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

Feb 8, 2013, 2:29 PM EDT

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.

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