Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By IVES GALARCEP
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras– It is the worst possible start for the U.S. Men’s National team as they embark on gauntlet that is the Hexagonal Round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, but the good thing about turning in such a flat and uninspired performance in their HEX opener is the fact they have nine more matches to turn things around.
The bad news, however, is that now that they have started this round of qualifying with a loss, their margin for error has shrunken considerably as they face two more road games in their next three qualifiers.
Jurgen Klinsmann turned to an inexperienced back-line, and it looked it, but the loss was about more than some defenders facing the pressure of the HEX for the first time. The squad looked flat and less fit than the Hondurans, who buzzed around them for large parts of the match.
As much as the Juan Garcia wonder goal helped turn the tide, the reality is Honduras was the better team for significant stretches. That said, Garcia’s goal was crucial for its timing and ability to bring the crowd back into it after Clint Dempsey’s strike. Without that goal, the U.S. just might go into halftime leading and feeling good about things.
Ultimately, the Hondurans were more fit, more creative, more energetic and more deserving of the win, while the Americans have to go back to the drawing board and start thinking about some changes because what we saw on Wednesday wasn’t anywhere good enough to take points in the HEX.
Here are some observations from Wednesday’s match:
THE BACK-LINE’S BAPTISM BY FIRE
When Jurgen Klinsmann chose to start Omar Gonzalez at centerback ahead of Carlos Bocanegra, he committed himself to start a back four that had played in a combined zero Hexagonal Round qualifiers before.
You can’t really pin the loss entirely on the defense, but a look at the Honduras winner leaves some room for criticism of a back-line, and particularly a centerback pairing that looked shaky at times against Honduras.
Klinsmann made the point after the match that he believes Gonzalez is ready for the next level, and that he needs experience in games like these, but you can certainly ask the question of whether Klinsmann might have cost his team a point by trying to gain an inexperienced player some important big-game experience.
Will Klinsmann stick with this inexperienced quartet with the hopes of molding it into a cohesive unit? It sure sounds like that’s the plan, which doesn’t bode well for Bocanegra, who looks like he’ll be phased out unless Klinsmann decides he needs his experience against Costa Rica and Mexico on March.
LANDON DONOVAN WAS MISSED
There is no getting around the fact that the U.S. midfield lacked a spark, and while you can point to the lineup Klinsmann went with (not starting Graham Zusi or Sacha Kljestan), you can also point to the absence of Landon Donovan, who missed his first meaningful HEX game since the summer of 2001, a span of 20 HEX matches.
Donovan is expected to eventually return to the national team, which U.S. Soccer president suggested on Wednesday morning, and given how flat the U.S. team looked on Wednesday it is a safe bet he will be welcomed with open arms.
No, Donovan isn’t the player he once was, but he still brings enough unique attacking elements, and a boat load of experience. It is very difficult to picture Donovan not being in the starting lineup when the United States takes on Mexico on March 26th, if not sooner. While he may or may not need the buzz of playing for the national team anymore, it was clear on Wednesday that the United States still needs him.
THE U.S. MIDFIELD JUST DIDN’T HAVE IT
It was a forgettable day for the American midfield. With the exception of Jermaine Jones’ stellar pass on Clint Dempsey’s goal, there were few bright spots for any of the three players in midfield (four if you don’t count Dempsey as a forward).
Danny Williams was particularly poor, and his lack of playing time at Hoffenheim is clearly taking its toll (though some might argue he has had bad games even when he was playing regularly). Maurice Edu came on and provided significantly better quality at the position.
The game was a disappointing one for Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones, who were nowhere close to winning the battle in the middle, letting Honduras’s playmakers exploit the space in front of the U.S. defense. Klinsmann’s strategy to pack the left wing forced Oscar Boniek Garcia inside and the Houston Dynamo caused all sorts of problems for the American midfield.
Graham Zusi helped provide some energy when he came into the match and Klinsmann will have to think about some changes to his formation and midfield. Whether it is the return of Landon Donovan, or going back to Zusi as a starter, Klinsmann seems likely to make changes for the March qualifiers because can’t be happy with what he saw from his midfield on Wednesday.
