Stars & Stripes vs. Los Catrachos…

by Luis Eduardo Flores

Finally! The CONCACAF Gold Cup has finally started. There is no better way to start this tournament other than by having the reigning Gold Cup champions play the first game. The USMNT victory wasn’t a surprise, but we expected more goals by the “Stars and Stripes”.

Today’s USMNT line-up seemed to be more focused on the team’s defense. We had Fabian Johnson, John Anthony Brooks, new comer Ventura Alvarado, and Timothy Chandler.

Before the match began, USMNT head coach; Jurgen Klinsmann made the right choice by having Michael Bradley captain the team. A couple of weeks ago, Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders) tore up an official’s notebook during the US Open Cup. Dempsey’s actions got him a red card. Usually Dempsey is the captain for the team, but his recent actions were a warning sign for Kinsmann. Give him credit.

During the first twenty minutes of the match, “Los Catrachos” were the aggressors. To everyone’s surprise, they had the USMNT against the ropes.

At the 3rd minute, Anthony Lozano’s right footed shot from the right side of the box was saved. Honduras didn’t stop with one shot. The USMNT conceded two back-to-back corners; one by Brad Guzan and Ventura Alvarado. Off the corner kicks; Honduras was unable to score. In no more than three minutes, Honduras got another attempt. Thanks to an assist by Mario Martinez, Andy Najar’s right footed shot from outside the box was saved.

The USMNT finally got some offense going around the 7th minute mark. On two occasions, Timothy Chandler tried two through balls; one to Dempsey and the other to Jozy Altidore.

Martinez tried his luck, but his shot from outside the box went to the right. Honduras’ aggressiveness didn’t end there. Maynor Figueroa ended up fouling DeAndre Yedlin. Yedlin’s free kick from the right wing didn’t do anything for the USMNT. This was only happening at the 10th minute. In the next ten minutes that followed, we witnessed seven fouls. Four of the fouls were by the USMNT (Dempsey, Brooks, Chandler, and Beckerman). Palacios (2) and Mejia committed the other two. Pretty much, those ten minutes were very physical.

Wilmer Crisanto and Lozano tried to add more pressure with a through ball by Crisanto; but Lozano was caught offside. All of Honduras’ best offensive attempts did not protect from what happened next.

On behalf by Brayan Beckeless, Honduras conceded another corner kick. The corner kick was short and crossed. Honduras defenders had the chance to clear the ball, but they failed. Jozy Altidore was the first to try to score off failed clearance attempt with a right footed shot from a difficult angle. Altidore’s shot was blocked by the goalie and the block went into a header by Dempsey. That was a good goal, but Honduras’ inability to clear the ball was absurd. Was there a lack of communication in Honduras defense or did they simply did not anticipate a goal after Altidore’s attempt?

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Towards the end of the 1st half, Honduras was pushing to end the half with at least with one goal. Lozano tried first with a right footed shot from outside the box went too high. Mejia then gave it go, but just like Lozano’s shot, it went too high. Andy Najar also had a chance to; his shot went to the right. With all these chances that Honduras is getting, the USMNT is not looking like they are capable of retaining their championship; much less even topping this group.

The 2nd half started with a foul by Maynor Figueroa on Dempsey. Off Dempsey’s free kick, Honduras conceded another opportunity for the USMNT on behalf of Beckless. The corner kick didn’t produce anything for the USMNT.

Honduras didn’t hesitate on attempting a counter attack. Before Honduras could make the run, Beckerman fouled Martinez. Once again, Honduras was back on the attack. Truth be told, this team is playing a much better game than expected. Some of us thought that the USMNT was going to rack several goals at this point, but that wasn’t the case.

The shaky USMNT defense produced two corner kicks and a free kick on the USMNT defensive end. Sure, Honduras didn’t score, but this is not acceptable. Even with the lead, the USMNT defensive fallacies are making the team look bad.

Honduras still deserves credit for having a strong offensive line. There’s only one thing missing; creativity. At this point, they still are the aggressive team only trying score on single shots. There little are little to no setups for any shot. A couple of passes here and there; followed up with a shot. Honduran side is fortunate that they are facing a weak defense.

While Honduras’ offense is performing really well, their defense wasn’t really on par. The times that the USMNT broke through the midfield (which didn’t happen too often), Honduras barely managed to prevent a USMNT goal.
At the 69th minute, Honduras proved that they came to win. Carlos Discua made quick work of Alvarado. It was like Alvarado instantly turned into a practice cone for Discua. With little effort, Discua fired a left footed shot into the center of box to the bottom right corner.

In the end, we learned that the USMNT’s defense isn’t at its best. Alvarado was the crack in the USMNT defense. Sure, Kyle Beckerman is a vet of the sport, but the USMNT defense cannot rely on him to do all the defensive work. Youngsters Brooks and Alvarado have a lot of work to do. After their less than stellar performance against Honduras, Klinsmann might make a change or two.

Honduras on the other hand was a tad bit more difficult to beat than anticipated. Then again, they were aggressive, those fouls speak for themselves. Either ways, if the USMNT barely edged out of this game, how will they handle Panama in two weeks? When they face Haiti, we will only accept more than two goals and a clean sheet. The expectations are set high for the reigning champions, and they are not meeting them.

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Photo: heavy.com, bleacherreport.com.

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