same grade as someone who played great for 90 minutes.)


Some more thoughts on the match:

The U.S. team was definitely fortunately that Wilson Palacios wasn't fully match fit. Palacios was a beast in the first half and control the middle of the park, but his lack of playing time over the past month (due to the mourning of his brother's murder) hurt him and he eventually left with an injury. Once Palacios left the U.S. team dominated the middle of the field.

Benny Feilhaber could be the missing link. The U.S. team has needed some midfield creativity for some time and Feilhaber looks poised to fill that void. Jose Franciso Torres showed some flashes vs. Costa Rica, but Feilhaber is stronger on the ball and just as good a passer. As for Freddy Adu, he will struggle to get minutes in South Africa and, at this point, looks like a better bet to play a key role in the Gold Cup.

Conor Casey was frustrating to watch at times but he was also very involved and showed no fear despite playing his first national team game in four years. He doesn't lack for confidence and could start showing his MLS form on the international level with some more playing time.

Bob Bradley should seriously consider starting Clint Dempsey up top with Jozy Altidore. Dempsey has struggled badly to make an impact in the past two qualifiers and could be more dangerous closer to goal. Moving him up could also make room for Benny Feilhaber and Ricardo Clark in the U.S. midfield.

Beasley's role at this point should be as a reserve winger, which is what Bradley intended on Saturday before Bornstein came down with cramps, forcing Beasley to drop back. The Confederations Cup was supposed to be a chance for Beasley to showcase himself for potential suitors but his form is so off right now that Bradley would have a tough time justifying starting the veteran midfielder.


Who's performance stood out for you on Saturday? Who disappointed you? What U.S. player surprised you the most on Saturday? Are you feeling better about the Confederations Cup, or are you still fearing an 0-for-3?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. jd. ineteresting positive take on the nats. i feel u. one annoying comment – we are not more athletic than the English. At the english-US friendly last summer the english physically dominated us. Faster, bigger, winning headers and loose balls, playing better from set pieces. Perhaps the US would be more athletic than England if our country’s best athletes played soccer. We do have some athletic guys on the team – gooch, edu, Timmy, donovan to name a few. But let’s not kid ourselves.

  2. The US team always starts off slow (15 to 20 minutes to settle down) which is something they need to improve on. Beasley and Mastreoni are done. Any other veterans that lag should be pulled. The one thing you get from youth is hunger. Spector I thought looked good. Bornstein worked, but against superior talent he may be in trouble. Hopefully the players that need to get the experience can get some of that in the Confederations cup.

  3. I think it’s shortsighted to constantly refer to MB/Edu/Rico as “same player w/ limited technical ability”.

    Agreed Rico was good, but what impressed me most wasn’t his “destroying” but improved poise touch & subtle decision making on ball. Granted he’ll never be a Brazilian dancing hotshot but let’s stop acting like our young athletic players can’t improve w/ ball given time. Unlike other countries this skillset isn’t inherent at birth. Doesn’t mean we can’t make strides. By all accounts Edu’s progress this year was phenomenal, let’s not underestimate what these boys are capable of given time.

    Let’s also keep in mind what our potential strengths/weaknesses are relative to rest of world. We’ll never be Spain/Brazil. More like (aspiring) cross between Africa & England. Guts, toughness, cohesiveness, athleticism, fitness..all within context of improving technical ability & overall soccer IQ. And would a squad more cohesive than African teams more athletic than English be so bad?

    Maybe rather than trying to reach for “creative” savior (ie-Benny) we should embrace what/who we are & play to it. Benny in Brazil uniform is below average technically. But Edu is athletic & tough box to box in ANY uniform. There’s nothing wrong w/ building around young athletic hard nosed box to box players who can also hold their own (& getting better every day) on the ball like Edu & MB.

    Doesn’t mean we don’t want creative players to complement, but I don’t think core central pairing of Edu/MB is as bad as some make it out to be.

  4. First of all, great article and great assessment of everyone’s game in the player rankings.
    Mastroeni and Beasley shouldn’t be called up again. And if Hejduk starts when Spector is healthy, Bob Bradley should be fired immediately after the game. Nothing against Hejduk, but Spector is our best natural defender and deserves to get experience against great teams in the Confederations Cup. I hope Bornstein can step up and win the starting left back position.
    Dempsey must be tired from the club season. He needs to have at least one Fulham-like performance at the Confederations Cup.
    I was amazed at how well Feilhaber played considering he transferred down from Derby County and STILL didn’t get playing time, but he proved he belongs on the national team.
    I hope Clark and Torres can get significant playing time in the Confederations Cup too. Torres was our best player against Costa Rica and I was shocked that Mastroeni, who made the worst defensive effort I have ever seen leading to Costa Rica’s first goal, got a start ahead of him. Torres at least looks comfortable on the ball.

