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USMNT: What. The. Frick?!?!

Honduras 2, U.S. 1 (FT)

As the dude in the American Outlaws t-shirt at the bar (non-official or @ussoccer-approved) where I watched Wednesday's game said as time expired in San Pedro Sula, "Well, that sucked."

Not exactly the greatest way to kick off the final round of CONCACAF 2014 World Cup Qualifying, was it?

There's a tendency to freak out and overreact after a result like this. I get that. In the grand scheme of things, losing on the road to an improved Honduras -- a team expert-at-life Nate Silver's numerology said would win -- isn't necessarily reason to panic. If the U.S. wins its home games, beats Jamaica away and gets some points vs. Costa Rica and Panama it's going to go to Brazil, regardless of the results vs. Mexico.

If the U.S. walked away from the Honduran heat with a draw, or protected Clint Dempsey's very nice goal which put them ahead in the first half, great. We would all have forgotten this match and moved on.

However, the way the U.S. played was ... well ... reason to freak out in earnest. You'd think, for whatever the numbers say, the U.S. is still better than Honduras.

Here's what I know, without slipping into hyperbole:

1. In the second half the U.S. created one solid chance to score, a shot by Dempsey deflected out for a corner.

2. Jozy Altidore, not to single him out, didn't distinguish himself given the starting spot as a lone forward by Jurgen Klinsman. (His PR firm in the U.S. media likely won't mention is name today, just a hunch)

3. Klinsmann's open, attack-minded 4-3-3 with Altidore up top and Eddie Johnson and Dempsey in support, created few chances throughout the match.

4. The greenhorn U.S. defense, including the competitive debuts for all intents and purposes for Timmy Chandler and Omar Gonzalez didn't pay off.

5. Tim Howard made a debatable decision to come off his line (due to a complete team defensive lapse, mind) and got burnt by Jerry Bentgson for the game-winner in the 79th minute.

6. Both teams played on the same grass in the same heat. Hard to use that as an excuse, though the Bundesliga winter break didn't exactly benefit the U.S. today in seamy Central America.

Here's what I don't know:

1. If Carlos Bocanegra had started, the U.S. defense would've been an air-tight, lock-down unit.

2. If Klinsmann played a more conservative gameplan, started Herculez Gomez or others, the result would have been different.

3. (And here's the scary thing) I don't, for the life of me, know if Klinsmann knows what he's doing.

That's the scary prospect here. For all that Klinsmann has talked about, changing the U.S. culture, not much is different. Sure the U.S. now has a win under its belt at the Azteca and Chandler is now cap-tied to the American cause, but beyond that?

Other coaches have gone to Central America and lost, but Klinsmann's run of excuses for the team's inability to put together a tight, tidy and complete 90 minutes of soccer has all but run out.

Ultimately the bare minimum anyone who cares about the U.S. National Team cares about is making the World Cup. It's the standard and it's pass fail. Right now, judging by the last round, too, Klinsmann is in danger of failing. There's justified lack of confidence in the team, calling into question his checkered managerial history despite what he did with Germany in 2006.

There's no need to go overboard, here, since Klinsmann is the coach for the U.S. through this cycle no matter what, considering his ties to Sunil Gulati.

Is this result the end of the world? No. Hardly.

Does it instill much reason to believe anything is going to change going forward? Nope.

Does it make the home game in Denver in March vs. Costa Rica a "must-win"? You bet.

Hard to figure any player walking off the field today will be too proud of their performance, either.

It all seemed to be setting up on a plate for a patented U.S. smash-and-grab, do nothing for the bulk of the match, only to grab a late result. Except today Howard had a shaky moment of indecision and wasn't able to bail out the lackluster defense. It's okay, I guess, Howard has bailed the U.S. defense out more times than we can all count. It underlines the slim margin the Americans play with each time out.

The U.S. wasn't good Wednesday, nor was it god-awful. It's not like Honduras played exceedingly great and ran them off the field. The heat was likely some cause of this for both sides. Given a chance to make a play late, Oscar Boniek Garcia and Bentgson did so and made the Americans pay, not unlike they've done to numerous opponents throughout the years.

Again, this isn't writing off the team. Come the end of the year, people will be looking for ways to book flights to Brazil, perhaps finding a room with Karl Pilkington's drag queen friend.

The sky isn't falling.