CHANDLER’S CAP TYING SAGA IS OVER
One of the few bright spots for the Americans was the fact that Tim Chandler was cap-tied, but it wasn’t exactly a memorable night for him. It’s safe to say that, at least for now, STeve Cherundolo remains the best option at right back when healthy.
HONDURAS CONTINUES TO IMPRESS
When the ‘Catrachois’ turned heads at the Olympics by reaching the knockout rounds and pushing Brazil to the brink, it was clear they had a special generation of talent coming up the ranks.
On Wednesday they showed that quality, and the exciting young players who are driving their new generation. It is safe to say that they have cemented their status as one of the favorites to qualify for the World Cup from this HEX group.
QUIET NIGHT FOR THE U.S. FORWARDS
Jozy Altidore and Eddie Johnson won’t want to spend much time looking at video of Wednesday’s match. You can point to lack of service, but for someone like Altidore, who has failed to impress with the national team for a good while now, it gets tougher and tougher to accept that excuse even though it’s a legit one.
Johnson was active and more involved than Altidore, but you have to wonder if Herculez won’t return to the starting lineup in March.
WHERE WAS THE FITNESS?
Remember when the U.S. Men’s National Team was always the most fit team on the field? That certainly wasn’t the case on Wednesday. For a coach like Klinsmann, who stresses fitness and health so much, that has to be a serious cause for concern. He will have to think about what he’s doing, as will his players.
Ives at what point does JK get sacked? If the US takes no points in the March matches does the death watch start? Would Sunil stay with him all 10 matches and watch this team not qualify? The senior players at guiding this team just like Phil Lam’s group did for Germany but if Dolo,Boca & LD aren’tthere the set the tactics this team will not qualify for the WC.
Something I keep wondering when I read these posts–we all agree that the team could use more creativity in attack. Just curious what our most creative, dynamic team would be. I’m not talking about our best team, but the most creative one. One caveat–you can’t play players in positions that they don’t at least sometimes play. Here’s a stab:
Lee Nguyen———————-Freddy Adu———————————–Josh Gatt
Fabian Johnson————Matt Besler——–Geoff Cameron————Steve Cherundolo
Obviously, Bradley, Jozy, and Cameron are among our “best” players, but for creativity, I’d argue that this would be better. Would be fun, even as they might bleed goals. Obviously this is not happening, but with all the talk of creativity, am curious what others think…
one simple solution is to nix the 3 pack of JJ, MB and Williams…it’s too obvious.
just by taking off Williams and playing JJ in that destroyer spot opens up a spot for a Davis or Zusi or Bedoya or Benny
Boy did we look out of shape. I wonder if this is the first time Chandler has ever played in the heat and humidity. It sure looked that way.
US Played like crap and Honduras was much better.
Finally saw the game. Midfield was dead. Lack of communication in the back..we will be ok.
One thing I am concerned about is that subs are supposed to bring in excitement for already tired legs. There was none of that. Hercules Gomez was one that could bring energy. He was left on the bench for purely technical players in Sasha and Zusi. We have no players in the current pool that can bring energy. I know everyone hates Adu but he would bring some spark in situations like this.
Also, our European boys were tired. They came from a cold climate to a hot and humid one and Klinsmann should have seen that.
I wonder if some of the U.S. players were sick – it is cold and flu season after all. Some of them looked like they’d prefer to be in bed.
ha-ha. good one.
Maybe someone else has already said this, but first congrats to Honduras, a fine, determined, well-organized team. And second, it’s good for the USMNT to (finally) have a real challenge other than Mexico. All road games should be tough, none should be taken for granted. The future of CONCACAF looks brighter with Honduras stepping up like this. The competition will be good for the USMNT too.
JK needs to get a new assistant talented enough to overcome his tactical footballing deficiencies. Never been a fan of the current assistant, I think he lacks the tactical ability to advise JK.
Your last point Marcello was the best…youth development.
Youth development has nothing to do with the trainwreck of yesterday in Honduras but this guy gets pais $6,000 A DAY and he was supposed to develop us from top to bottom
Check out our level of improvement since Gulati took over. He is the ultimate soccer “Teflon Don”
This is just a thought for a line-up for future qualifiers, considering Cameron is not playing in the same position that he plays club in. It also takes in account the need to replace bocanegra in the near futur.
