Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
Playing to its strengths sends USA to World Cup
by Ridge Mahoney, October 12th, 2009 7AM
Subscribe to Soccer America Daily

MOST READ

MOST COMMENTED

[WORLD CUP 2010 QUALIFYING]The USA played to its strengths and Honduras played to its weaknesses Saturday night in San Pedro Sula, and by the margin of a single goal did the Americans win, 3-2, to clinch their place in the 2010 World Cup. By using balls in the air effectively, the USA exploited a shaky central defensive pairing of Maynor Figueroa and Osman Chavez, and put enough pressure on keeper Noel Valladares that he misplayed all three goals to some extent.

 

Though Valladeres foiled Charlie Daviesin the first half by brilliantly parrying his point-blank header, created by a trademark Stuart Holdenoutswinging cross, he couldn't bail out his teammates when they needed him.

Valladeres came off his line far too late to deal with the Davies flick-on from a long Oguchi Onyewu free kick, and Conor Casey easily nodded it over him into the net to tie the game. When Casey broke in alone 10 minutes later on a Landon Donovan through ball, Valladares froze himself in no-man's land, and Casey easily stroked the ball past him.

Donovan nailed the third goal with a superb free kick that Valladeres, off-balance, barely managed to wave at. The Honduran keeper came up with a couple of saves near the end to keep his team in the match, as the Americans took a few greedy cracks at a fourth goal before playing keepaway for the final minutes.

Honduras hurt its cause and helped that of the Americans by committing a few of the same errors that had plagued the USA in the Hexagonal. After scoring first, Honduras quickly conceded an equalizer; it gave up another goal when a through ball split open its central defenders; and its propensity to foul in its own defensive third conceded a free kick that was exploited. All of those sound familiar.

However, the Honduran history of choking in critical Hexagonal games, as it did in 2001 when qualification seemed guaranteed, recurred when Carlos Pavon hammered a penalty kick over the crossbar in the 87th minute.

A deflected ball had bounced off the right arm of Holden in the goalmouth, and had Pavon converted and the game ended 3-3 the Americans would have taken the field against Costa Rica at RFK Stadium Wednesday needing at least a tie to clinch a World Cup spot. Instead, it is the Hondurans, which play at San Salvador, that needs a win to have any chance of finishing ahead of Costa Rica in third place.

Critics of the national team bemoan the reliance on a big, target striker, but when the big man is the young Jozy Altidore, and he throws a Spanish international off this back to score a spectacular goal, as he did in the Confederations Cup, the tactic draws praise. Yet for Altidore and Casey and Brian Ching, the men who usually toil in that role, the reward is more often winning free kicks and carving out space for someone else.

Whoever plays that role, it can be a long, lonely slog if no one is partnering him efficiently. Critics of the national team lambaste the players and Coach Bob Bradley for what they perceive as a flawed system that yields uninspired play, yet few successful teams field two forwards with similar qualities except in special situations. And against Honduras, hitting occasional high balls for Casey and Davies, and attacking at speed produced three goals in the absence of Clint Dempsey, perhaps the team's best pure finisher, not to mention Altidore for most of the match.

Davies had his good moments and bad moments in support of Casey, who has yet to cement his place in the 23-man World Cup squad and like many of his teammates, takes plenty of heat for lack of pace and other perceived deficiencies. Earlier in the decade when he started his national team career the criticisms were much the same, and after knee surgeries and other injury issues he's not any faster.

He'd gone through 14 previous internationals, dating back to 2004, without scoring a goal, and lately had been netting for Colorado mainly from the penalty spot. Whether out of desperation or inspiration, his coach called upon him, and he responded.

This game also emphasized the team's shortcomings. There is not enough defensive pressure on the flanks, and too many balls are served uncontested. Individually and collectively, the back line needs to be tighter and better synchronized, and more aggressive getting to knockdowns and second balls. When players on the dribble drag players through midfield, lanes and gaps are filled too slowly.

Yet as they did at the Confederations Cup against Egypt and Spain, and nearly so in the final against Brazil, the Americans displayed steel and resolve and poise and teamwork, which sometimes override systems and formations.



No comments yet.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Soccer America Daily
MLS Countdown: Kaka recalled by Brazil for Centenario    
The announcement came a day too late to benefit the Philadelphia Union, but Orlando City midfielder ...
U.S. Abroad: Gonzalez's Pachuca has edge in Liga MX final    
Omar Gonzalez, who was passed over for a spot on the U.S. Copa Centenario team, started ...
BeIN Sports adds special Copa Centenario coverage    
One vital aspect of soccer's increased television exposure is how events are treated by non-rights holders ...
USA-Bolivia: Spotlight on Pulisic    
Christian Pulisic has already impressed his coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, enough that he's in contention to start ...
What They're Saying: Jozy Altidore    
"When Haiti qualified, I just thought it'd be a cool thing, because they haven't qualified for ...
TV Report: Fox network twinbill draws 1,613,000 viewers    
Last Saturday's FA Cup-MLS doubleheader on Fox reached a combined 1,613,000 viewers. Manchester United's 2-1 overtime ...
Concacaf turns to NBA for new CEO    
In another step to rehabilitate itself after five years of scandal, Concacaf hired Philippe Moggio out ...
Women's players' strike motions go to judge for decision    
Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman took under advisement competing motions for summary judgment made by attorneys for ...
USL: Lou City's Goodwin off to Harvard Medical School    
Goalkeeper Scott Goodwin announced that he's leaving USL club Louisville City FC to attend Harvard Medical ...
Video Pick: Neymar, his wax figure, and 31 Barca goals    
Brazil star Neymar met his Madame Tussauds wax figure -- poked it, checked under the shirt, ...
>> Soccer America Daily Archives