USA 2-1 Honduras: Still Shaky, But Back on Track

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Bob Bradley shook up the US squad and formation today in preparation for a critical qualifier in Chicago against Honduras. The Hondurans were missing two key elements: David Suazo one of the top players in CONCACAF and the solid Julio De Leon of Parma in Italy.

Bradley’s changes reflected the caution of a manager under heavy fire who did not want to make a mistake. Bradley’s caution however was thrown to the win in minute five when Carlo Costly continued his outstanding CONCACAF qualifying run with a superb goal after a bad giveaway by Clint Dempsey.

The US continued to be tested by good possession play from Honduras. But around minute twenty the US took control. Conor Casey missed a golden chance and Rico Clark was taken down in the box on a run from his holding midfield position but no penalty call was made. Just before halftime the US lucked out as a clear but inadvertent handball in the area led to a Landon Donovan PK goal.

Honduras had kept their shape fairly well at the back and may have slightly outplayed the US in the first half. But The US had withstood the storm and the lack of Honduran depth seemed to be catching up by the end of the half.

Bob Bradley made the decision not to include Jose Francisco Torres, the arguably best player for the US against Costa Rica in the match squad was controversial. Torres a left footer could have provided a second half attacking spark. But Benny Feilhaber, one of the few Americans with a good first touch and an outstanding imagination in midfield was on the subs bench and he made all the difference.

Carlos Bocanegra’s goal on a set piece was well done, but US was wasteful in the attack, and Honduras still created far too many chances for comfort. The US played a high tempo game and the defenders provided adequate service to the midfielders. But the linkup play from the midfield to the attackers was still lacking.

The most important positive for the United States was the fighting spirit which returned in tonight’s match. Players were pressing and playing with a lot of enthusiasm. But the team still allowed too many chances and gave away too much possession in midfield to get by away from home. While it can be argued that much of tonight’s crowd was pro Honduran, the US was still at home, going through familiar surroundings before the match. This is the point I make consistently about US-Mexico matches on US soil- while the crowds tend to be pro Mexican, the surroundings and psychology before kickoff is decidedly American. Thus to claim the US is the “road” team ever at home is silly. More is involved in playing away from home than simply crowd noise.

Mission accomplished for the US especially given Mexico’s shock loss in San Salvador tonight. With Costa Rica’s win in Trinidad, the Ticos lead the Hex with 12 points from five matches. The US is on track to qualify, but work still has to be done to get the United States to play the possession oriented free flowing football.

Props to USSF President Sunil Gulati for escaping Soccer House to address the American Outlaws as they marched to Solider Field. I was called by an Outlaw marcher right after the event and the energy from Gulati’s speech to the supporters group carried throughout the match.

PLAYER RATINGS

HOWARD   6

Made a few key saves

SPECTOR    7

Positioned well, and linked up nicely with Clint Dempsey

BOCANEGRA   6

As always dangerous on attacking set pieces, but sometimes lacks composure at the back

ONYEWU    6

Lost on the Honduran goal but played almost heroically after that

BORNSTEIN 8

Man of the Match. Showed great understanding with Donovan, and effectively marked Ramon Nunez and Carlos Pavon out of the match in the second half.

MASTROENI  5

Slow start but made some decent tackles later in the first half.

CLARK   5

A decent run out. Still not the caliber of player the US can afford to play on the road in qualifying.

DEMPSEY  5

Better effort tonight, but lacking finishing touch and clearly not playing in his strongest position.

DONOVAN  5

Great effort, but poor service into the area, and dis-possessed too easily at times

CASEY  6

Good target player with decent technical skills. Played well after two years of me begging for a call up. Now let’s see if Bob Bradley names Kenny Cooper to the Confederations Cup squad tomorrow. (We can always hope, can’t we?)

ALTIDORE  6

Out of form with a poor first touch. But great effort, tactical sense and understanding of his team mates. Will be incredible when he regains his form.

FEILHABER  8

Benny Feilhaber could be the player (as could Freddy Adu) that takes the US from struggling in CONCACAF to a legitimate threat to get out of the group in a World Cup. He has all the skills needed to be an amazing two way midfielder ala Steven Gerrard. But he needs to get his head on staraight and stay in shape and on the pitch. Today’s second half was a great start.

DEMERIT  4

Poor initial performance afetr coming in for the injured Carlos Bacanegra. Recovered late with some nice work.

BEASLEY 5

That Beasley would be dressed but Freddy Adu and Jose Torres were not shows Bradley’s mentality in this sort of game. Safety first. Rangers fans must be laughing at the USMNT for capping such a useless player routinely.

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