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Here’s why little, if anything, changed with the loss in Honduras

Feb 8, 2013, 2:29 PM EST

Jurgen Klinsmann AP

So the United States men’s national team goes down to Honduras and loses a game they shouldn’t have. For one, they were winning. For two, Honduras didn’t think they would win. For three, it was 1-1 in the 78th minute and both teams looked content to take a draw. For four… I could keep going but this gimmick is growing tedious.

The point is that we are a game down in the Hexagonal and the Americans sit in dead last. (The fact that Mexico is fifth offers some minor solace for USMNT supporters but not much.)

One of the major post-defeat takeaways is that March 22 against Costa Rica in Denver has become a must-win for the American team. Except that hasn’t it always been a must-win for the American team?

In Richard Farley’s excellent preview of the Hexagonal, he noted that an average of 15.75 points was good enough to finish third in past Hexagonals. Sunil Gulati aimed a little bit higher, shooting for between 19 and 21, a number that all but assures passage. (The U.S. won the group with 20 points in 2010.) What’s the best way to 18-ish points? Winning your home games and finding a few points on the road.

In that light, the loss in Honduras changes nothing about the importance of the game in Denver. That was always going to be a must-win.

Yes, I suppose you could argue that getting a point or three in Estadio Olimpico would have taken some pressure off the team and given the U.S. a bit of breathing room, but those would have been bonus points. I sincerely hope that Jurgen Klinsmann and Sunil Gulati were not planning on getting a result in Honduras as part of their “get us to the World Cup” calculus.

There are many paths to Brazil. Virtually all of them include getting three points in Denver. Very few of them relied upon anything good happening in Honduras. This week’s game was a missed opportunity but nothing more.

  1. mvktr2 - Feb 8, 2013 at 2:42 PM

    And I thought this was going to be an article on US lineups under Klinsman, perhaps a Jimmy Conrad op-ed on the subject.

  2. dreadpirate82 - Feb 8, 2013 at 2:46 PM

    I know Mexico is our big, bad rival in CONCACAF, but they’re going to make it to Brazil no matter what. I am perfectly fine with them taking points from the other squads, which would actually help the US.

    • Noah Davis - Feb 8, 2013 at 2:53 PM

      For what it’s worth: I totally agree. I think US fans should want Mexico to win every game that’s not against the US convincingly.

      • wesbadia - Feb 8, 2013 at 3:32 PM

        Or, possibly, “unconvincingly”. It’s nice to know that a potential power come WC time was barely getting by with wins in the Hex. It puts Mexico up against the wall a bit and forces them to think a bit harder about what they’re doing. And, to me, this is the better than Mexico dropping points to Jamaica in Azteca.

        Of course, the best possible thing is if Mexico loses all its games, but now we’re just being unrealistic…

      • tylerbetts - Feb 8, 2013 at 6:38 PM

        Noah, rationally, I agree with you. A win for Mexico is a point (or three) a competitor for 2nd and third place doesn’t get.

        As a fan, I don’t agree with you. I want Mexico to lose every time out.

    • schmutzdeck - Feb 9, 2013 at 3:41 PM

      Going forward:

      If Mexico wins every game other than the US games they get 22 points and get through.

      If the US wins both Mexico games and every other game they get 27 points and probably win the Hex.

      Even if the US loses both Mexico games, they still have a shot at 21 points, which should qualify them easily.

      I’m not worried about Mexico, who are set up better than the US, one way or the other. Anything we get off of them is gravy.

      The fact that the top THREE go through makes qualification much easier than just about anywhere else.

  3. unclemosesgreen - Feb 8, 2013 at 3:48 PM

    It doesn’t much matter what we do on the road or what Mexico does or doesn’t do if we don’t take care of business at home.

    I’m more worried about defensive cohesion and the way the midfield was bossed around. Without Boca, Cherundolo and of course – the sabbaticalizing one – this team isn’t advancing anyhow.

    • wesbadia - Feb 8, 2013 at 4:32 PM

      The issue with blaming communication and lack of cohesion squarely on the backline is that you largely neglect Howard. Goalkeepers should ALWAYS have command of a backline, no matter how much cohesion exists between the back four. If you only place blame on Johnson/Gonzo/Cameron/Chandler, then you assume that Howard doesn’t have much sway with how the defense is organized.

      So either we adjust our accusations about lack of defensive cohesion to include the entire team, or we broaden it to include Howard. If you choose the latter, then what does it say about our long-time stalwart between the pipes?

      • unclemosesgreen - Feb 8, 2013 at 4:41 PM

        Your argument is illogical in the extreme, and presents a false choice between equally untrue assertions. If we had better defensive cohesion before and Howard was in the net then as well, your entire argument falls to pieces. And we did.

        Howard had exactly one bad moment in that game, and Omar and Cameron were also at fault on that goal. As a great old coach of mine would have said – even the great Tomaszewski would not have stopped the first strike.

      • wesbadia - Feb 9, 2013 at 11:25 AM

        Contrarily, you prove my point. This is a single game we’re looking at, and we cannot include any other instances of performance on the parts of any individuals involved. My point is exactly this: ALL players on defense (including Howard) had a very, VERY sub-par performance and lacked cohesion AS A UNIT. If Howard DID have the ability to organize the back line in previous games (despite rookies or green players being involved), then he had every ability to do the same in Honduras. If this is true, then the blame should also be expanded to include him.

        The only other excuse that can be made is that the entire unit (ie, team) failed to have defensive solidarity and thus put the individuals most responsible for defense (the backline plus Howard) in a position to be exploited.

        Take your choice, either one. But those are the only two options. GKs organize the back line. If you don’t believe it, look at Philly’s time with and without Mondragon. Howard needs to be included in the assessment by anyone lambasting the defense. More than the CBs had a horrible game. Face the facts.

      • unclemosesgreen - Feb 9, 2013 at 11:58 AM

        Your extended torture of logic and reason makes me strongly suspect you are a very religious person. Usually only Christians can beat logic with a rubber hose for this long.

        I feel your pain – you actually believed in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny growing up – how are you supposed to make sense of anything now? Your logic circuit was blown up early. It’s a shame.

        A goalie can only do so much, because he’s not a field player out marking. Howard made one bad mistake in the game. One. He also made a number of amazing saves in the first half to keep the U.S. in the game. I never even said he had a strong game, just that you’re beating him up for no apparent reason. Pull your head out of the sand.

  4. schmutzdeck - Feb 9, 2013 at 3:26 PM

    unclemosesgreen,

    Goalkeepers are different. If they make one mistake that leads to conceding a goal in a 2-1 loss then they failed to do their job that game, regardless of how many amazing othe saves they may have made.

    That is just the nature of the position.

    The comedy of errors leading to Bengston’s winning goal featured a series of mistakes by Cameron, Howard and finally, Gonzo.

    Had Gonzo not screwed up he had a chance to salvage the situation but he failed.

    Cameron and Howard both could have done better about cutting out that through ball in the first place but appeared to have a communication problem.

    Lots of blame to go around but Howard, as the most veteran defender and the keeper was the only one who was in the position to see the entire thing developing in the first place.

    I expect a so called “world class” keeper to read the situation better and take charge of the situation. Especially because he was the captain and his defenders were so raw.

    But then I’ve seen Howard screw this sort of thing up many times so I should have known better. Howard has never been particularly good, it seems. at reading the game and communicating with his defenders.

    • wesbadia - Feb 9, 2013 at 10:53 PM

      Thanks for the vindication. It appears I’m not the only one here with “flawed logic”. But what more can be said about someone who attacks the person instead of the argument?

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