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USMNT conquers the cold and Honduras to earn vital World Cup qualifying win

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ST. PAUL, Minnesota — The U.S. men’s national team hadn’t had much success with scoring first-half goals or scoring on set pieces in the Concacaf Octagonal heading into Wednesday’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Honduras, but that changed on a brutally cold night at Allianz Field.

Weston McKennie and Walker Zimmerman scored off a pair of Kellyn Acosta set pieces, and Christian Pulisic came off the bench to add an insurance tally off an Acosta corner, to help give the Americans a 3-0 victory.

The win gives the Americans six points from this international window, and keeps them in second place in the Octagonal standings, behind first-place Canada. The three points draws them closer to securing World Cup berth heading into the final three matches in March, against Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica.

Weston McKennie set the tone with the earliest USMNT goal scored in the Octagonal, heading home an Acosta set piece in the 8th minute.

The goal helped the USMNT settle in and control the first half against a Honduran side that never found a rhythm or generated many attacking threats.

The Americans found their second goal in the 37th minute when another Acosta set piece floated into the penalty area and fell to Zimmerman, who shed his marker and quickly slotted him the finish.

The brutally-cold conditions took a toll on Honduras, which made three halftime substitutions and later revealed that two of their substitutions were caused by players struggling to cope with the cold.

The Americans continued to control the match in the second half, and never looked threatened. Pulisic came on in the 65th minute and needed less than two minutes to find his first goal of the window, tapping home an Acosta corner kick redirected into his path by Zimmerman for a simple finish from close range.

The Americans return to World Cup qualifying action in March, with a trip to Estadio Azteca to face Mexico, then host Panama in Orlando before wrapping up the Octagonal with a trip to Costa Rica.

Comments

  1. Mr. bum,

    “Pep’s teams do not play like Herdman’s at all…wrong. ”

    “at all”?? Wow. You’re exaggerating what I wrote.

    “They do not foul intentionally after the release as a team.”

    When did I ever discuss the particulars of how intentional fouls are implemented?

    Man City have long had a reputation for being quietly proficient with the tactical fouls. Herdman’s boys are just more crude.

    Your presumed authority on the details of the tactical foul and its application does not change the fact that many if not most top flight teams use tactical fouls., some more deliberately than others. And they all do it to slow down the other team, break up their rhythm.

    “You are wrong no matter how many times you say it. It’s a big thing to simply state inaccuracies as truth these days. I see you’re into it.”

    How unkind. Sad.

    Reply
  2. the difference between tactical fouls vs. fouling as a tactic, they are VERY different

    Herdman’s approach is to bully, to show up with all aware they are going to purposefully foul you ugly all game, and all will participate. Old school North American stuff but to the extreme extreme, because the Herdman way includes diving and flopping too and whining about anything back, to accuse others of that which he and his team are guilty. OK< it's not new, it's NOT Pep either (he understands the difference between a tactical foul and fouling as a tactic ). But it is like how the Scolari school of flopping just took that whole thing to the extreme ridiculousness and made a joke out of it. Thank goodness for video to confirm all of this

    Reply
    • Such as air of presumed authority.

      Nit pick all you want, a foul to break up the rhythm of the other guys is a foul to break up the rhythm of the other guys.

      Reply
  3. A couple things for people to keep in mind regarding this cycle’s coach & player pool.
    1) We have rarely had our full complement of players available for selection. Be it McKennie’s release, Pulisic & Reyna’s injuries, travel restrictions, etc….
    March may be the first window where we may finally have everyone available and everyone’s leagues playing.
    2) Overall the US player pool is extremely Young and when looking at what most would expect our starters the squad average is about what would be expected of a
    U-23 team not our WC Team. Their average age Dec. 2022 is 22.8 yrs….Pulisic, McKennie, Adams, Reyna, Musah, Robinson, Robinson, Dest, Weah, Aaronson, Pepi. We may have the youngest starting XI, and possibly the youngest squad at the 2022 WC.
    3) Despite Gregg’s poor tactics & player selections…. and the inconsistent performances of this young team we are still 2nd in the table with a good goal differential. The last window won’t be easy but Mexico will be missing some key players. CR is the last game of qualifying…and with their age and the possibility they’ll already be knocked out, could play in our favor. And Panama is at home.
    4) The return of Reyna & Morris….The emergence of Busio, Luca, Scally, Richards… may finally remove some of worst performers (Lletget, Roldan, Zardes) from the player pool. If Konrad, Sargent, & Hoppe can get on track it certainly will see the end of some of Greggs favorites.

