Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Highlights and Reactions: USA vs. Honduras (6/18/13)

Note: This post will be slightly bit different than my last recap post.

Honduras Tactics

It was always going to be a tough game, even with Honduras missing key players. With the US looking for sweet, sweet revenge on home soil, Los Catrachos can't be blamed for trying to prevent that from happening and escaping Rio Tinto with a point. Too bad for them. 

Now, I am not a fan of defensive, ten-men-behind-the-ball soccer, but it often works (see: USA vs. Spain - 2009 Confed Cup semi-finals; Inter Milan vs. Barcelona - 2010 Champions League semi-finals, second leg, etc..). Whenever it fails, as it did last night, I feel a smug sense of gratification. Why? The reason is simple: evolution of the game. The game is not improving by an inferior team suffering a barrage of abuse for ninety minutes, hoping for one counterattacking chance. Take the Tahiti vs. Nigeria match from the other day, for example. Sure, the South Pacific islanders were expected to sit back and try to absorb pressure and not be humiliated, but chances are they would have let in six goals that way, anyway. The fact that they didn't do that is the reason they scored their lone goal and accomplished, which I am sure was one of their objectives for the Confed Cup.

There's a reason they are called "negative tactics". Rant over, let's continue.


The USMNT controlled the match, but were often lacking in the creative third. The first half was a bit devoid of chances. Eddie Johnson got a good look in the 17th and Dempsey had an open header a minute later, but overall not much in the way of scoring opportunities. 

The second half was better for the US. Brad Evans had a clear header off a Graham Zusi free kick, but put it straight at the keeper, Noel Valladares (who had a good game, by the way). In the 59th minute, Timmy Howard launched a counter attack (remnants of USA vs. Algeria, World Cup 2010) down the left sideline which ended in Jozy slotting the ball home from an offside position. A little while later, Graham Zusi hit the post from the endline, a scramble ensued, and a Honduran handball was missed by the officials. Still scoreless in the 70th, Captain Clint pulled an Evans and smashed his headed shot straight at Valladares. Bradley should have done better with the rebound, blasting it over. The breakthrough finally came in the 73rd  on a perfectly worked play. Dempsey passed to Zusi, who dummied it to a streaking Fabian Johnson. Johnson pulled it back for Altidore, and the on-fire striker calmly put it into the back of the net. 

Final score, USA 1 - 0 Honduras. The Nats are now one step closer to Brazil, with 13 points good enough to lead Hex after six games.

Standout players

  1. Fabian Johnson - He looked dangerous every time he ran down the left flank. This was the best I've ever seen him play. Defensively, he didn't seem to have much to do, but I'm convinced he should be there instead of Beasley.
  2. Graham Zusi - The dead-ball specialist turned it up a notch. I wasn't a fan of Zusi and EJ switching flanks early in the game, but Zusi made the left side his own. Great vision letting the ball through on Jozy's goal.
  3. Michael Bradley - He's just a beast.

Postgame Rant

What to do about the left side... Fabian Johnson has had a strong run of starts, topped off by last night. In my book, he has earned his starting spot, but at which position? He may be the best left fullback we have, at the moment, but he is equally as valuable in a purely offensive role. Personally, I would like to see two more scenarios and stick with the best option. The first would be Timmy Chandler at left back, with Johnson on the wing. Obviously, Chandler and Cherundolo would have to be healthy for this option to ever take effect. The second is Johnson at fullback and Landon in front of him. Why Landy? Why not? It's no secret that I don't exactly rate him, but the reason for that is because I've seen him at his best, and would like him to deliver it consistently. Which he doesn't. But if he could pull his act together, LD and Johnson could be a formidable tandem.

Man of the Match

After everything I've said about it, would you expect me to choose anyone other than Fabian Johnson?

Useful Random Fact

USMNT record under Klinsmann with Bradley in starting 11: 11-2-5. Without Bradley in 11: 5-6-1. (Credit @BrianStraus)

Feel free to leave comments and feedback, suggest future topics to cover, whatever. Also follow me on Twitter @biasedsoccer

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