A defeat of historic proportions

By Paul Kennedy

For the first time in the history of the Hexagonal, the USA has lost its opener. Or its opening away game, for that matter.

The 2-1 loss to Honduras also ended a string of three straight wins over the Catrachos in World Cup qualifying in San Pedro Sula dating back to 1965.

The defeat was all the more painful because the USA led after 35 minutes thanks to Clint Dempsey's well-taken goal. But it was one of the few times the USA threatened the Honduras defense with any kind of buildup.

The USA was let down by its defense on both goals. Much of the blame for the loss will go to the new partnership of Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez in the middle of the backline.

Yes, they were both caught napping and badly exposed on Jerry Bengtson's winning goal. But the USA had lost since ceded control of the game to the Catrachos.

WEARY GERMANS. It never looked good for the USA when Jurgen Klinsmann had to take off Danny Williams and Jermaine Jones around the hour mark.

Williams, who has lost his starting job at Hoffenheim, struggled with his composure. Jones, who had just come back for suspension with Schalke 04, was needed in the final half hour. His telling passes had set Dempsey for the goal and sprung Eddie Johnson for the best U.S. chance before that, Jozy Altidore's poke over the bar.

The game was a struggle for the other two German-Americans, Timmy Chandler and Fabian Johnson. Chandler was beaten time and again by Carlo Costly, and Johnson spent part of the second half in midfield. On the second Honduran goal, he could only watch as Oscar Boniek Garcia raced through the U.S. defense to feed Bengtson for the winning goal.

(If you're wondering how players like Boniek Garcia and Bengtson -- still in MLS pre-season -- had their legs late in the game, they had the advantage of playing last month in the Copa Centroamericana, where Honduras finished second to Costa Rica.)

HEXAGONAL MATH. More important than the points the USA left on the table at the Olimpico are the three points Honduras took.

A tie or loss on Wednesday would have cranked up the pressure on the Catrachos as their next game is also at home -- against Mexico.

If Honduras had one or two points after two games, it would have been panic time for the Catrachos. Now they have three and are looking for six out of six after two games.

WHAT'S NEXT? On the other hand ... the next match against Costa Rica on March 26 becomes a proverbial must-win game for the USA.

With road games against Mexico and Jamaica to follow, the USA suddenly finds itself behind the eight-ball. It won't want to return to the Office -- where it lost last September -- and face Jamaica in June with less than three points after three games.

USA in Hexagonal
(Points after 3 Games):
1997: 4
2001: 9
2005: 6
2009: 7

What can Klinsmann do differently against Costa Rica? Not much. He'll want to hope Steve Cherundolo (currently injured) is available again. And he'll have to figure out what to do in midfield if Williams isn't playing at Hoffenheim. (Which makes Maurice Edu's loan move to Turkey all the more important.) Don't expect to see a change in the Chandler-Gonzalez, at least for the Costa Rica game.

But there's almost no chance Landon Donovan -- whose offensive spark the USA could have have used against Honduras -- will be available by then if he indeed returns to action this year for the USA.

More than ever, Donovan is the elephant in the U.S. locker room.

27 comments about "A defeat of historic proportions".
  1. Marine Cano, February 6, 2013 at 7:51 p.m.


  2. Luis Arreola, February 6, 2013 at 8:06 p.m.

    Cheer up. USA just had a HISTORIC win in Mexico!! Not to mention Italy and Russia results in Friendlies!!!

  3. Luis Arreola, February 6, 2013 at 8:10 p.m.

    Usually when a team bunkers inbthe back like USA did is because they are playing a tecbically superior team that can break them down either one v one or 2-1 touch passing. Question is, USA doesn't have the talent to play a team like Honduras straight up or maybe force them to bunker back? You guys think Mexico would play anybody like that?

  4. Kent James, February 6, 2013 at 8:32 p.m.

    If you're going to blow a game, I guess it's better to do it at the beginning of a tournament than at the end. Honduras certainly deserved the win. It looked like the heat and the humidity hurt the US more than Honduras, but it seemed like either attitude or tactics were not right. It seemed that our defenders (especially on the wings) gave Honduras all kinds of space. Was the strategy to avoid letting them go around us on the ground by making it easy for them to cross the ball (in hopes that we'd beat them in the air?). Was it an attempt to conserve energy? The first goals for both teams were nice (the bicycle was unstoppable). I confess I don't understand the strategy we seemed to play; 9 or 10 defenders behind the ball, but not aggressive with Altidore up top. It seems to me if you're going with a counter-attacking strategy, you need speed up top, not a guy to hold the ball up and wait for help, since it seemed like very little help came. I thought Altidore was one of the better players today, but he was not the right player for what we were playing.

  5. jason bay, February 6, 2013 at 8:36 p.m.

    I could say that I blame Klinsmann for bringing in the European guys who werent in camp the past month and played against Canada last week so there was no cohesiveness and prep together. I could say the heat beat us in the second half bc no one on the roster much less the starting XI was acclimated to it. I could say Honduras was just the better team this day. Or I could say all the above. Individually, we have some high quality players who do well for their club teams but there are horribly frustrating gaps for the team as a whole and we just dont have the talent to impose our collective will to create a win. Honduras is a beatable team by anyone in the Hex. Playing for your country is the highest honor and our guys may have that in their heads but they didnt have it in their hearts or bodies today. It was embarrassingly evident at the end of the match as I had my Honduran friends laughing in my face gloating in victory. I could go on forever in detail about our deficiencies but why aggravate myself further when I can drink beer heavily instead. We cant win on talent so its gonna have to be on blood and guts. I pray there are no more day games south of the Equator til the seasons change.

  6. Raveen Rama, February 6, 2013 at 8:40 p.m.

    Heat and humidity, nothing!
    Honduras could keep possession for hours if they wanted to. We don't have the skills to do that. Players kick the ball away because they are afraid of losing it because they don't have confidence in their own skills. USA should go back to basics and play mostly 4v4, and learn to dribble during practices.
    Honduras deserved to win and should have won by more than two goals.

  7. Kent James, February 6, 2013 at 8:40 p.m.

    In addition to poor US play, two other things were disappointing. I didn't have HD TV, so my picture was not that clear, but the referee seemed to let everything go. There seemed to be a lot of challenges from behind where the player challenged went down, which most referees call. While I'm sure some may not have warranted fouls, it seemed like many of them did. I don't think it made a difference (although their corner kick that set up the bicycle might have come when a US player (F Johnson?) was literally knocked off the ball and dispossessed). Also disappointing was the BEin coverage (assuming they controlled the pictures). How many times did they stay on Tim Howard after he kicked the ball (instead of where the ball was going), or show the crowd or the bench while the game was going on?? It would be nice if they would show a replay of some of those questionable collisions, to see if they were fouls, or some of the nice dribbling moves, or pretty much anything interesting, isn't that what replay's for? All in all, a disappointing afternoon.

  8. John Soares, February 6, 2013 at 8:46 p.m.

    Repeat: No offence intended, in fact kudos to Honduras, Coast Rica and any other "small" CONCACAF country (Mexico excluded) that defeats the USA. BUT, until the USA with a population of 300+ million and more youth playing soccer than the population of most of these countries can consistently beat these teams. We have no reason to even dream of WC hopes or status. I love soccer. I will (did) renew my season tickets for my MLS team, as I did for NASL. I wish I had the answer, I don't. BUT I DO HAVE HOPE and BELIEF that it will happen. I only *HOPE/wish* it's in my lifetime.

  9. Kevin Sims, February 6, 2013 at 8:51 p.m.

    One match of 10 ... not well done ... but dropping 3 points @ Honduras not unequivocally a tragedy ... "But the USA had lost since ceded control of the game to the Catrachos." HUH?

  10. Luis Arreola, February 6, 2013 at 8:56 p.m.

    Mexico will finish first. Jamaica will finish last. Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama are all pretty close but I think Costa Rica and Honduras will make it in 2nd and 3rd. That leaves Panama and USA in fight for 4th. That's 4 3rd world much smaller countries that USA will grind with heavily to make W.C. 2014. When will we make our scouting system truly accountable?

  11. Luis Arreola, February 6, 2013 at 9:04 p.m.

    Kevin, the tragedy lies in fact how USA managed this game. They played as if playing a technically superior team. Joan, there is much better talent but the politics in player selections are heavy. We are not seasoning and investing in the right players at the youngest ages because USSF is sticking to its guns with Academy status. These clubs are future employers that are economically stable and secure for USSF scouts and coaches. They scratch each others back. If you look hard enough you will se this every where. Academies are way too young and have proven nothing but this is the only place to look and to promote as the best?? Why?? Keep scratching.

  12. Luis Arreola, February 6, 2013 at 9:30 p.m.

    The amount of USA youth soccer players has doubled to more than 4million since 1990. That means we should have at least 2 Dempseys, 2 Donovans, and maybe just maybe some better players than these 2. Honduras "total" population is a little more than 7.5 million. There is no way anyone can make me beleive that we dont' have better players or at least at the level of those 2 in USA taking into account our growth in interest. No other sport has seen this growth in last 10 years. Not even close. Also, no other sport sees so much profit from it's clubs and coaches. Therefore, it is my conclusion that it is corrupt to it's very core. Personal interests have deeply gooten in the way of selecting the best possible players for our U14, U15, U17, U18, U20, U23 and USMNT. No doubt!!

  13. Paul Bryant, February 6, 2013 at 9:37 p.m.

    Luis, keep preaching bro. I've only been following soccer for about 15 years. I never played a competitive game in my life. Just watched my son play. Through him I became a student of the game. For many years I believed the same things as you about the soccer establishment, but kept quiet about it because I was not an "expert" in the game. I'm discovering that there is a growing minority of football enthusiast that are fed up with the inbred thinking of the USSF.
    As far a today's game, Klinsmann made a tactical mistake not starting Bocanegra. When I saw the line-up, I thought to myself, who's going to run the backline? Gonzalez,while a decent player, did not appear to set players into position. Mids did not close down Honduras mids allowing them to pass to forwards. Putting additional pressure on the backline. Hopefully U.S. will get a result against Costa Rica

  14. cisco martinez, February 6, 2013 at 10:10 p.m.

    Klinsmann seems to pulling off the Steve Sampson trial from France 1998, different players with styles, no cohesion, formations, and lack of awareness, all lead to the same result 0-3 in the World Cup.

  15. James Madison, February 6, 2013 at 11:02 p.m.

    Howard, Bradley and Dempsey were the only players on the field for the US who deserved to be there today, and even Bradley and Dempsey were off their games because of having to travel as far as they did after playing on Sunday. The back four were a disaster, and the rest not much better. Lackadaisical was the theme. Unless Klinsmann can turn things around quickly and radically, the US will miss World Cup 2014.

  16. Luis Arreola, February 6, 2013 at 11:56 p.m.

    Jamaica performed Usa's tactic of bunkering much more effectively. They countered well. Mexico had some huge mistakes that could have cost them 3 points. Jamaican goalie was player of the game. This said, Mexico had full possession of the game but missed creativity in Tue top 3rd. Too many crosses on a team that has height. Jamaica did not look like the weakest team in the Hex. Now that's what I call a HISTORIC result!!!!

  17. Donald Glaze, February 6, 2013 at 11:57 p.m.

    The 2nd half Dempsey and Altidore got no service. It only got worse when Sacha Kljestan entered the game. A very bad substitution!!

  18. Donald Glaze, February 7, 2013 at 12:06 a.m.

    I don't blame the back four for the second goal. If a goalie comes off his line he better come up with the ball. Howard didn't.

  19. Mark Grody, February 7, 2013 at 2:49 a.m.

    every time I worry, then we get off to a decent start in the last round of qualifying...this time my worries seem to be well founded. agree with the post about the 98 world cup. i was at all three games to boot...

  20. Pablo Flores, February 7, 2013 at 9:37 a.m.

    There's some bullshit going on with the USMNT and it was on full display yesterday. I keep asking myself why would Donovan want to go out this way. This is his last dance with the World Cup so why is he not on the dance floor? My only guess he sees that Klingsman and Gulati are leading the USMNT down the wrong path and doesn't want any part of it. It's that bad! How do you not start Bocenegra instead of Gonzalez or Cameron? We have players down in Liga MX in fine form, already acclimated to the weather and to the style of Honduras' play. Why where they not chosen and bought into play? All the blame falls on Klingsman and his nepotism to his German players. Klingsman failed miserably in his first game that mattered and he cost us 3 points!!

