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What we learned from the U.S. World Cup qualifier win over Honduras

Jun 19, 2013, 12:26 AM EDT

Fabian Johnson of the U.S. celebrates with compatriot Josy Altidore after Altidore scored a goal against Honduras during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Salt Lake City, Utah

SANDY, Utah – Some early take-aways from the United States’ 1-0 win at Rio Tinto outside Salt Lake City.

The job is all but done

Jurgen Klinsmann insisted the job is far from finished – but what else is a manger supposed to say? So we’ll say it: Something absolutely insane would have to happen at this point for the United States not to make it.

With 13 points, positioned atop the group with such a lovely view of the five pursuers, the United States can feel very, very good about its chances of landing in Brazil – a seventh consecutive World Cup appearance it would be.

Four matches remain, split between the home and road. The United States might even be able to mathematically clinch with one more win. Next up is Costa Rica – a place the United States never does very well. But if the Americans don’t nail it down then …

How sweet would it be to officially qualify for Brazil on Sept. 10 in Columbus against … wait for it … Mexico!

Hanging in there in frustrating games

Some games will be this way. And by “this way,” I mean “frustrating.” It’s important for the team to learn how to deal with it – and it’s important to note the way the United States kept its cool, hung tough and finally found the goal that mattered.

Mattered a lot.

The first half was surely an exercise in frustration. On a couple of goal kicks, if Honduran goalkeeper Noel Valladares had gone any slower, he would have been going backwards. Calls weren’t really going the U.S. way, either. Jermaine Jones was subjected to some rough stuff, mostly without protection from referee Enrico Wijngaarde (from the noted referee producing factory of Suriname).

Graham Zusi got waylaid 24 yards from goal without a call. Throw in a couple of quick injury-recovery turns from the visitors, the lack of quality chances and the heat (mid-90s at kickoff) and it all must have been maddening.

But the United States did a good job of keeping its cool. Said Jurgen Klinsmann: “In a game like this, what really matters is that you be patient, keep going and find a way.”

(MORE: Player ratings vs. Honduras)

There is still some fouling in bad spots from the U.S. defense

And that is not a good thing. Honduras was well-organized and, clearly, difficult to break down. So the danger was always in the visitors getting something on a set-piece, and three times the United States obliged, offering up free kicks in bad spots.

Eddie Johnson was guilty early, fouling Roger Espinoza, a real thorn in the U.S. side all night. A few minutes later, it was Jermaine Jones that needed to foul Espinoza as he tore in toward U.S. goal, a foul that earned Jones a booking.  After the break, Jones was guilty once again of giving the Hondurans a free kick 24 yards from goal.

(Isn’t this the very thing Jurgen Klinsmann got so upset about with Maurice Edu and Kyle Beckerman last year?)

The better the conditions, the better the chances that Jermaine Jones will be average

The German-born midfielder didn’t have his best night. Not by a long way. It looks a little like this:

Jones excels when the games get gritty. Gritty like him. They need their brave enforcer  when the field is bad or the circumstances are trying or intimidating, generally speaking when they need those leadership intangibles beyond the technical skill. When Jones has to “think” his way around the game, and when the game becomes a little more tactical and technical – and it was very tight in the middle of the field at Rio Tinto – he suffers a little. Then he turns into the average player (at international level, that is) that tends to be so frustrating to U.S. fans.

Jozy Altidore is something else right now

But then again, you knew that. More on that is here at ProSoccerTalk.

  1. jumpingnots - Jun 19, 2013 at 3:50 AM

    Todays game was a drag to watch, to me the new coach did not make this USA team play any better
    then the old coach,no this team is not going very far,the combinations between the players were to slow,if they keep playing like this they will not last long if they make it to Brazil,with this MLS style soccer they will nock them out in a hurry,and I hate to see this happen.

  2. charliej11 - Jun 19, 2013 at 6:38 AM

    Without feeling the bizarre need to rip on soccer in the US like he does, I agree with jumpingnots, just not good enough. So if Honduras hit one of their free kicks, now all the sudden the US played badly ? It would have been the exact same game for the US, just different for a Honduras guy hitting a free shot…

    I do think the line of getting better is pretty thin and we will get there. Put in Donovan who can counter and create for EJ and that is a much different game for example. I think that happens and Dempsey has a much better game too.

    Ps, what is that need to rip on MLS ? Do you people think it makes you look like smarter soccer guys? It isn’t just guys who can’t spell knock either.

  3. tarotsujimoto74 - Jun 19, 2013 at 7:28 AM

    Was F. Johnson offside when he was played in to send in the pass/cross for the winner? I haven’t seen a good angle, but from the normal one, it looks like he was very very close to being off (Using the cuts in the grass as reference).

    • term3186 - Jun 19, 2013 at 10:48 AM

      I think it depends if Zusi touched the ball in its way to FJ or if he just dummied and let it slip through. The replays were pretty bad at the time, and I haven’t seen conclusive evidence one way or the other. If Zusi touched it, he was probably off.

      • tarotsujimoto74 - Jun 19, 2013 at 12:27 PM

        I definitely saw it as a flick on to FJ

  4. wandmdave - Jun 19, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    The free kick where Jones got booked was a necessary professional foul if I’ve ever seen one. If I remember correctly Gonzo either made a bad pass or was out of position and Jones needed to kill the break from behind the play. Tbh I think it required a good bit of speed and skill to avoid a red.

    He was off a bit tonight. I’d give him the benefit of the doubt and say the concussion has something to do with it though. I wouldn’t have played him. Concussions are no joke whether he was cleared or not.

  5. talgrath - Jun 19, 2013 at 5:18 PM

    I think Bradley and Jones need to switch around, Bradley looks better playing up top in midfield for the US; Jones could work quite well as a defensive midfielder. That said, while the first third or so and last third of the game were good, the middle was just bad; had Honduras not been so depleted that could have been a very bad night for the US playing like that. Then again, a goal may have served as a wake-up call, the same way being in the last thirty minutes of the match seemed like a wake-up call. In any case, you can’t complain about results, the USA is on-route to one of the best if not the best round of world cup qualifying to-date.

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