This gives the team a CB who is used to organizing the defence. It places Cameron in a similar position as to where he plays for stoke(somewhat) jones could be replaced with a more attacking mf or with williams. Then place whichever striker Klinnsman fancies at the moment
What I find troubling is that Klinsman says one thing and ends up putting out something entirely contrary. Hes starting to sound a lot like a used car salesman who needs to use more BS to make up for his lack of Quality in what his product.
Klinsman promise #1: “more attacking and positive/proactive game plan.”
Actual Product: 3 Defensive/Holding mids in the center of the park with an inexperienced backline and a detached attacking front. No coordination. Kljestan, Torres, Zusi warming the bench.
Klinsman promise #2: “creating an “American Style” and using it to dictate the game”
Actual Product: A patch-work defense almost always out of sync and out of position. Losing the ball all to easy, and relying way too much on long balls.
Klinsman Promise #3: “Implementing a more dynamic formation like a 4-3-3 with a premise on a more posession and balanced-attack approach.”
Actual Product: a 4-3-3 that looks a lot more like a 4-5-1 that tends to shape into a 4-2-3-1 but actually ends up being less effective and dynamic than a 4-4-2….. A formation he eventually switches to AFTER the team was losing with 4 center mids 2 of which he stationed on the flanks.
Don’t even get me started on the whole US Youth development. This guy needs a little fire on his arse. This would never fly in Germany. Go USA!
I didn’t see the game but I followed it online. When I saw the second half subs I knew we were in for trouble. Fitness had NOTHING to do with our loss. I’ve looked back to previous games through 2011 and notice a pattern when we play poorly and lack possession. We have too many unskilled players on the field. These are the players I’m referring to: Agudelo, Altidore, Edu, Ream, Spector, Klesjtan, Beckerman, Shea and Rogers. The lack of possession and losses are: Paraguay 2011, Panama 2011, Costa Rica 2011, Jamaica 2012 and Honduras yesterday. All these games had one thing in common: a few a these players were on the field at the same time. I’m not saying they’re bad players individually for their club team, however if you put them all together you give up possession, start chasing the other team, get tired, look unfit and lose games.
Make Donovan 22 again and play him at attacking mid please. Make Boca 40 so he’s out of contention.
oh… and Dominic Kinnear for the next USMNT coach…though I’d hate to lose him from the Dynamo.
I’m sure there were other pundits out there with similar outlooks at the time, but Ryan Rosenblatt pretty much nailed it in visionary fashion with his article from July of 2011:
I agree with some others here…. 3 d mid type players is a recipe for not scoring…
I know Jurgen loves him some Jones… but outside of the one assist on the goal, he was useless yesterday… the guy has never dribbled around anyone.. in any one on one situation he loses the ball..
Bradley and Edu with Donovan, Holden (once he’s fully fit) and Brek Shea hopefully moving to the next level…. a combination of that group would be much better on the attack…
I’d like to see Dempsey play up front more…. we need some passing and creativity in the midfield..
This i agree with. Think we need to try someone other than Jones. Not sure who, but he loses as many balls as he wins.
I´m really worried, right now I´ve lost all my confidence in this team, some things to consider:
1.- Are we really this bad as a team?, individually we have some good players but JK can´t find the right formation to make them work together.
2.- As Ives pointed out, we need Donovan back and we need him committed.
3.- We need a draw either in Mexico City or in Costa Rica.
Bad day for US Soccer, we are the laughing stock of our region.
You mean the laughing stock of our region where Mexico just tied Jamaica at home and got booed off the field by 45,000 of their own fans? Or our region where it took a Bryan Ruiz miracle goal for Costa Rica to salvage a point against Panama? No one’s the laughing stock of anything right now. To say that “We’re the US, we should beat Honduras every time because we’re the US”, or to say that anyone who loses to Honduras is a “laughing stock” is seriously underestimating the Honduran squad. Bottom line, this is going to be an extremely competitive Hex and this just underlines the point that you have to go into every game, home or away, ready for a battle.
