USA 1 Honduras 3: So what?

By Paul Gardner

So the USA got beaten, quite badly, by Honduras. Does it matter? Imagewise, maybe - it can't be good for the USA to lose to little Honduras, can it? But does the defeat tell us anything about the USA's World Cup prospects, considering that Bob Bradley used 17 players, only two of whom -- Benny Feilhaber and Jonathan Bornstein, the two best performers on the night -- you might reasonably expect to be part of the USA's squad in South Africa?

Anyway, winning the game was not the point of this match-up, we have Bradley's words for that -- "The starting point for the game in January is always assessing players."

Looked at from that point of view, one player stands out as having spectacularly failed his test: Jimmy Conrad, who managed to collect two yellow cards in the first 18 minutes, and thus get himself ejected.

So the USA had to play with 10 men for over 72 minutes. The same question: did that matter? When you're assessing players in a tough game (that was Bradley's description), maybe you learn a bit more about the 10 players who stayed on the field than you would have otherwise done.

But it took only 18 minutes for Bradley to learn -- well, no, confirm should be the word surely, for Bradley ought to have already known this -- that Conrad is an inveterate fouler. A sly fouler. One has seen this over and again in MLS games -- the shirt-pulling, the elbowing, followed, of course, by the protests of innocence should the referee blow his whistle.

Yet here was Conrad, wearing the captain's armband. The fouls are bad enough -- but that they are almost unthinking makes Conrad a huge risk. His first foul on Saturday, where he got himself  "accidentally" entangled with an opponent as Honduras was starting a breakaway is one that is specifically identified in the rule book as calling for a mandatory yellow. Referee Benito Archundia got it right and duly cautioned the wily Conrad. That, only 12 minutes later, Conrad would blatantly foul Jerry Palacios in the penalty area is simply beyond understanding. An off the ball foul, but Conrad's slyness must be failing him, for Archundia was well placed to see this one.

So a huge minus sign for Conrad, and one not much smaller for Marvell Wynne, who showed -- confirmed -- that he is a great athlete, but not that great a soccer player.

Whatever impressions Bradley may have gathered, most of them must have been of the negative variety. Sacha Kljestan again failed to live up to his billing, Jeff Cunningham was barely noticeable, and Chad Marshall looked anything but comfortable.  If working hard without accomplishing very much is a worthy trait, then Kyle Beckerman, Robbie Rogers and Robbie Findley will all have impressed Bradley.

And amid the mediocrity, spare a thought for poor Benny Feilhaber, who can make a soccer game look like a soccer game, but who needs a minimum of consistently intelligent support. He didn't get it here.

Of the second-half subs, Brad Davis and Alejandro Bedoya looked lively and, more important, inventive; but by then the game, at 0-3, was already well and truly lost, and the Hondurans were hardly playing at full pressure.

There are legitimate excuses here -- particularly that the American players are out of season. But the most worrying part of the USA's performance was not a matter if fitness. It was, as usual, a matter of style.

Here was confirmation, for the umpteenth time, that when the subs, the second-rank players, get on the field, the USA looks like nothing so much as a college team. Athletic and reasonably competent, predictable and mostly banal, guileless and not infrequently clueless.

No doubt Bradley saw things a bit differently -- but it would not be possible to find too many positive angles here. Or would it? Is it possible that maybe one -- or possibly, two -- of these players, removed from this dysfunctional outfit and dumped in the middle of the real U.S. team, would be transformed into much better players?

Yes, of course it is. In the short-term -- i.e. as far as South Africa 2010 is concerned -- this game seems to me to be of little consequence for the national team. Bradley will select a couple of players from this mess for things they did or didn't do that he likes, and their presence will make little difference to the World Cup squad. That team, we know, is a lot better than what we saw on Saturday.

Nor, for that matter, does this game herald that much for the long-term prospects of American soccer. What we witnessed here were the fading embers of a generation of players who have given us decades of standard, straightforward soccer. There are newer players coming through, a different type of player, who can give us a much more sophisticated game. I mentioned Davis and Bedoya; I could also have mentioned Roger Espinoza of the Kansas City Wizards, who had a pretty good game.

But Espinoza, despite having spent the last 11 years of his life in the USA, plays for Honduras. Maybe he could have been on the U.S. team. Evidently the necessary attitudes and procedures to ensure that the USA at least evaluates talent like Espinoza's are still not fully effective.

But they will be, and then the national team coach -- it will not be Bob Bradley -- will be able to field B teams and reserve teams that do not reproduce the cliches of the college game.


10 comments about "USA 1 Honduras 3: So what?".
  1. Lloyd Elling, January 25, 2010 at 9:51 a.m.

    You are quite correct in your analysis Paul. This game reminded me of the group that played in the Gold Cup Final....same result.

  2. James Froehlich, January 25, 2010 at 1:30 p.m.

    Bravo Cony Constin !!! Your idea about the all-Latino team is perfect. It is practical and should provide the exposure and comparisons of the current US style to what we might become. In addition, your comments have even given me hope for the A license program!! If you and your co-licensees are representative why is the college scene so dire???

  3. Austin Gomez, January 25, 2010 at 1:36 p.m.

    Very preceptive, as always, Paul.

    But no mention nor kudos for an effective officiating performance by the Mexican Referee, Armando Benito Archundia, in this National 'A' Friendly Match at the Home Depot Center in Carson jast Saturday evening.

