The U.S. kicked off the final phase of its World Cup qualification campaign by losing 2-1 in Honduras. The defeat isn’t a huge deal. The normal path to qualification consists of winning 4 of the 5 matches to be played in the U.S. and as few as 1 match played away from home. Honduras didn’t figure to be that one away victory, although a draw didn’t seem too much to ask for.
What disappointed me the most was our play. Timmy Chandler, a decent rightback for a borderline decent German club (Nurnberg), did not distinguish himself in his U.S. debut. Geoff Cameron, a starter for mid-table Stoke City (albeit not at centerback), was poor in central defense.
Moreover, the U.S. had no width in its attack for most of the match. Its midfielders played centrally for the most part, and fullbacks Chandler and Fabian Johnson rarely ventured out of their own half. Consequently, it often seemed as if we were attacking down an elevator shaft. Even on the goal, U.S. players were nearly tripping over each other in the center.
But despite the flooding of central midfield and the conservative play of our fullbacks, the U.S. had problems closing down passing lanes, as coach Jurgen Klinsmann admitted.
Late in the match, Klinsmann played two midfielders wide. But one of them, Sacha Kljestan, looked miscast in the role. By that point, moreover, the two central attacking players, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore, seemed to be out of gas — understandably, given the heat and humidity. Indeed, the U.S. was unable to win possession of the ball in the closing minutes, never mind pose a strong attacking threat.
Things should pick up in the next match, at home against Costa Rica. But as the campaign progresses, U.S. fans will be hoping that the great Landon Donovan (an Evertonian) decides he has one more World Cup run left in him, and thus joins the squad. We may also be hoping that Klinsmann restores veteran Carlos Bocanegra to the center of the defense.