USMNT Report: A Poor Start to the New CycleThe United States dropped its lead late yet again, putting a negative stamp on the first two games of the new World Cup cycle
by Herb Scribner | Wednesday, October 15, 2014
For the second time in a week, the United States Men’s National Team found itself within minutes of victory.
But then the clock struck midnight and things fell apart. On Tuesday, the USA drew Honduras 1-1 in Boca Raton, Florida, putting a lackluster start on the new World Cup cycle.
Despite the draw, the USA played some decent soccer in the first half. But much still needs to be done if the Americans are to make a serious case for themselves moving forward.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Mix Diskerud – Diskerud played the best of any American on the pitch Tuesday night. He defended when necessary, but mostly stayed involved with the attack and helped lift the USA in some way when things fell flat in the second half.
ANALYSIS: If anyone was looking for an inspired performance from the USA, they would find it in the first half of this game. The second half showed a slower, sloppy and second-rate American side that could barely string a pass together or create possession.
Though the USA kept the lead they secured in the first 45 minutes, Honduras had too much possession and too many stretching runs throughout the second half, which is a worrying point for the USA as it moves forward into the 2018 World Cup cycle.
A draw is a positive result, but once again the USA lost a lead late. Before they did so, the team wasn’t playing up to par, which is especially worrying since the team was mostly made of players who played in the 2014 World Cup and who will be four years older come 2018. The youth movement that many thought Klinsmann would start with these two friendlies wasn’t found, since some of the younger inexperienced players, like NASL starlet Miguel Ibarra or Alfredo Morales, didn’t see much playing time.
That said, it was nice to see Jozy Altidore score in his hometown. It’s definitely going to raise his confidence moving forward for the USA. Altidore had some good runs off the ball, too, much like he did against Ecuador, so it appears all the time spent on the bench at Sunderland may have inspired the 24-year-old USA striker to try and regain form. The new era will need Altidore scoring and playing well, especially since Klinsmann’s potential new No. 9 striker Bobby Wood is a lost soul in the attacking third.
Other USMNT notables, though, didn’t do so hot. Clint Dempsey played decently in the first half but vanished in the second, which led to a substitution. Graham Zusi did poorly on the right, Michael Bradley was a step behind the rest of the players and Alejandro Bedoya did little to impact the game, save for some backtracking runs between the midfield and defense.
Jermaine Jones was a unique choice for a central defender, but things worked out wondrously in the first half. Jones stayed composed in the back and didn’t let too many runs in through the middle of the backline. It was only when things opened up in the second half that the defense got stretched and Jones resorted to cynical fouling to keep Honduras at bay. It was a good experiment for a short time, but Jones still has work to do if he wants to secure that center defender role. It may be unwise for Klinsmann to center his backline around a player who will be 36 by the next World Cup.
Other than Mix Diskerud, who played great two-way soccer and had an occasional special moment through the night, the USA didn’t have too many impressive players take the pitch.
Klinsmann has started a new era for US Soccer, now with Donovan out of the picture and the 2018 World Cup in sight. But if the USA wants to improve on what it did last summer and make a significant run through the Gold Cup and eventually the World Cup, it’ll need to surely improve and find something inspiring to lead it forward.
Two games in a row with a blown lead is not a way to kick off a new cycle, especially since the USA are so successful at home. There’s much work to be done. And it’s unclear if Klinsmann is the man to make it work.
NEXT UP: November 18 – Friendly: United States vs. Ireland, Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland. 2:45 p.m. EST, TV TBD.