    Referee Archundia perceptibly spotted in the 6th min. a truly "tactical" foul against USA's Conrad ('Setting the Tone' early in order to be 'pro-active,' attempting to prevent any further unsporting nonsense of stopping a promising attack/breakway) and later on in 17th min a holding Off-the-Ball foul (unsporting behavior misconduct) by the same player: hence a RC for receiving a 2nd YC in the same match --- within only 11 minutes apart.

    Also FIFA Referee Benito issued a mandatory YC at the 9th min to Honduras' Palacios for "simulation" (inside the Penalty-Area, trying proo-actively to prevent any further 'diving" scenarios --- which he accomplished!).

    However, unable to prevent 'tactical" fouls as evidenced by the unseen/ uncaught foul by Honduran captain Pavon, but later on detected a 'tactical' foul (via an "impeding" infraction) at the 50th min by Honduran/ex-MLS player, Guevara.

    Well-done, an effective Performance (overall) by this talented / perspective / courageous Arbiter!

  4. James Froehlich, January 25, 2010 at 3:57 p.m.

    Cony Konstin--- at a philosophical level, I believe that colleges are for education, pure and simple. However as we both know colleges have been the source of almost all US professional football, basketball and to a lesser extent even hockey players. From the standpoint of USSoccer and MLS, colleges are likewise being promoted and touted as the source for our professional players -- if not why the hype with the Combine and the draft.
    Re you questions: (1) 3 possible answers. The Latino community has yet to receive the benefit??!! of minority status so they are not sought out as much for scholarships. It's also probably due to the fact that the Latino community has yet to seek out these opportunities. Finally the Hispanic style of play is not a favorite of the US coaching fraternity so they don't seek out Hispanic players unless they are prodigies. (I sincerely await your response) (2) Responsibility for development in the long term should lie primarily with the MLS. However because of the world as it exists today, the entire US coaching fraternity must bear this burden in the short and medium term. I fully realize that this is expecting a lot because it is much easier from a coach's standpoint and ultimately more beneficial to his career to play a more physical, more regimented, and more direct game. Forcing players in their teens to learn to play a more skilled, passing, creative game is dangerous to a coach's win-loss record and ultimately to his job.

  5. Bobby Bribiesca, January 25, 2010 at 4:03 p.m.

    As long as we continue to draft players from the college ranks. USA will continue to lack the flair needed to win. And as long as we continue to follow the English/German methods of coaching , our USA will continue to struggle in World Cup Matches. Wake up America, there are many talented players that are not playing in college games. And yes, the Hispanics need to be recruited to our National Teams. We need to revamp the entire system of USSF. The ODP program is aimed at upper middle class familys. The fees to this program eliminate too many talented players. Lets start playing "The American Way." We have better talent that was displayed vs Honduras. The game reminded me of how we played 10 years ago!

  6. James Froehlich, January 25, 2010 at 4:10 p.m.

    Bobby Bribiesca --- I agree 100% -- no discernible improvement at the international level. MLS has improved because of Hispanic imports.

  7. Walt Pericciuoli, January 25, 2010 at 4:25 p.m.

    Agree with Paul. and I would like to add, if this game was only to assess players that might be ready to step up to the full national team roster and fill a role if needed, why are we still looking at players 27 years old and older? Hasn't their time come and gone by now? Haven't they been assessed enough by now and found wanting? Has Marvel Wynn shown anything different? Are you telling me that across this vast country there are not any better right sided defenders? Jimmy Conrad, Jeff Cunningham, Heath Pierece etc have they shown any growth in their game? Why not bring in some fresh young talent to see what they can do? Look at some of theses players playing in the Mexican leagues.
    I think we have wasted time and money and I fear we won't win a game at the WC unless all our injured players return to top form.

  8. James Froehlich, January 25, 2010 at 6 p.m.

    Bravo Cony-- sounds like a great program and should indeed be replicated for lots of reasons including the improvement of US soccer. It does raise a couple of questions: how many kids from your program were able to get college scholarships, ie., how many college coaches came looking for Latino soccer players? Also, why did an African immigrant get that scholarship--maybe because he was big and fast--unlike the majority of your Latino kids who were ONLY skillful and creative!!!!

  9. Paul Bryant, January 25, 2010 at 8:57 p.m.

    Skill and creativity, where is it? Marvel Wynn is a waste of a roster spot. He is the best example of when speed without skill makes a useless player. I too turned the game off after the Conrad sending-off. I did watch a replay the next day. Guess what? I turned the game off after the Conrad sending-off. Totally unwatchable. Could Bob Bradley have chosen a more clueless backline? An inept midfield group? A lifeless set of strikers? College soccer doesn't even prepare players for the summer leagues such as NPSL, PDL, or Super Y league. Not enough season games and not enough coaches who understand and can teach (training and tactics) the game at a high level. The major college sports (football/bball)develop players for the next level.

  10. Walt Pericciuoli, January 26, 2010 at 11:36 a.m.

    It seems to me, we are following the wrong path. After years of development, time and money spent, our very best American players are lucky to get a game in the EPL (goalkeepers excepted) at mid or lower level clubs. There are none playing in any of the other top leagues in the world. It sems to me that Europe has already selected our best players and should make our National team selection process very simple. With just very few exceptions, MLS has nothing to offer. If you accept the fact that the EPL, La Liga, Bundesliga and Serie A are the best leagues in the world, then I think you will agree that the majority of the best players in the world are coming from Brazil, Argentina, France, Italy, Holland, Spain and most of the African nations. Shouldn't we be modeling our development programs after their examples? What is really interesting to me is that a club like Barcelona have so many players right from their own youth system. Why not put our US soccer dollars toward bringing in some of Barca's trainers to teach us how they find and develop young talent?

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications