Skip to content

What we learned from Wednesday’s U.S. loss to Honduras in World Cup qualifying

Feb 6, 2013, 6:50 PM EDT

Honduras' Juan Garcia celebrates with teammate Luis Garrido after scoring against the U.S. during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match at Olimpico stadium in San Pedro Sula

Final round World Cup qualifying is off to the rockiest of starts, and the disillusionment with U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann will surely reach critical mass after Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to Honduras.

Overall, the United States was on its way to managing out a 1-1 draw, which would have been a satisfactory result. But what could have been a routine defensive play in the back fell apart in spectacularly and well …

Here’s what we can take away from the match in hot and humid San Pedro Sula:

Why the loss hurts:

As we’ve said before, a loss on the road in World Cup qualifying is hardly a deal-killer. Nine matches remain, including five at home, where the United States has been next to unbeatable through the last few qualifying cycles.

But the final round qualifying schedule, which fell so unfavorably to the United States, adds pressure. Consider that the United States may well lose its next match road match, at Mexico. That makes the March 22 contest at home (in Denver) against Costa Rica an absolute must have victory for Klinsmann and Co.

Otherwise, the United States could go into final round Match Day 4 with zero wins. That would be very, very bad.

(MORE: Which U.S. men needed to be better)

The bold linecup selection that backfired:

You can’t say Klinsmann is afraid of changes or bold gambits. Lots of them, in fact, especially considering such a short camp to rehearse the adjustments. Jozy Alitdore’s inclusion at striker over the usually preferred Herculez Gomez fell as a surprise.

Same for Eddie Johnson as a starter, once again nominally along the left, as we saw toward the end of semifinal qualifying.  But none of the changes ticked the shocker box like the eye-catching choice across the back line. Klinsmann adjudged that the future was now in making a brave switcharoo: captain Carlos Bocanegra took a seat on the bench as Omar Gonzalez was blooded in the harshest of CONCACAF environments in his first World Cup qualifier appearance.

Gonzalez, of course, just came off his first extended U.S. camp. On Honduras’ goal, it wasn’t so much that Gonzalez was in there; the problem was more about someone not taking charge. Had Bocanegra been there, perhaps communication – so important from the center backs in a flat four defense – would have been sharper and catastrophe could have been dodged.

(MORE: Discussing the Carlos Bocanegra/Omar Gonzalez switch)

Lots of blame to go around on the winning goal:

Tim Howard is everyone’s hero, but he didn’t do well on the home team’s game-winner. Bottom line there, if the U.S. goalkeeper comes for that ball, he’s as to get it. Period.

Meanwhile, Geoff Cameron needed to clear the danger. Period. Even if Howard was screaming for it – we may know more later after hearing from the U.S. men – no one would fault Cameron for putting that menacing, sneaky little through ball somewhere into urban San Pedro Sula.

And then there was Gonzalez caught ball watching rather than tracking behind the play.

Credit to Honduras’ Oscar Boniek Garcia, the Houston Dynamo jitterbug attacker for his committed work to create that goal. But from the U.S. side, that goal in three words: What a mess.

(MORE: Klinsmann addresses the loss)

The formation:

Klinsmann lined up his team in a modified 4-4-2, with Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson sometimes swapping positions, striker for left-sided midfielder.

The United States did a reasonable job of pressing up high, as a unit, which is the only way to make that effective, of course. On the other hand, getting the ball back doesn’t help much if you can’t do much with it.

The U.S. passing out of the back: pedestrian.

The U.S. passing in midfield: uninspired.

Still, strategically, the United was managing out a solid, tactical match in hot and humid conditions. (So debilitating that Klinsmann had used all three subs by the 66th minute.) The visitors sat deep and waited for chances, like the 29th minute hook-up between Johnson on the left and Jozy Altidore, who needed just a little more separation from his defender to get a little better effort on goal.

No, the Americans didn’t create a bucket full of chances, and Honduras had far more possession. But neither did the home team bother Howard often. Well, except for …

(MORE: Missing Landon Donovan. A lot)

Bad defending on the first Honduras goal, too:

We saw shades of USMNT 2012 on the Hondurans first half goal. The overhead kick finish by Juan Carlos Garcia was wonderful, no doubt, and all credit for getting his team back into the match with something truly special. But it should not have gotten there.

The marking and inability to organize and react quickly after the initial corner kick clearance is disappointing at best, perhaps inexcusable for a team that wants to be at a higher level. It might be tempting to say this is what you get from having two inexperienced center backs, but the fact is that goals were allowed in 2012 where the same missing element (failure to organize quickly after a restart) was in play.

Klinsmann warned that it was all about being competitive, vigilant and alert. His men were anything but as Maynor Figueroa was uncontested to chest down a ball 14 yards from goal, arranging Garcia’s equalizer.

Jermaine Jones good, Jermaine Jones bad:

Dempsey’s first half goal was great stuff, a clever run to match a precise, technical finish. But it was only the punctuation mark on a great sentence, so to speak, one written by midfielder Jermaine Jones.

Jones is among the chief whipping boys of U.S. fans, and for good reason. Klinsmann loves him some Jones for the infectious warrior spirit and ability to inspire that fearlessness in others. But the man’s technical ability and speed of play kills the United States possession time and again. It certainly did on plenty of occasions Wednesday.

Klinsmann contends that Jones has game-changing passes in him, and the Schalke man showed it for one very important moment in San Pedro Sula, arranging Dempsey spectacularly with the best U.S. pass of the afternoon.

(MORE: U.S. Man of the Match Wednesday in San Pedro Sula)

Latest Posts
  1. Reports: RBNY adds young Argentine DP as MLS transfer surge continues

    Aug 4, 2015, 9:33 PM EDT

    MARRAKECH, MOROCCO - DECEMBER 17: Gonzalo Veron (L) of San Lorenzo in action with Ivan Vicelich of Auckland City during the FIFA Club World Cup Semi Final match between CA San Lorenzo and Auckland City FC at Marrakech Stadium on December 17, 2014 in Marrakech, Morocco. (Photo by Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images) Getty Images

    A winger, Veron scored eight times in 52 appearances for Argentine power San Lorenzo.

  2. Cascadia Cup banter between Sounders, Timbers hits toilet levels; Seattle avoids “Peay” joke

    Aug 4, 2015, 9:09 PM EDT

    Dempsey AP

    Full marks to the Sounders for not pointing out that Portland has a player named Peay.

  3. Reports: Mexico meets with Marseille coach Bielsa; Is this El Tri’s next boss?

    Aug 4, 2015, 8:05 PM EDT

    Marseille's Argentinian head coach Marcelo Bielsa looks on during the French Ligue 1 football  match between Lille and Marseille on May 16, 2015 at the Pierre Mauroy stadium in Lille, northern France. AFP PHOTO /  DENIS CHARLET        (Photo credit should read DENIS CHARLET/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    L’Equipe says FMF representatives met with Bielsa’s people on Tuesday morning and France, and that Bielsa is interested.

  4. Qatari foreign minister promises “best World Cup” ever, says human rights changes will come

    Aug 4, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT

    Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah gives a press conference following his meeting with his Tunisian counterpart, Taieb Baccouche, in Tunis on June 4, 2015. AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAID        (Photo credit should read FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The “end of the year” promise could be the real deal, but the nation has certainly taken its time.

  5. PST Extra: Who are the Premier League’s top offseason acquisitions so far? (video)

    Aug 4, 2015, 6:22 PM EDT

    Andre Ayew of Swansea City Getty Images

    The transfer window hasn’t closed, but a lot of the names who’ve climbed through it have us salivating for Saturday’s start to the Premier League season.

  6. Benitez expects Bale and Benzema to stay at the Bernabeu

    Aug 4, 2015, 5:33 PM EDT

    <> at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 5, 2015 in Madrid, Spain. Getty Images

    Keeping Bale and Benzema around will keep Madrid among the favorites for the UEFA Champions League, as the giants search for Undecima.