  21. Luis Arreola, February 7, 2013 at 9:58 a.m.

    Pablo, I hear you. Doesnt make sense. The German based players did not look good at all. Ridge here, doesnt rip them like he does with other players after games like this. We expect too much out of those German Players. We are not too different from Jamaica's desperate last minute scramble to get 5 English league players to help them in this Hex. This reminds me of when Erikson was picked to coach Mexico before 2010. He didnt understand the Mexican style of game and tried to turn them into something they were not. He did not identify with his pool of players. Mexico recognized this in time and picked Aguirre just in time to save them. I dont think Aguirre did the best job but he showed he understood his player pool. I like Klins alot but see one of a few things that are not good. 1.He does not have full reigns on overall program, player selection. or. 2. He does but doesnt really understand his player pool, here in the USA and therefore leans heavily on his German descent. He said we would play an offensive style and he would pick players to fit that style. He has done the opposite. Why arent we looking to hire a Coach that understands our pool and how we want to play. We have offense minded players that are skilled and technical. Bunkering and hoping for the counter is a thing of the past for us but we are still living in the past.

  22. Luis Arreola, February 7, 2013 at 10:08 a.m.

    We have a hard time filling seats at USA home games because we a limited and secluded fan base. Why? Because of our playing style and player selection. If we change those 2 we won't have to worry about where we play in USA. USSF makes $$ that it can reinvest in adequate scouting and player selection by cutting any political ties between USSF scouts/coaches with big $$ clubs/Academies so that selection is 100% pure and not based on job security and good relations.

  23. Eric Dibella, February 7, 2013 at 11:51 a.m.

    I found it interesting that the excuse for not bringing Feilhaber was inconsistency. Was anyone consistent with what our coach was expecting? Benny shows possession and creativity which is sorely lacking on our team. He played a great role coming off the bench in the 2010 WC, and he was the only one that created problems for Canada recently.

  24. Eric Dibella, February 7, 2013 at 11:59 a.m.

    I did not understand the Eddie Johnson substitution (as soon as I saw it was Sasha rather than Herc - I was thinking we are playing for a tie). I thought he can provide some speed and width as well as possibly trying to take someone on. Having Dempsey as the only guy trying to breakdown the defense is not enough. Freddy showed the problems this can cause when you dribble past a defender in the last game he played against Mexico. It causes the other defenders to adjust and possibly leave someone open. We rarely caused problems because we are playing predictable. Watching Dos Santos attack and breakdown a defense is enjoyable. This plays right into the way Chicharito scores the easy ones. He is left to move to the right spots that open due to the defenders having to deal with Dos Santos. And yes, I know they tied yesterday, but the opportunities are created upon beating someone.

  25. Chris Sapien , February 7, 2013 at 7:31 p.m.

    So, to summarize, Raveen writes the U.S. "don't have confidence in their own skills".....valid at times, but I would suggest their teammates have to provide three or four options to release pressure at all times! This can only be accomplished by players who are committed to finding and moving to space no matter when the last time they had a touch was etc.......Yes, we most likely will always be a side that clears the ball way too often, but there are teams who are actually very successful doing that as well. Style arguments, just like conspiracy theorists are going to get us nowhere. I would much rather see the commitment and drive that comes with players "who refuse to lose", than technically superior players who still can't find the back of the net. I didn't see the beloved mexican stylistos get three points at home! And whomever said "Jamaica would finish last", you are sorely mistaken. They are fierce and ready to outhustle, outmuscle and run for days with a deft touch. Watch out HEX, they will put many bodies to the ground. Still, the U.S. will find a way, and our ticket will be punched BEFORE Oct. 15th!! Bring on CR! We'll be ready.....

  26. Luis Arreola, February 7, 2013 at 11:58 p.m.

    Chris, yep your right. Put my foot in my mouth on that one. Jamaica looked tough. This team just had a terrible finsish in Carribean Cup. Those new players must have made them more confident. They bunkered and succeeded but also countered dangerously. That said, Mexico is the superior team in the ElHex and this will be nothing more than a good wake up call to not take any opponent for granted. USA not the same story. I just can't condone a country with our many advantages, size, player pool, etc. To have to give up possession and establish the other team as the more tecbical and skilled when those teams are many times smaller than one of our states and poor. Unacceptable

  27. Chris Sapien , February 8, 2013 at 1:26 p.m.

    Luis, I have little doubt mexico will finish at the top. As far as the reggae boys go, let's see how they travel....for some reason, they never look as dangerous and have been one of the nations that clearly looks to draw on the road. Agree with our shortcomings as you noted.

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