The Soccer Desk

Sal Tlay Ka Siti: Thoughts on USA 1 – 0 Honduras

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Jozy Altidore’s 73rd minute strike from a selfless Fabian Johnson feed propelled the US to victory Tuesday night over Honduras, but more importantly, cemented the USMNT at the top of the Hex standings, all but punching their ticket for a trip to Brazil next year.  Altidore’s goal, his fourth in four games, tied an American record, and marked a continuing resurgence for the US striker.  The Americans now sit at 13 points after six matches, a position from which no CONCACAF side has ever failed to qualify for the World Cup.  With no more qualifiers until September, there will be plenty of time to dissect every aspect of the US team, but for now, ehre are a few thoughts on the American performance against the Catrachos.

Get on the Bus.  Honduras made their intention clear from the first whistle, playing 9 men behind the ball and looking to steal a point from the US with a scoreless draw.  The US was better at breaking down the Honduran defense than in the first leg of the tie in February, but the difficulty the Americans had at getting clear shots in the final third is likely to repeat itself over the final four hex matches, as opponents will scrap not just to gain points towards qualifying, but to deny the Americans the full three at home.

So dope that I even make New Jersey look good.  There are some US fans who, inexplicably, find Michael Bradley to be overrated.  Considered by most to be the the most valuable outfield player on the American side, there is one simple statistic that best expresses his importance in the qualifying effort: under Jurgen Klinsmann the USMNT is 11-2-5 when MB90 starts, 5-6-1 when he doesn’t.  The two losses are a friendly against Brazil and the road qualifier against Honduras.  Bradley perhaps is undervalued because he doesn’t fill any classic role on the team, he’s not a pure 6 or 8, although he has the ability to play both, but his possession without pressure and passing efficiency dictates the flow of both attack and defense for the Americans.  The Yanks will go precisely as far as Michael Bradley will take them.

Vacancies.  Despite the overwhelming success the Americans had on the standings board this past month, with nine out of nine points gained, there still remain positions in question.  The return of Steve Cherundolo and Timmy Chandler should solidify the right back spot, which was manned by marginal utility player Brad Evans for the past month.  On the left, Klinsmann will have to determine if Fabian Johnson is a left back, or if he is more valuable providing width and speed on the left wing.  If the former, either DeMarcus Beasley or Edgar Castillo needs to step up and grab the starting role.  If the latter, a proper left wing will have to be found, as converted forwards such as Eddie Johnson and Herculez Gomez lack the pace to open up defenses from the outside.  The Gold Cup could prove critical here, as strong showings from Joshua Gatt or Brek Shea could give either a shot at the left wing with the first team.  The summer tournament should also give Landon Donovan and Stuart Holden an opportunity to regain international form.

The Hex resumes this September, with the Americans taking on Costa Rica in San Jose & Mexico in Columbus.  The Soccer Desk will have continuing coverage of the USMNT all summer long.