USMNT Report: Hex Starts in Honduras

The USMNT amps up its squad as it begins Hexagonal World Cup Qualifying
by Herb Scribner   |   Tuesday, February 05, 2013

USMNT Report - coverage of the United States Men's National Team

This is it. No looking back.

Time has come for the United States Men’s National Team to solidify itself as one of the top teams in CONCACAF and a World Cup Finals contender. Though always a favorite in previous World Cup Qualifiers, the USMNT is still in the middle of a new era and has, in many eyes, fallen behind southern rival Mexico in a lot of aspects.

Now it’s time to see if this new era is better than the last.

THE ROAD TO NOW: Last week, the USMNT drew 0-0 with Canada, extending the undefeated streak over the Canadians. The contest was at times very dull and showed two inexperienced sides, including what was pretty much the Americans’ C-Team. Signs of promise came from new SKC member Benny Feilhaber and from the injury-free Omar Gonzalez. The US, though, still appeared flat and dormant through the entirety of the match. More games and chances for this heavily-MLS experimental team will breed roster depth, but surely not results in the short term. Likely that was the point.

PRE-GAME CHATTER: USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann spoke to the press Monday morning as he not only announced the latest USMNT roster, but displayed a high amount of energy for the upcoming match with Honduras.

“We are very excited to get the Hexagonal started with that game in Honduras on Wednesday afternoon,” Klinsmann said. “We are excited because it looks like we’re going to have everybody coming in healthy and ready to go for a very important game. We want to start the qualifying round on the right foot. We want to go to Honduras with confidence and determination to get, hopefully, a win.”

Klinsmann said many players, like Brad Davis and Gonzalez, had a strong January camp that will transform into a solid performance at Honduras. He was also very positive about Jozy Altidore, who was not called up in January, likely because of coach-player issues, but is included on the current lineup.

“We are very pleased with Jozy’s development over the time I’ve been in charge,” Klinsmann said. “We don’t expect him to be perfect. He’s a still very young player who is developing. He is becoming more consistent, he scores goals on a regular basis for Alkmaar, he’s already done a lot in such a young career. I think the way he managed that situation last week was awesome. He deserves a big compliment. He’s still going through a maturing curve on the field, off the field, and our job is to get him to an international, consistent level.”

And the former German international Klinsmann isn’t taking Honduras lightly.

“We have a lot of respect for this team,” he said. “I think they’ve done very well over the last couple of years, obviously qualifying for South Africa, challenging us and Mexico in this region and having played overseas with more presence than ever before. …You’ve got to give them a compliment to what they’ve done over the last couple of years.”

ANALYSIS: Klinsmann definitely loaded up the squad for the beginning of Hex qualifying. Anyone who thought he would have kept a weakened lineup similar to one used in the Canadian bout has been proven horribly wrong. Aside from a couple of missing pieces, this is one of the strongest US squads during the Klinsmann era.

Altidore’s addition to the lineup isn’t surprising since he’s been red hot while overseas, setting a career-high of 20 goals in all competitions this season. It’s no question Altidore can score, but it’s clear now that he needs sound delivery. The MLS All-Star left midfielder Brad Davis had moments against Canada that make me confident he’ll serve the ball well to Altidore, and the same goes for Sporting KC’s Graham Zusi. The Americans will need a Zusi or Davis to send the ball inside in order to keep Altidore from disappearing as he so often does in US games.

Regardless, Clint Dempsey and Herculez Gomez will complement Altidore well up top. These three do well for their respective clubs, so we’ll get a chance to see if together they can turn out similar results for USMNT in its crunch-time. I expect Gomez and Altidore to start up top, with Dempsey playing a supporting role.

Defensively, the US looks as sound as it can.  Left back is the least stable area of the back, but one has to think Carlos Bocanegra will get the call and also the captain’s armband due to his experience and past leadership roles. The now finally (seemingly) USA committed Timmy Chandler, Geoff Cameron and Gonzalez will all be strong. Gonzalez was one of the better US performers against Canada, and I imagine that will continue. And now with some top-notch defenders to back him up, he won’t have to work as hard on both sides of the ball.

I’m surprised Kyle Beckerman didn’t make this squad. I get he had to return to RSL’s training camp, but his composure and skill on the ball have been valuable to the US. Klinsmann has once again stacked up the defensive mids with Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Jermaine Jones, Danny Williams and Cameron if needed, so it’s surprising to see Beckerman left off since he’s been so consistent with the team. He’s definitely outperformed Edu in nearly every occasion, so I’m not sure why he’s not included here.

Landon Donovan’s absence isn’t a surprise, as he’s barely situated in Los Angeles, let alone the national team. I don’t think he’ll miss out on World Cup 2014 in Brazil. I’ll bet we’ll see him again in the red, white and blue. And I approve, actually, of him not being this team. The US has to ready itself for a squad without Donovan. This is the perfect way to start.

NEXT UP: WCQ – USMNT vs Honduras, Feb. 6, 2013. Estadio Olimpico, San Pedro Sula, Honduras. 3 p.m. CT, beIN Sport.

Herb SCRIBNER

Nationality:
USA
College:
UMass Amherst
Club Domestic:
RSL
Club Foreign:
FC Barcelona
SN managing editor and award-winning journalist, Herb has always been known as "The Soccer Guy" wherever he goes. He's a leftback in most outdoor and indoor leagues. He also writes for Deseret News National.
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