Other stuff:

* Impossible to gauge this, but would the "experience" of Bocanegra made a difference on either Honduras goal? There's a chance, maybe, a player with Bocanegra's track record wouldn't switch off completely on the first Honduran goal (which lets face it was a hell of a bicycle kick by Juan Carlos Garcia). Perhaps. There's just as good a chance he'd have gotten skinned on the second goal like Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez.

* Juan Carlos Garcia, take a bow. Hell of a goal.

* Overall the U.S. defense was, if you're into the numbers thing, in the 4.0 or lower match rating . Cameron looked like a guy who's played the entire season in the midfield for Stoke City. Who's the alternative? Matt Besler? Thawing out Oguchi Onyewu? Hard to argument the high-risk, high-reward gamble Klinsmann tried with his defense didn't come up completely bust, particularly with Chandler and Fabian Johnson ineffective on the flanks.

* Not to pick on them but the Bundesliga guys (Jones, Danny Williams, Chandler, F. Johnson) didn't look sharp. Again Klinsmann rolled the dice playing all of them in an important game when their league only just resumed its play from a few weeks off. Going from the cold of Northern Europe to the tropics of Honduras is going to be a shock to the system for anyone.

* U.S. surprisingly got a break on a call, with the first would-be Honduras go-ahead goal properly waved off for offsides. Go figure.

* Few things are as inexcusable as giving up the equalizer like the U.S. did in the 40th, barely four minutes after Dempsey's strike. Hold the lead up halftime and it's a different match for the final 45. Would the U.S. have bunkered down and held it? The way the defenders played, probably not. Still, it's deflating to give up the tying goal that soon after you go ahead.

* Complaining about Jermaine Jones is like complaining about the weather at this point. Klinsmann has a blind eye for him and will keep using him, for better or for worse. He was pretty good Wednesday, with a great visionary pass to set up Dempsey's goal. Jones only made it through about 60 minutes until Maurice Edu had to come on.

* There's another time for this, yet it's a bit ridiculous fans in America could watch: England, Germany, France, Brazil and Mexico play with ease, but many had to result to McGyver-like means to watch the U.S. play.

* Ray Hudson, everyone's favorite Geordie announcer, is remarkably subdued when Lionel Messi isn't around.

In Closing

This song seems oddly appropriate tonight as we sob ourselves to sleep, crying into our red scarves:

Labels: , , , ,

5 Responses to “Ooooooooooooooops”

  1. # Blogger 30f

    Nice post and you did a good job at not freaking out or over-reacting - unlike some on these here 'Nets.

    Most of us weren't loving how the USMNT was playing under Bradley the Elder. Now he is gone and replaced by the Klinny-Copter. The results don't seem all that different from four years ago, so why is the assumption that the 'problem' both then and now was the coaching. Maybe, just maybe, it's the players that aren't good enough to beat Honduras on the road.

    Like sports talk radio callers we want the coach fired after every loss, in part because we know the roster of players won't change - or at least won't change very quickly. Kompany isn't walking through the door, but maybe Magical Coach X is. Maybe??¿

    Boca looked like toast against Jamaica in the semis. Remember that? Why play him now? Maybe it would have been better to have a defender from one of Spain's second division relegation zone-dwellers on the field against Honduras, but it's not like Klinny over-looked a young Jaap Stam by leaving him out.

    This performance doesn't inspire confidence, but it is the players that aren't measuring up. I think the USMNT will still qualify. Almost hard not to with 4 out of 6 making it. It's like being named 'Bush' and applying to Yale, we'll have to try harder than THIS to screw it up.  

  2. # Anonymous Anonymous


    Great comment as always. This team isn't very good, period. And hasn't been in some time. The win at Azteca and draw in Russia were nice results, but it's not like they "outplayed" those opponents.

    I do agree that it would be tough for the US not to qualify, but it's not out of the question either.

    You stated that "Maybe, just maybe, it's the players that aren't good enough to beat Honduras on the road." Maybe this team isn't good enough to be Honduras . . period.  

  3. # Blogger Macarthur Antigua

    Great post and comments y'all.

    I'm usually a pollyanna when it comes to USMNT. However, after yesterday's game, I'm trying to figure out how to summon any sort of positivity, outside of "well, Chandler-Cameron-Gonzalez-Johnson is the future, so this is going to be the best way for them to learn."

    But doing it on the frickin' road on the first game of the Hex?