I am sure that most people here have watched the studio 90 videos. Does anyone think that maybe we spend too much time doing yoga and swimming in pools as opposed to other teams which join up for the national team probably just play? Yes, stretching is important but don’t you think that that kind of stuff should be taken care of at the club level? You have four days together, you should be working with the ball all the time, as a team. Really, do you think England does yoga two days before game? I even think that that kind of stuff is maybe too relaxing and doesn’t prepare you for the game with limited time.
Its funny Jurgen criticized Mix for not being physical enough, but his game isn’t a physical game and he has the offensive creativity our team needs, at least until Holden recovers!
Shea —-Bradley—-Holden—-Donovan.is the midfield I want to see. Will they ever be healthy at the same time?
Not sure yet about Shea, but certainly to have the other three, in top form, on the field at the same time would be quite a treat.
Another unacceptable result but it’s more than just the loss. His approach isn’t working… at all. It doesn’t matter if it’s camp cupcake, against Canada or this game…. we have no attack and the defense isn’t that good either. That leaves NOTHING. When has the lone striker worked? and yet we keep going to it. I think we had about two shots and none came from Jozy.
Watched the Mexico Jamaica game and both look like they can beat us. JK needs to find something that works, or do the right thing and quit, or we’ll be watching the WC on TV.
Ask yourself this… who in our group are we going to beat playing like this?
I bet Arena would take the gig, on short notice. I could see him loving the chance to be the savior. I also now know why JK doesnt stick in a coaching role… he’s not that good
The coaching job yesterday was pathetic. And I mean Klinsmann’s performance. The Honduras coach make Klinsmann look like a rookie. As I said in a state of shock after the game yesterday, US Soccer needs to have a contingency plan in place if the the USMNT is not able to pull at the very least four points out of the next three games. Four points would be borderline, hard to fire Klinsmann. But three or less then he has gotta go. I think Gulati needs to send a strong message that Klinsmann has got to stop tinkering around with this silly experiments playing people out of position. Klinsmann has been doing this since the very beginning and wasting valuable time to get the team in shape and now 18 months later he has D-mid Jermain Jones as right winger and D-mid Michael Bradley as CAM and forward Eddie Johnson as left winger. And don’t get me going on the decisions to start Danny Williams and to bench Boca which Klinsmann also did for the Jamaica debacle in Kingston.
Spot on biff. I couldn’t have said it any better myself in terms of playing players out of position. Let’s face it, Klinsmann is simply not a very good coach. He’s flying by the seat of his pants. His team selections literally make no sense.
You know, Juan, your Bruce Arena comment sort of flew over my head on first reading but somehow it started clawing back and, I tell ya, you can bet your last dollar that Landon Donovan would be playing for the USMNT and wearing the captain’s armband if Arena was coach and we need Landon Donovan, an American soccer legend.
Let’s not forget that last August Donovan agreed to play in Mexico City when several other experienced USMNT players opted out. Bocanegra was not there. So who does Klinsmann name captain? Tim Howard. Unless Landon one day speaks publicly about it, we can never know for sure how this affected Donovan. Was it no big deal to Landon? Or was it like a dagger in his heart feeling betrayed by his buddy Klinsmann? Tim Howard is great and he is one of my favorite players on the team. But Donovan more than anyone has earned the honor of being captain in the World Cup 2014 cycle, his last.
I think Klinsmann needs stop his tough public comments about Donovan and instead swallow his pride and admit his mistakes and give Landon Donovan a telephone call and beg him to come back home and offer him the captain’s armband. Of course, Donovan has his haters, but most of us would welcome him back with open arms and with sighs of relief. If Klinsmann remains stubborn, there is a chance he is going to find himself four games into the Hex with the USMNT at the bottom of the table and fired in disgrace. Of course, he would still collect his $2.5 million salary for the remainder of his contract.
no, please 1000 times nooo. We need anything BUT Bruce Arena…does everyone remember his total lack of decision making in the usa ghana game..(crazy uruguyan ref), but he literally waited until the final 15 minutes to sub EJ in. The man is not international quality coaching…Let just cool down and not jump to any rash conclusions.
Well, Arena took a team that was considered one of the weakest in the field, whose players no one knew outside the US, to a WC quarterfinal. And, by the way, the team actually outplayed Germany in that game.