    If we ever get a chance to build some consistency & chemistry this team will surprise some this WC….and will be seriously dangerous come 2026 when we have a real coach.

    Reply
    • “If we ever get a chance to build some consistency & chemistry this team will surprise some this WC….and will be seriously dangerous come 2026 when we have a real coach.”

      This team had three years and 47 games to build some consistency and chemistry. Injuries happen all the time and player’s being unavailable is SOP in the international game. Good managers build their team to work around that. Look at Herdman.

      At the moment the USMNT manager is lucky because enough of these guys are healthy and fit. And they have just faced a brutally awful team. So they have ended on a high note. But he’s going to have to beat Mexico in Azteca to keep that going. And this is the best chance they will have to win in Azteca. That’s not a very good Mexican team.

      Once the qualifiers end, there are only friendlies left before Qatar. That’s no way for a team to build up consistency and chemistry, especially when you realize this team only does well when you step on their neck. If they blow through the next window, dominate AND win all three games and sail into the World Cup, then you’ll have something to build on for Qatar. Otherwise it will be the same old, okay game, crap game, good game.

      The 2022 WC team, if they get there, is not a developmental squad for 2026. There’s a good chance that this will be the only World Cup for many of them,

      You’re assuming that this core will all improve in a linear fashion. Good in 2022? Must mean they’ll be great in 2026!

      That’s not how it works. Four years is an era in soccer. It’s a very long time to keep up a high standard. Especially when you consider that this inferior manager will stay until 2026.

      I’d fire him after the Costa Rica game and have Jesse per the team for Qatar, if they qualify. And especially if the result is 4th place and playoff.

      Reply
      • this entire US men’s soccer program had to be reconstituted from the ground up becasue Klinsmann literally burned it down from within. I’d say Sarachan and GB have don alright with that. GB is imperfect, but at least he takes responsibility for his mistakes. Klinsmann never made a mistake, remember? You were a big Klinsmann supporter, yes?

      • My intent was not that the 2022 squad be a development squad for the 2026 WC. And yes, for some of the current squad this is there 1 chance of making it to a WC. However, right now we are leaning heavily on a group of 22 year old’s due to the fact that they are miles better than the veterans who’s generation have been a complete failure.
        Prime age for players tend to be around 26…this is where physically players are at their peak and they have experienced enough high level competition to predict patterns in the game and know instinctively how to counter.
        Yes some of the players I identified as part of the current Core will fall out or be over taken….but enough of them will still be present in the starting XI to mentor the next generation of players. Case in point I didn’t include Richards, Scally, Clark or any of the other young talents who will have every opportunity to unseat some of the Core players I mentioned. What I was alluding to was that in the next cycle we’re not going to be hanging our hopes on bunch of 22 year olds…but rather we’ll have a team with a balanced mix of ages & experiences.
        Lastly regarding your response to my comment about building chemistry and consistency. Yes we’ve had 3 years & 47 games to try and build up these aspects within the team. But Gregg squandered large portions of that time with some of his player selections. Gregg basically took over in 2019, and if you look at the players who earned the most minutes each year you see significant changes year over year…
        2019 = 18 games played….Long, Arriola, Steffen, McKennie, Zardes, Roldan, Pulisic, Morris, Miazga, Lima
        2020 = 4 games played…Lost year due to Covid. Lletget, Cannon, Steffen, Yueill, Dest, Miazga, Aaronson, Musah, Uly, Arriola
        2021 = 22 games played….Acosta, Lletget, Turner, Robinson, Aaronson, Adams, Robinson, Dest, Steffen, Zimmerman
        2022 = 3 games played….A. Robinson, Turner, McKennie, Zimm, Richards, M. Robinson, Pulisic, Dest, Musah, Adams
        Gregg’s unreasonable attachment to players who were part of his first camp and have shown continuously that they lack the ability to influence at the international level (Arriola 43 caps, Lletget 33 caps, Roldan 31 caps, Yueill 15 caps, Zardes ~20 caps)…and it’s clear that Gregg’s decision making has hindered the ability of this team to truly jell and develop chemistry.
        We’ve got one 3 game WCQ window remaining, We’ll hopefully have 2-4 Friendlies over the summer, and a 3 game friendly send-off before the WC. If Gregg would stop calling up the dead weight and focus on involving 30 players each camp going forward…we should have enough time to build at least some semblance of team cohesion/chemistry.

