By FRANCO PANIZO
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – It has been a little more than two months since Jurgen Klinsmann took over as head coach of the U.S. men's national team, but that short period of time hasn't stopped an increasing pressure from befalling the team already.
Having tied once and lost twice in their first three games, Klinsmann and the U.S. team are beginning to feel the burden of going winless. That's why a victory against familiar CONCACAF foe Honduras is sorely needed when the two squads face off in a friendly at Sun Life Stadium on Saturday (6pm ET, Fox Soccer Channel and Univision).
"We're always results oriented. We're competitors and we want to win every game," said Klinsmann. "It's important for us and for the confidence of the team and for the fans as well."
For a win to happen, the Americans will need to demonstrate improvement in a few areas, not the least of which is possession.
Under Klinsmann, the United States has gotten better in regards to keeping the ball, though it has only been able to do it in spurts rather than long stretches.
Likely to be deployed in a 4-3-3 formation, the Americans understand that an emphasis on setting the tone is important. Not just for the match with the Catrachos, but also for the looming World Cup qualifiers.
"The big thing about us on Saturday is you're going to see us try and control the tempo," said Howard following Tuesday morning's training session. "We did it a little bit against Costa Rica, obviously the goal changed the game, but for the most part you saw how we controlled the tempo of the game. We're going to try and do that again.
"It's important that we put an emphasis on that in this region. For us, that's vitally important. Mexico is a tough nut to crack in terms of tempo because they are one of the masters at controlling tempo, but even in those games we can do better. But for certain ,outside of that, we need to be able to set the pace over the course of 90 minutes, with our passing, with our running forward, how we defend, so hopefully that can be a staple for us."
Facing a Honduras side that will be without some if its top players (goalkeeper Noel Valladares is out, as are midfielder Wilson Palacios and forward David Suazo), the United States will be the favorite in South Florida on Saturday.
That doesn't mean a win is guaranteed, not even when the Americans have won eight of the last nine games against their well-known opponents dating back to 2002.
The U.S. team has had trouble finding the back of the net under Klinsmann; the Americans have scored just once through the first three games under Klinsmann. But as much as finishing has been talked about by both players and coaches this week, the real issue could lie elsewhere.
"I feel like we need to be able to create chances in order to score goals," said Juan Agudelo. "That's what we've been focusing more on (in training), just creating chances."
There aren't many offensive-minded players in camp for the United States, though Jozy Altidore, Brek Shea, DaMarcus Beasley and Clint Dempsey top the list.
One player who could be added to that group is TSG 1899 Hoffenheim midfielder Danny Williams, who is in his first camp with the U.S. team. Williams looked good all week in practice, but it is doubtful that Klinsmann hands him a start in his first game with the group.
Williams spent time in scrimmages throughout the week in different positions. He played centrally and on the outside. He was asked to man the flanks and whip in crosses on some days, and told to be the link between the defense and offense in the middle of the pitch on others.
Regardless of where he plays, it seems increasingly likely that Williams will earn his first cap against Honduras.
"(Williams) can be nasty," said Klinsmann. "We talked about it after the last game, in Belgium, what I saw that was positive and negative about the game, and one thing that was a little bit lacking was more nastiness in our game.
"Danny Williams is one of those guys. He goes at you. He goes one against one, he can be very tough to deal with."
Honduras may be missing some of its stars, but it still has guys in camp that are capable of causing havoc, including Houston Dynamo forward Carlo Costly, Motagua striker Jerry Bengtson, Sporting Kansas City midfielder Roger Espinoza and Wigan Athletic defender Maynor Figueroa.
"They're a big strong, physical side. But at the same time, if you give them time and space on the ball, they can move the ball around well," said Dempsey. "They did well in the Gold Cup, got to the semifinals and gave Mexico a good game, pushed them to overtime. It's going to be a good opponent and it's good practice for us because it's a team we could see in World Cup qualifiers."
Offensively, the Catrachos still have enough punch to pose problems to the U.S. defense. Klinsmann is all but assured to start sturdy veterans Steve Cherundolo and captain Carlos Bocanegra, and Timmy Chandler is likely to continue to experiment with the left back position.
Who Klinsmann pairs with Bocanegra in the middle is a bit less clear. Michael Orozco has started twice under Klinsmann, and could be summoned upon again. Oguchi Onyewu and Tim Ream are also options, though of those two, Onyewu has the better chance of starting.
No matter who starts, they'll need to perform. Failure to do so will cause further scrutiny towards Klinsmann, who was questioned throughout the week by fans and media on some of his roster selections and omissions.
That pressure could be eased if the United States pulls out its first win since June, and the players know that it's time for them to start putting together complete performances under Klinsmann.
"You've got to start putting pressure on yourself to start getting the right results," said Dempsey. "You want to get to winning ways, and we're a team that has experience and has the quality on our side that we should be expecting that from ourselves. Now it's about grinding out results and getting the wins."