  7. Premier League defenders: Who’s in our Top Five? And how to choose just five?

    Aug 4, 2015, 4:47 PM EDT

    Everton v Tottenham Hotspur - Barclays Premier League Getty Images

    Picking a group of five defenders is way more difficult than selecting the best goalkeepers in the league.

  8. On the move again: McInerney shipped to Columbus for a draft pick

    Aug 4, 2015, 4:13 PM EDT

    TORONTO, ON- MAY 13  - Toronto FC defender Eriq Zavaleta undresses Jack McInerney as Toronto FC plays Montreal Impact in the Semi-Final of the Amway Canadian Championship  at BMO Field  in Toronto.  May 13, 2015.        (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images) Getty Images

    McInerney, however, has disappointed in recent seasons. Perhaps a change in leader, albeit for the second time, will help.

  9. Report: Manchester City sells Edin Dzeko to AS Roma for $21 million

    Aug 4, 2015, 3:19 PM EDT

    Manchester City v Sunderland - Barclays Asia Trophy Final Getty Images

    At Roma, Dzeko will join a loaded attack which includes Mattia Destro, Victor Ibarbo and Seydou Doumbia, as well as Francesco Totti.

  10. Maps, rivals, stadiums: Location of all 20 Premier League teams for 2015-16 season

    Aug 4, 2015, 2:08 PM EDT

    Aerial Views Of Central London Getty Images

    Ever wonder where the games you’re watching on TV are taking place? Here’s a guide to help you out.

  11. CONCACAF Champions League returns: Five MLS teams eye continental glory

    Aug 4, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT

    CONCACAF Champions League Final - 2nd Leg - Club America v Montreal Impact CONCACAF Champions League Final - 2nd Leg - Club America v Montreal Impact

    D.C. United, LA Galaxy, RSL, Vancouver and Seattle fly the MLS flag as they look to break Liga MX’s stronghold.

  12. A televised coin flip will decide which team hosts the 2015 U.S. Open Cup final

    Aug 4, 2015, 12:50 PM EDT

    US Open Cup trophy Getty Images

    This coin toss is a really, really big deal for the four teams left in the competition.

  13. On his way out of PSG, should Arsenal or Manchester United sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic?

    Aug 4, 2015, 12:20 PM EDT

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic AP

    Should a PL giant hand Zlatan a chance to strut his stuff in England’s top-flight?

  14. Jose Mourinho praises Chelsea’s Premier League title rivals, talks Abramovich

    Aug 4, 2015, 10:24 AM EDT

    Crystal Palace v Chelsea Getty Images

    Blues boss hugely complimentary of the PL’s other big boys heading into the new season.

  15. VIDEO: Watch Men In Blazers’ season premiere in full, featuring “The 2 Robbies”

    Aug 4, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT

    MIB with the 2 Robbies

    Rog, Davo, Mustoe and Earle hang out in the panic room and preview the upcoming PL season.

  16. AZ Alkmaar agree to sell USMNT forward Aron Johannsson to Werder Bremen

    Aug 4, 2015, 7:45 AM EDT

    Dutch Eredivisie - "AZ Alkmaar v Vitesse Arnhem" Getty Images

    Dutch club reach “agreement in outline” with Bundesliga side Bremen for AJ.

  17. Reports: Manchester United submitted two bids for Gareth Bale over $110 million

    Aug 3, 2015, 9:28 PM EDT

    Bale Getty Images

    Apparently Louis van Gaal really, really wants Gareth Bale on his team.

  18. Report: AZ Alkmaar speaking with Werder Bremen about Aron Johannsson

    Aug 3, 2015, 7:55 PM EDT

    Johannsson Getty Images

    Could the USMNT forward be thinking about a move to the Bundesliga?

Featured video

Top 5 new guys in the Premier League