  5. Ives,

    There’s a ring of truth to what you say. I agree the USA isn’t Fulham, but I think there is something to learn from Roy’s approach. I like the idea of a 4-4-1-1 or maybe a 4-5-1. I’m still a little pessimistic about CD’s finishing & I think maybe his spatial awareness is better near the touch lines, but I guess Bradley has to figure the best Gumbo out of what’s in the kitchen.

    Wispy —

    I’d agree Clint is not a winger & I don’t remember any great crosses from him at all this last year, to your point. But I don’t think Fulham has been very aggressive with a lot of deep penetration into the opposite side’s corners this last year.

    Maybe I’m forgetting some games, incidents, if you recall specifics let me know.

    It seems like the Fulham strategy under Roy has been along the lines of being near impossible to break down and then try to pounce on an opportunity if one arises. A rather humble approach which has given them a great season. Maybe something for Bradley to think about as we move on to face the greatest teams in the world?

    A tactically smart team can sometimes beat a much better team with a little luck. Therein may lie the USA’s best chance in the WC for now. Remember Australia v. Italy?

    I think Dempsey has been a huge part of Fulham being hard to break down and jumping on or launching opportunities – he has been greatly effective in terms of working the ball and defending along the touch lines between the two Penalty Areas. Not so much into the corners maybe. Frankly I’d give him world class in that role (OK, he’s one of OUR guys so I might be biased!) I know Dempsey likes to cut inside and have a go (as well he should) but I don’t recall a lot of goals from that kind of play. He seems to find the net in scrappy play from close range, maybe more on set pieces?

    I think both Clint and Landon were frustrated against Honduras that the forwards were not checking in to allow combination play into the final 3rd. What looked like errant passes were forwards not checking back. I actually think Clint & Landon wide works if the fwds are on the same page, though you could see Demps wants to cut inside and have a go.

    A work in progress for sure. Go USA

  6. Do you people get all of your game insights from John Harkes? I watched the video again to make sure and I just don’t understand pinning the Honduran goal on Dempsey.

    He played his ass off for 90. I thought it was one of his better matches (ok, minus the whiff in the box).

    I thought Clark and Spector were most impressive. I also thought Donovan played hard looked good but I believe Adu can do everything LD can do + make more of free kicks and thread the needle for Jozy.

    The one good thing that came of the CR loss is it seems impossible for BB to justify continuing the Beasley as right back experiment (and what, bench Bornstein,Pearce…?)

    And last, I would like to see more of DeMerit for Bocanegra.

  7. While it was a nice win, the team still looks too flat to compete well at the highest level. Altidore still looks rusty from his layoff, particularly with several first touches banging off his foot and easily swept away by defenders. Dempsey looks a bit tired after Fulham’s long, competitive season. Beasley’s lack of club playing time really shows in his touch and his decision making. Bradley is probably the key player for the U.S. these days, and his absence vs Honduras was apparent, although the platooned midfielders did enough to control the game.

    I’m concerned that the U.S. hasn’t scored a goal from the run of play for awhile. Our last three goals were off of PKs and corner kicks. We haven’t shown the ability to really open up the opponent’s defense and create real chaos.

    Our back line did look a lot better against Honduras, and that’s a major improvement. Spector was solid and provided some dangerous runs up the flank, so maybe his time has come. Having Hedjuk and Spector as right back options would be great.

    It was good to see Feilhaber back in the mix and contributing. I hope he continues to get playing time and build his confidence and chemistry with the rest of the team. Can’t understand why Torres doesn’t get more time though — he looked like he was really settling in against Costa Rico and ready to make a bigger contribution.

  8. man.

    you guys can be harsh.

    deuce is fine. he’s one of our best players. so just put him on the field. i think we should just put our best guys on the field.

    actually that wouldn’t work. we don’t need 5 goal keepers.

  9. yah i actually did see kobe miss a shot last night. he must be a pretty poor shooter. 😉

    and wally, i also still think dempsey is no better than an average finisher. i’ve watched every fulham game televised on fsc the past two seasons and that’s my opinion. is that ok with you?

  10. on the first goal, costly made an excellent run across the box to lose his defender and once he received the ball gooch had to step up but it was too late. there was nothing we could have done on that. it was just a great play by honduras. and like i said earlier, the ref could have blown the whistle when dempsey got taken out so its just one of those things that you deal with.


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