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USMNT Man of the Match: Michael Bradley, by default

Feb 6, 2013, 6:22 PM EDT

Honduras US Wcup Soccer Getty Images

After a disappointing day in Honduras, there are few pluses for the United States Men’s National Team to fall back on. While loss at a good Honduran team is nothing to sound alarms about, the way that it happened will be troubling. Not only did the U.S. score first, but for much of the match, the U.S. seemed to be managing their way to a result. But a fabulous overhead kick from Juan Carlos Garcia and a 78th minute defensive collapse handed the U.S. their first opening loss in final round history, with New England Revolution attacker Jerry Bengston giving Honduras a 2-1 in San Pedro Sula.

Perhaps more disappointing that the team’s result were the performances of the U.S.’s component parts. Tim Howard made some nice saves but failed to effectively communicate with his defense on the game-winning goal. An inexperienced defense possessing little familiarity with each other looked uncertain and ineffective, no more so than on Bengston’s goal. The midfield lost their battle with the Roger Espinoza-led Hondurans, while the States’ attackers failed to make an impact beyond Clint Dempsey’s 36th minute opener.

In one of the match’s limited bright spots, midfielder Michael Bradley was the States’ best player, even if he had little success limiting Espinoza’s effectiveness. Still, Bradley’s contributions far outweighed his teammates’. As always, his presence in the middle provided a consistent, settling presence for a team that often has trouble acting decisively moving toward goal. As he was moved slightly forward throughout the second half, his distribution from side-to-side helped try to attack the Honduran fullbacks. As the match went on, Bradley became more influential defensively, contesting some of the second balls that went unchallenged in the first half.

Bradley’s 54 successful passes were 20 more than the U.S.’s next most-prolific passer (Dempsey). He completed them at a 83 percent clip. He and Dempsey had the team’s only shots on goal, while Bradley was also responsible for five recovered balls, two interceptions, and two blocked shots.

There may not have been that many Man of the Match candidates from the U.S.’s ranks, but Bradley was certainly the best of them, even if it wasn’t his best match. But as is usually the case when the States play, Bradley was the team’s best player.

Man of the Match is just the start. Stay with ProSoccerTalk throughout the day as we break down the result in Honduras.

  1. tylerbetts - Feb 6, 2013 at 6:40 PM

    I had Bradley third. Not that anyone actually deserves it. It’s a “by default, because you have to have one” kind of award.

    But I had Jermaine Jones and Tim Howard ahead of Bradley. Jones delivered that beautiful pass to Dempsey for the goal, had some other nice linking plays, and didn’t do anything stupid (a real bonus for him). And Howard – damn, another Tim Howard game.

    I thought Bradley – thought not by his own fault – didn’t have a great impact for much of the first half. He was forced to drop too deep for the first 30ish minutes while his teammates couldn’t possess the ball.

    • Richard Farley - Feb 6, 2013 at 8:10 PM

      It’s hard to give a goalkeeper the away when he played such a big part on the game-winning goal.

      As for Jones, I can see that, but he was very slow on the ball a points in the first half and (more importantly, to me) was pulled so early it’s difficult to make the case that he was the man of the match.

      • tylerbetts - Feb 6, 2013 at 10:18 PM

        I can see the argument against Howard. I don’t blame him nearly as much on the second goal (maybe I should, but I can’t get past the lack of effort from Gonzales). And, some of those first half saves were highlight-reel fantastic.

  2. mvktr2 - Feb 6, 2013 at 7:13 PM

    Gotta disagree, he wasted every service opportunity he had, not a single one was decent. On top of that as you said he did little to limit Espinoza. He simply had an off game. Heck I thought Jozy Altidore showed more grit and hustle than I’ve ever seen from him in a US kit. Additionally out of everyone whom played LB, RB, LM, or RM Eddie Johnson was the only one that made a concerted effort to keep width in the attack and tucked in beautifully on the counter creating a couple of chance. It should be noted Kljestan did an admirable job a few times.

  3. wfjackson3 - Feb 6, 2013 at 7:34 PM

    Jermaine Jones was easily our best player on the field today, up until the point he was subbed out. And to suggest it was Bradley just because he is Bradley is a joke. Almost our entire midfield played like junk today, and Bradley’s inability to impose anything on this game had a good bit to do with it.

    • Richard Farley - Feb 6, 2013 at 7:56 PM

      to suggest it was Bradley just because he is Bradley is a joke

      Where is this joke?

      • wfjackson3 - Feb 6, 2013 at 9:26 PM

        In the title? “MotM: Michael Bradley, by default.” Perhaps I am misunderstanding your use of default.

        At any rate, I just don’t think he was that good today. Sure he had the passing numbers, but he was playing in that role. His passing did little to entice the imagination and it didn’t do much to breakdown the Honduran defense either. I saw Jones doing much more of consequence. His corner kicks were sharp and provided some good chances. The long ball assist was brilliantly weighted and spot on.

        I just don’t see it. Maybe I am blind, but then again, I don’t see anyone making a good argument for how he was specifically better than other players on this occasion.

  4. tsingletonvt - Feb 6, 2013 at 10:20 PM

    I am in the Jones camp as well tonight. Bradley had a few lazy, odd passes. His diagonal, pop up moved the ball deeper in the box and led to the first corner before the first goal. He probably could have done better with that and then there is no corner. I also think at least one of his other errors maintained possession for Honduras or have them possession only to see the defense bailed out by offsides. I like Bradley, but this was a sub par effort.

    If there is nobody worthy of a nan of the match, then we do not need to have one. As US soccer fans we need to be more honest about what we see on the field. Criticize when needed and recognize when deserved. It was not deserved tonight.

    • wfjackson3 - Feb 6, 2013 at 10:48 PM

      And lets not forget how he didn’t bother to guard anyone and was caught ball watching on the first goal.

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