      • LOS,

        The USMNT player pool is, for the most part, “internationally inexperienced”.

        Mostly, that is because most of them are young and inexperienced professional players, period. And the ones that aren’t, suck.

        If we have a nice group of 24–28-year-old good to great players available for 2026 it will be, in great part, because the American player pool, in general, has matured well.

        That has little to do with anything the USMNT or its manager does.
        They are just reacting to the transition, not influencing it.

        JK famously is credited for influencing American kids to move to Europe with “be the best player you can be” statement but that is an exaggeration.

        Kids with pro ambitions know where the best players are made. If they can,they move there so they can be the best. It’s not very different from foreign kids moving here to increase their chances of getting into the NBA.

        Like most international managers, the manager of the USMNT does not develop players.

        No time, no facilities. When they take over, the makeup of the player pool is, mostly, beyond their control.

        That’s why managers who can (cliché warning) adapt to the pool, make chicken soup out of chicken manure and make the whole greater than the sum of the parts, make for the most effective international managers (see Herdman, John).

        In that regard the current USMNT manager is more of Club manager. He manages like a Club manager.

        Meaning that at a club you can develop and mold players for your “system”, etc., etc. The current manager still seems to be trying to do that. That’s why he is so attached to “his guys”. Let them go and you must start over, and you have so little time as it is. He actually believes he can turn Ariolla into a World Cup level winger.

        This manager seems to believe that in the end, his system, his tactics, IF properly executed by the players, will prevail above all else

        The USSF has clearly bought into his “vision”. That’s why I say he’s going to be around for 2026.

        Because the only way this all makes sense is if the USSF believes that he will give them AMERICA the CLUB (not the Mexican one) in 2026.

        In theory, from the cohesion and continuity standpoint (which we have seen very little of) the concept has some merit. The problem is that the current manager is not good enough to make this work in a timely fashion.

        At the beginning the bar was just qualify, baby. Not anymore.

        Because now most sane people have now seen the CONCACAF opposition. And it’s clear that it’s not real great. Mexico is as weak as I’ve ever seen them. We’re better, man for man, than Canada. We are no worse than second in any respect, in CONCACAF.

        And those same sane people have seen our team. And they can see the inconsistency and underachievement just pouring out of the pores of this team. Most of the time, you blame that on the manager.

        Look at all the posts that defend this regime. Mostly they make weak excuses for problems that previous managers somehow got past and that everyone knew were problems going in. No one is endorsing the manager. They look for any excuse to credit him.

        Competing in the World Cup will be different but just as hard if not harder. Why should anyone expect that results, against tougher teams, will be any better?

        This manager and his team’s flaws are not going away.

        If we are ever going to see the “true nature of this team” it will be during this upcoming window.

      • Mr. bum,

        “this entire US men’s soccer program had to be reconstituted from the ground up becasue Klinsmann literally burned it down from within.”

        And it was doing so well before he got there.

        Such hyperbole.

        All new managers have to reconstitute their program from the ground up. Some just have more to work with than others. It’s about timing.