Yeah, but we had Beasley and Donovan and they had tons of speed. You simple need speed, especially on the wings, if you want to dream of winning major soccer games with regularity. We have no wingers and that is not Klinsi nor Bradley’s fault, except that I think a raw winger is better than a dmid on the outside.
@Jeb: I also am not a big Arena fan. But, quite frankly, if Klinsmann were fired today and Arena took over, I would not be complaining because unless Klinsmann changes his current methods, I think the team would be in better hands with Arena.
In Germany there is common phrase when a coach has lost the locker room. They say: The team is playing against the coach. It is a common phrase because is happens from time to time. it appeared that this happened this year with Hoffenheim players not happy with Markus Babbel and Wolfsburg players miserable under Felix Magath.
I have no doubt that all USMNT players yesterday tried their best to win that game. But the play was so lethargic and at times awful, with the misplaced passes and free kicks up into the ozone, that it almost appeared that they were playing against the coach. I can’t explain it. I was stunned at how bad it was and lack of fight. Methods and tactics and strategy need to be changed.
1. fair. 2. good point. 3. totally agree.
we need a creative mid, just one ONE, Torres maybe, Sacha? I doubt it, but at least put him in the correct position…Fellhaber, definitely the answer, no, he is not an “attacking” mid so much as a guy who controls the rythym of the game, involves everyone, gets his head up for crying out loud..can CONNECT passes…calms the team, unlocks the D, I give a F how he played at NE on that garbage team, he has always excelled on the Nats….that one player changes everything, links the play and makes Bradley better. Sad commentary when your best creative mid for a game is your hammer- Jermaine Jones…
1. Klinsmann keeps trying to put square pegs into a round hole. This isn’t the time for experimenting. He can worry about transforming the model when qualifiication isn’t on the line. The players don’t fully understand his system and he should be implementing it slowly not making drastic change.
2. The team isn’t good enough to play with 3 in the midfield. Ever. Period. I know there’s always some hybrid explanation for the formation, but ultimately JK is trying to play a 433. It isn’t working.
3. Between USA, Costa Rica, and Honduras one isn’t going to make it. Though a bit melodramatic….this game was extremely important. It wasn’t the time to make this many changes to the lineup.
4. We need defenders who defend far more than we need defenders who attack.
I really like #4. Cherundolo is the only FB we have who is good enough to get forward and attack while still defending adequately. Chandler and F Johnson are fabulous athletes and skilled but not far enough along mentally to attack without giving up to much defensively. I was actually fairly surprised at how bad those two looked. Wasn’t too surprised at how bad the centerbacks looked. I think Klinsmann needs to realize that without Cherundolo he cant expect the FBs to provide all the width going forward! We need to have at least one wide midfielder that plays like a winger to stretch the field and open the center up a little bit.
Growing pains for the D. Ballsy move by JK to go with Omar and Cameron, Boca must have really looked poor in training to give Omar the start…Omar must have clearly been the better option, even considering his lack of nats experience. Honestly one of the leading factors for the loss, and a savvy move by Honduras was moving the game time to the hottest time of the day. The US european players are playing games in the 30s and 40s and have 1-2 days to acclimate to temperatures in the 80s with high humidity…they looked absolutely drained, a step slow and out of sorts. Honduras was ready to roll, just coming off a tournament in the region. I don’t understand all the handwringing over the loss. This game was always going to be an ugly defensive affair and brutal for our CBs. There is a long ways to go, we’ll be more dynamic and play much better at home. JK will be fine tuning the roster all the way through the Hex. I don’t see a lot of pressure in qualifying, worst case scenario, we need to beat a team from Oceania to go to Brazil…I think we can do that. The two biggest takeaways from the game… Chandler is thankfully cap tied and JK most likely has moved on from Boca as a starter, which was necessary and needed to happen sooner rather than later to give the new CBs adequate time to gel prior to the WC.
Bring back Jimmy Chitwood!
Chandler was completely unfit and was the worst player on the field today.
What is interesting in these road games we have lost, they have all started with the US scoring (via Dempsey), and then ultimately losing 2 to 1. That pattern has to change, and the US defense needs to have more familiarity with each other so they can have some cohesion.