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USA 1-0 Honduras: Who is Man of the Match?

Jun 18, 2013, 11:45 PM EDT

Honduras' Emilio Izaguirre and Graham Zusi of the U.S. jump as they challenge for the ball during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Salt Lake City, Utah Reuters

With the United States grabbing all three points in Salt Lake City, it’s almost certain they will qualify for the World Cup.

With Jurgen Klinsmann’s men atop the group, it’s at this point we start talking about the magic number for qualification, which sits at 7 (6 to go in on goal differential).  That is the combination of points that the United States can get plus what Honduras drop for the U.S. to qualify.

We’ll break this one down hockey style (but backwards), as we hand out the three stars:

1 star: Clint Dempsey

Clint played his usual role, finding himself in the right place at the right time for chances to finish.  Unfortunately, Dempsey failed to finish multiple chances, a number of which with his head.  He put one early wide, had a diving header he put right at the goalkeeper, and fired over from close range another time.  I give Dempsey credit for being in the spot to finish chances, but he couldn’t get the job done.

2 stars: Graham Zusi

Zusi had a so-so first half, putting in a great corner early and connecting on a cross or two, but also gave the ball away a number of times and his lack of pace showed.  In the second half, however, Zusi was outstanding.  He found some pace, and the Florida native proved venomous from both set pieces and wide play.  The first half was sketchy, but it was mostly due to Honduras funneling the United States into the middle, aware of their dangerous play from out wide.  If/when Landon Donovan returns, he’ll take Zusi’s place, but while Donovan remains solely with the L.A. Galaxy, it’s Zusi’s spot and he’s taking full advantage.

3 stars, Man of the Match: Fabian Johnson

Johnson has cemented himself as the clear first-choice left-back tonight, proving valuable on both ends of the ball.  He allowed virtually nothing on the defensive end, completely shutting down the left side.  On the attack, Johnson has both a slicing ability to cross the ball as well as precision passing.  His wonderful ball to Jozy Altidore set up the goal, and fittingly enough it came on the back end of a ball from Zusi.  He makes smart runs up front, all while not leaving his backside completely uncovered.  The Honduras defense specifically played to minimize the United States chances from out wide, and Johnson still made it happen. Beasley has played well too, but it’s becoming more clear Fabian has to continue to start.

Honorable mention: Jozy Altidore

I was worried that, as the game went on, the old Jozy Altidore was going to make a return.  Having scored three goals in three matches, the confidence should be high, but Jozy’s psyche is fragile, and as the minutes dragged on with a petty few touches, he seemed to become frustrated and whiny.  There were balls he didn’t chase because they weren’t perfect. The goal was a wonderful bit of finishing, but taking into account the match as a whole Jozy played a bit like a drama queen.

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