        Bob had a pretty nice core left over when he took over from the previous management. (Timmy, Dolo, Boca, DMB, Clint, and of course LD, etc.) combined with a new core just coming up ( Gooch, Demerit, Sacha, Mo Edu, Benny, CD9, Jozy, Stu and MB90, etc.). Near or at their peak, that was a hell of core for Bob to play with. Jozy could actually stay on the field for 90 minutes in those days. Bob didn’t have a lot to do with developing most of these players, except MB90 and Sacha, but he knew how to take use them. That’s the very definition of a good international manager.

        When JK took over he had Bob’s crew with much more mileage on it and little else. He wound up having to make much chicken soup out of chicken shit than Bob ever did.

        And he finished first in qualifying and gave us a great World Cup run. He also gave us a good Copa America run. He even won that greatest of USMNT achievements, a Gold Cup. One where Wondo and LD, combined, scored 10 goals, 5 apiece.

        “I’d say Sarachan and GB have don alright with that.”

        Sarachan did his job. And GB has been putrid.

        “GB is imperfect, but at least he takes responsibility for his mistakes.”

        Really? Like when? He’s far from imperfect. He’s a very inept manager in charge of potentially the best batch of very young talent the USMNT has seen. It’s casting pearls before swine. It’s a shame when they could be learning from a real manager.

        “Klinsmann never made a mistake, remember? You were a big Klinsmann supporter, yes?”

        Bob was shafted by the USSF. He didn’t and continues to not love the USSF. The same with the other guy before Bob.
        JK gave the USMNT old boys club the shakeup that the whole thing needed but was sharp enough to have a nice buyout clause in his contract so at least he got his money.

        The current guy is their boy, unlike the other three. Company guy.

        So in my book, JK was great for the program. I notice that Yedlin and Pulisic have nothing but great things to say about him as well. So I’m in good company.

  4. Can’t read too much into this game. Subzero temps, home game vs worst team in the ocho. GGG seems to lay at least one tactical egg each round. The pattern has repeated itself here.

    Reply
  5. GB got plenty wrong in Canada, it happens and he did. Gyasi the presser vs. Herdman? Hrdman played for the counter at home, possessed in his attacking third maybe 5 times in the game? Tactical misjudgement by GB imo, made worse by Gyasi when on the occasions we did pull Canada out and had the counter on, 3 separate times Gyasi killed the play. To me it’s not his fault, I put that on GB. That terrible ball by Turner to assist on the first goal? That’s on Matt, his one weakness at present, distribution.

    Last night tho, GB gets the credit imo. Many good decisions and we keep trying again next time to qualify. Far from over but the mentality last night was it. Herc was right when he said urgency in Canada sucked.

    Not last night. More needed ahead.

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  6. It was good show under frigid conditions for our boys, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This seemed like a practice squad comprised of Honduran players who lacked incentive to do anything other than going through the motions, unlike their heydays under Tyson Nunez, David Suazo, and Amado Guevara.

    What happened to the their pipeline of talent, did they just get old, and not replaced by a younger generation?

    I think we could get at least a point against Mexico, from the way they’re playing, tying CR last week and barely escaping last night against Panama with a PK.

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  7. It is time to take a ‘glass half full’ mentality. We care about qualifying above all..

    – Mexico picked up 3 crucial points against Panama last night. In March, Panama has to pick up points against the US and Canada – not an easy task.
    – Costa Rica is right behind Panama, but also has games against the US and Canada in March.
    – Canada is probably thinking about seeding, and will not take its foot off the gas in March
    – The first tie-breaker is goal differential, which gives the US an advantage going into March.
    – Mexico really looked disjointed for many stretches of the Panama game. Azteca used to be the US house of horrors. Picking up a point in an away game at Azteca in March is attainable.

    As for the game…

    – This team needs depth at #6, and Acosta stepped up last night. Yes, it’s Honduras, but he still played very well. MOTM in my eyes. Need to see that consistency in March.
    – Depth again, but seeing Morris contribute 60 minutes after such a long layoff is a positive step. He’ll continue to sharpen once the season starts.
    – I thought LDLT would get subbed off for Musah in the 2nd half, but he put in a full and effective 90.

