Thursday, February 7, 2013

US loses to Honduras in 1st game of Hex WCQ

Honduras definitely deserved a point with that amazing bicycle kick.  But we gifted them 2 more points with a defensive breakdown.  These are the main story lines from the game.

- Clint Dempsey's volley goal off a pass from over his left shoulder was a beautiful goal.  In these kinds of games, we are most apt to score a scrappy goal off a set piece or a rebound, etc.  But his beautifully timed run, Jermaine's perfectly weighted pass, and his made-it-look-easy finish across the keeper was an early candidate for goal of the year.  Too bad it was wasted.

- Timothy Chandler is captied, finally.  After nearly two years of indecision, Chandler finally made good on his promise to play for the US.  Unfortunately, he was uncharacteristically outclassed, even getting beat badly a few times.  Ironically, we probably would have been better off defensively with Cherundolo.  Speaking of defensive veterans...

- Klinsmann's landmark decision to play Gonzalez over Bocanegra backfired badly, but it means that Bocanegra is most likely all but eliminated from Brazil 2014 roster consideration.  I get that Klinsmann needs to start testing viable options for Brazil 2014, since Boca will be 35 in a year and a half.  Gonzalez is definitely coming off a mercurial MLS season and deserves to be part of the fold.  But to pick the first game of the Hex WCQs to be Omar's first meaningful international game of his career, on the road, seems to be a bit rash.  Bocanegra's strength is backline organization and leadership, which seem critical in a road WCQ, played in the heat of day.  And I'd bet he wouldn't have been left dozing as Gonzalez was for that 2nd goal.  Both CBs were culpable on that play -  Cameron didn't clear the ball and Gonzalez lost focus, hesitated, and got beat to the pass.  Big picture however, it seems that Klinsmann intends to go with Gonzalez and Cameron, if at all possible.  I suppose it is the right decision, as long as we qualify.

- Klinsmann continues to play 3 defensive central midfielders together.  Fans used to hate on Bob Bradley for always playing two defensive midfielders together - Bradley & Edu, etc.  They derisively called it the "empty bucket", implying that we lacked a central offensive midfielder behind the forwards and inside the wings, essentially leaving them stranded.  Numbers wise, fans wanted to see at least 5 players in attack (2 forwards, 3 mids) instead of 4 (2 forwards, 2 wings).  With Klinsmann's hiring and promise to play a more attractive, attacking, possession style offense, we figured by now we'd be in set in the formation and style that he/we want.  So what do we have? 3 defensive midfielders.  Danny Williams sat right in front of the CBs while Bradley and Jones played just above him.  I know that Klinsmann does not see Bradley and Jones as defensive players, but as 2 way players instead.  But I think its clear that their natural strengths are more defensive-oriented, and less the creative playmaker.  At this point, switch out Jones for a Kljestan/Torres/Donovan and we'd be happy.

- Donovan is still needed.  I can't wrap my head around the fact that he might retire from international soccer sooner than Brazil 2014.  This is the type of game that his experience might have had a huge impact on.  We ran out of gas and we ran out of ideas.

The good thing is the Mexico managed to draw at home, leaving us only 1 point behind in the group.  The bad thing is that we are in last place by ourselves, the only team to not finish with a draw.

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