    Ok, Honduras is pretty good. I don't want to totally bury them - the Olympics showed that they've got some talent coming down the pipeline.

    However, I'm hard pressed to figure out how a team with majority Bundesliga and EPL players (we're talking top 3/4 pro leagues in the world, right?) can't link up a series of passes and just look competent. Just cause we don't have LD marauding out there doesn't mean we can't play just simple fundamental footie.

    I can't tell if Klinsi is straight trolling us, or if this is the early part of Hoosiers where Coach Dale tells the ref - "My team is on the court" and it's some sort of brilliant message to tell his team and his town that this is how we're going to do this. Maybe this ends with some glorious finale Jimmy Chitwood/Landon Donovan comes back to win the WC with whatever the soccer equivalent of the "picket fence," but right now I'm not seeing it.


  4. # Blogger HBO2003

    @Mike- I really liked the simplicity of two of your points. 1) The US created one chance in the 2nd half. That statement summarized the game, the line-up, the roster, and the current state of team under Klinsmann. 2)It's a pass / fail result. Finishing 3rd on goal differential is a realistic outcome. It would probably get them the same "lottery balls" from FIFA next December as would finishing a strong 2nd to Mexico. But as you wrote early this week, results really don't matter as much as progress in style of play and talent on the roster. So the result didn't bother me, but the absolute reliance on two players (Clint and Michael) for any offense is reason for worry.

    I spent the first 10 mins not watching the action on the field as much as listening to the three man booth. With the absurd Gus Johnson news this week, I couldn't help but wonder if Schoen was knowingly showing off by how he was driving the call to let Ray and Cobi chime in, while dropping little bits of info on the playing history of half that Honduras roster. This was not an ESPN national team call. They pounded ( primarily Hudson) Cameron for the 2nd goal. It may not be on most sports tiers, but its a professional call.  

  5. # Blogger 30f

    It seems like lots of pro commenters (I'm thinking of Twellman and Alexi Lalas here) are VERY hung up on the angle that the USMNT is not exhibiting the stylish play that Klinny promised in his initial pressers. As if THAT is the problem - that Klinny isn't living up to his promises. Boo hoo, Jurgen is letting us down! (and this after we over-praised him on live TV after his hiring?!?)

    The problem (and for now it is a speed bump and not a distaster, IMO) is that the team lost on the road in a WC qualifier. Going into an away match at Honduras without a full International Break and the requisite week of training ahead of time is no joke. How many national teams would show up and go all-offense guns a-blazing in that environment? Spain. And who else? Playing a defensive, risk-managing strategy on the road in WCQ matches is NOT a sign of weakness. The weakness was that Honduras was better than us. Not by a lot, but they were better.

    I want my national team to be really good. I want 'us' to be bold and try to win with aggressive attacking moves. I also want an Audi R8 and a cheeseburger. The USMNT is probably the 15th to 25th best team in the world, right? This is how teams like that play on the road against opposition that is close to being as good as them. Honduras aren't a sucky team like Canada. Those weird Super H jerseys were at the last World Cup, so why are we expecting a walk-over? Because teh US economy is better? Oops, don't look now.

    'First loss in the opening Hex game in XYZ years' is a nice stat. But weren't most of those at home? Also, the US used to be streets better than everyone but Mexico and maybe the Ticos. That streak stretches back 20+ years. It's a different world in 2013. Now we are maybe *slightly* better than the rest of the Non-Mex Hex. Less so on the road. It's one loss. Deep breaths, everyone.

    Other thoughts:
    -Jozy is offense only. He is useless when we don't have the ball. We all need to remember that 'scoring a lot' in Holland is like 'scoring in a brothel with a handful of cash' - not that hard. Younger scored nearly 20 one season for Herenveen. Glad Jozy is doing well at AZ, but he is so unengaged for looong stretches of USMNT matches that however much 'better' he is that Herc-G, I think the team'd be better with Altidore on the bench.

    -I listen to a LOT of podcasts, many of them from the UK and a ton of commenters over there think that Honduras (and at other times Costa Rica and Mexico) are in SOUTH America. Hell, Mexico is not even Central, it is NORTH America. Us 'Merikuns leave a lot to be desired on the geographic knowledge front, but I am starting to think that British folks might not even know that Central America exists. I always remind myself that Boston and San Diego are 400 miles FARTHER apart than Lisbon and Moscow. Yes, these are the kind of things I remind myself of.  

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