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  8. It was good to win, but let’s not kid ourselves. This is a pretty bad Honduras team. We still don’t have a killer instinct. At the beginning of the 2nd half there was a Honduras turnover at midfield with a defender out of position. A. Robinson passed the ball down the left flank and it looked like there was an opening for an attack and I’m not sure who it was (Morris maybe) but he was cut off a bit and the first response was to move the ball back over to our half of the pitch. Just a little thing, but indicative of the failure of the team to move quickly and keep attacking. Also, when faced with a choice of trying a through pass into the box or passing out toward the sideline, the US usually chose the latter. Only toward the end of the game did we the US try slotting passes through the middle to attackers. As to the players, Acosta did well and I think he did as well as Adams does. Finally we had someone who could take some good free kicks. McKennie has been the best US player since he was sent home for breaking rules and he showed it again today.

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    • Lozano has a separated shoulder, and Herrera is suspended for US match for yellow cards. Martino may really have to improvise come March.

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  9. Glad to see Luca get the start and an opportunity to show what he can contribute. Especially over seeing Lletget & Roldan again.
    The fact that Lletget did not step foot on the field during this window, and that Roldan only received 6 minutes is one of the best takeaways this trio of games.
    A return of Reyna and the addition of Busio & Luca, maybe Gregg is finally realizing the fact that Lletget & Roldan don’t belong.
    Reviewing the point totals and games remaining (assuming Panama/Mexico ends in a tie)….The worst case scenario we only eek out 1 point in the final window (a tie w/ Panama) we wouldn’t finish any lower than 4th. If Mexico wins tonight & the US 1 point next window and Panama earns 5 pts, the US, Panama, & CR would finish with the same point total. The US would have to get hammered to lose the Goal Differential.

    Reply
    • GB picks players like Lletget and Roldan because they were the best available for that window, know the system and tactics, and know their role and expectations if subbed in. All things considered, one should not expect Lletget or Roldan to get selected for Qatar, barring injuries or poor form. I also see a player like Yedlin, once a mainstay, really needing to fight for a spot in the coming months.

      Going into the March break in 2nd place with a positive goal differential puts us in a very good position. All three games will be a challenge, but we are not forced to win to move up into a WCQ position.

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      • “All three games will be a challenge, but we are not forced to win to move up into a WCQ position.”

        “Not forced to win?”

        That’s very risky.

        If the USMNT draw all three games, final USMNT total is 24 points.

        That would put them even on points with Panama, assuming Panama gets 7 points out of the window.

        The USMNT has a better GD than Mexico , Panama or CR. But that could change.

        The best Costa Rica can do is 23 points if they draw with the USMNT.
        But if the USMNT come to Costa Rica with only 22 points then its winner take all because a loss to CR could put Canada, Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica above the US.

        Not likely but possible. Like the last cycle.

        The USMNT’s better goal difference is nice cushion but they would be well advised to get 9 points if they can.

  10. While the referee was not perfect, he at least called some fouls and awarded yellow cards. With this referee in the Canada game the Canadian tactic of foul early, foul often would have not have been so effective. Still, the US must play faster if eat they are going to score on better teams.

    Today Weah was guilty of using too many touches which slowed things down. Sure he can beat players, but it should not be something he tries almost all the time, one or two touches would have served him better.

    I am amazed that Aaronson who is unafraid to make challenges against much bigger players has been able to emerge more or less injury free throughout his career.

    DLT showed he can run with the ball and made some decent passes, but I wonder how he will do against a defense that puts up more resistance.

    If only A. Robinson would do a better job with crosses, he seems able to beat defenders to get in the crosses, but has a tough time picking out teammates.

    Reply
    • “If only A. Robinson would do a better job with crosses, he seems able to beat defenders to get in the crosses, but has a tough time picking out teammates.”

      Putting in a cross, even on set plays, is usually a dynamic thing like wing shooting.

      You put it where they, supposedly, are going to be , not where they are.

      Antonee puts in his share of bad Ariolla-esque crosses but crosses are always a two person deal, the passer and the receiver.

      This team does not play together very often. You expect too much in terms of cohesion with crosses.

      “I am amazed that Aaronson who is unafraid to make challenges against much bigger players has been able to emerge more or less injury free throughout his career.”

      Are you suggesting bigger players are more dangerous tacklers? Brian Mullan, the guy whose tackle shattered Steve Zakuani’s leg ( they came lose to amputating it) and shattered Steve’s career, is 5’8″ tall, not exactly a big guy. You’ll find that the nastiest tacklers are often the aggressive “little guys”.

      Brenden hasn’t been a pro that long. There’s still time for someone to seriously hurt him. On the other hand, Landon , who was about the same size and had something of the same style, to the best of my knowledge, never got whacked like Zakuani did. Maybe you should be glad Brenden hasn’t been hurt? My old coach once told me that if I went hard into tackles then I wouldn’t be the one that got hurt. Brenden is very aggressive, maybe that helps.

      “With this referee in the Canada game the Canadian tactic of foul early, foul often would have not have been so effective. Still, the US must play faster if eat they are going to score on better teams.”

      That tactic works even when you face better teams. For example, Man City does that, foul you to slow you down, and break up you rhythm. Playing slowly and deliberately has been a basic characteristic of this team since the current manager took over. Its a function of the manager wanting them to play in a certain way that many of them may not be familiar with.

      It will get better after of lots of practices that they won’t have time to have or games that they don’t have enough of. This particular group should be ready to go sometime in 2023, next season. They looked better today but then again, Honduras are seriously not good.

      Reply
      • Man City does not foul the way Herdman’s teams do. Trying to equate the two is false, period, fake news. Come on man, do better.

        Herdman’s teams foul on purpose After The Release, over and over and over again. Pep’s teams do not. You are wrong again yet delivered with your presumed air of authority.

      • Mr. bum,

        The idea is to slow down the other team. In that sense, a foul is a foul. I sincerely doubt Pep’s guys are overly squeamish . It’s more that they are skillful at fouling without getting booked.

        This is CONCACAF and the refs are more used to watching teams like Canada. CONCACAF refs tend to be more hit and miss, in a manner of speaking.

        “Herdman’s teams foul on purpose After The Release, over and over and over again.”

        So do Pep’s teams. That’s a good way to break a team’s rhythm. The Canadians just are not as elegant about it. If you think Pep is more civilized or any “softer” than Herdman that’s hilarious. Pep did get to where he is by being a softie. He’s as ruthless as they get.

        “You are wrong again yet delivered with your presumed air of authority.”

        I deliver with a “presumed air of authority”? Yet it is you who writes:

        “Trying to equate the two is false, period, fake news. Come on man, do better.”

        Who is the one writing with a “presumed air of authority”, telling people to “get better”, now?

        I’m shocked I tell you , shocked.

        https://www.goal.com/en-us/news/foul-or-nothing-peps-professional-approach-to-killing/1mroa09dasvrs1jwyw6e9efceh

      • Pep’s teams do not play like Herdman’s at all…wrong. They do not foul intentionally after the release as a team. You are wrong no matter how many times you say it. It’s a big thing to simply state inaccuracies as truth these days. I see you’re into it.

      • Mr. bum,

        “Pep’s teams do not play like Herdman’s at all…wrong. ”

        “at all”?? Wow. You’re exaggerating what I wrote.

        “They do not foul intentionally after the release as a team.”

        When did I ever discuss the particulars of how intentional fouls are implemented?

        Man City have long had a reputation for being quietly proficient with the tactical fouls. Herdman’s boys are just more crude.

        Your presumed authority on the details of the tactical foul and its application does not change the fact that many if not most top flight teams use tactical fouls., some more deliberately than others. And they all do it to slow down the other team, break up their rhythm.

        “You are wrong no matter how many times you say it. It’s a big thing to simply state inaccuracies as truth these days. I see you’re into it.”

        How unkind. Sad.

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