Jozy and Johnson move USA closer to Brazil

[USA-HONDURAS] Jozy Altidore has paved a smooth path to Brazil for the USA. The red-hot striker scored with a low, left-footed shot for a 1-0 win over Honduras on Tuesday that gives the USA 13 points after six Hexagonal games, leaving little doubt the USA will reach its seventh straight World Cup. Altidore's strike was set up by Fabian Johnson, who's looking like the U.S. team's most valuable German import.

SUDDENLY, THIS SUMMER. After an 18-month drought -- 11 games in which he got little service -- the 23-year-old Altidore has hit the net four times in the last four games, starting in the 4-3 friendly win over Germany. He followed up with strikes in qualifying wins over Jamaica (2-1) and Panama (2-0), and the goal against Honduras makes him the sixth player in U.S. national team history to score in four straight games.

Altidore came off a 2012-13 season in which he set a record for goals by an American abroad, with 31, for Dutch club AZ. One expects Altidore to be with a more prestigious club by summer’s end.

THE TOP GERMAN. As was the case against Panama, Fabian Johnson set up Altidore’s strike against Honduras. Johnson’s pass found Altidore nine yards out and he stroked the ball into the right corner of the goal.

Johnson, who played wide left in midfield against Panama, lined up at left back, replacing the suspended DaMarcus Beasley.

Of all the German products brought into this U.S. national team -- as many as five have played in a game during Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure -- Johnson always seemed the most promising.

In 2009, Johnson played on the right side of a midfield, alongside Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil, that led Germany to a 4-0 win over England in the U-21 European Championship final. Afterward, Johnson moved from second division 1860 Munich to the Bundesliga defending champion VfL Wolfsburg on a $3.5 million transfer.

He struggled for playing time at Wolfsburg -- 16 games in two seasons -- and moved to Hoffenheim, where he did well but not well enough for a German national team future. So in 2011 he accepted Klinsmann’s offer to play for the USA, for which he’s eligible for thanks to his American father -- thereby giving the USA a speedy, versatile and technically sound player.

GOOD EVEN WHEN HE’S BAD. Balls bounced away from him, he shot a free kick into the wall, and he had two golden chances to score on headers -- somehow missing the ball on the first and nodding it to keeper Noel Valladares on the second. But Clint Dempsey, who came into the game with seven goals in the last eight games, hit the pass, which was tapped on by Graham Zusi, that released Johnson down the wing to set up the game-winning goal.

UNBEATABLE AT HOME. For however much U.S. players and coaches like to talk about “how difficult” it is to play in the Concacaf region, the USA hasn’t lost a World Cup qualifier at home since 2001, when they fell, 3-2, to Honduras. Tuesday’s win extended the USA’s home unbeaten streak to 25 games, 23 of which were victories and the two ties came after it had already clinched a spot in the next stage to which it was seeking to advance.

BRAZIL-BOUND. Never has a team with 13 points after six Hexagonal games not qualified for the World Cup. The USA is in first place of the six-team final round from which the top three finishers qualify and the fourth-place team faces New Zealand in a play-in. The Americans have a six-point lead over fourth-place Honduras with four games left, two of which are at home -- against third-place Mexico and last-place Jamaica. The USA could clinch when it meets Costa Rica in its next game Sept. 6.

The minimum points required in previous Hexagonals to qualifying automatically?
2010 -- 16
2006 -- 16
2002 -- 17
1998 -- 14
(Reminder: A win is worth three points and a tie worth one.)

Jozy’s goal …

June 18 in Sandy Utah
USA 1 Honduras 0. Goal: Altidore 73.
USA -- Howard; Evans, Gonzalez, Besler, F. Johnson; Bradley, Jones (Cameron 74); Zusi (Davis 74), Dempsey, E. Johnson (Castillo 87); Altidore.
Honduras -- Valladares; A.Peralta (O.Garcia 75), Velasquez, Montes, Izaguirre; Espinoza, Claros, Najar, Palacios; M. Martinez (Chavez 69), Costly (Rojas 32).

Hexagonal Standings:
13 USA 4-1-1 7/3
11 Costa Rica 3-2-1 8/4
8 Mexico 1-5-0 3/2
7 Honduras 2-1-3 6/7
6 Panama 1-3-2 5/7
2 Jamaica 0-2-4 2/8

Hexagonal Schedule:
Sept. 6
Costa Rica-USA
Sept. 10
Jamaica-Costa Rica   
Oct. 11
Honduras-Costa Rica       
Oct. 15
Costa Rica-Mexico&

11 comments about "Jozy and Johnson move USA closer to Brazil".
  1. Walt Pericciuoli, June 19, 2013 at 11:26 a.m.

    I game they needed to win. I very good performance. Now two games in a row. The team is beginning to meld together. Everyone seems to know their job and has a sense of what has to be done.For me, a game that was enjoyable to watch. Still a couple of glitches here and there.(Gonzales distribution out of the back is still very weak) But over-all a very dominating performance against a strongly organized and determined side. (remember they beat us last time out)Hats off to Jozy,the Johnson boys, Besler,(besides his one almost costly error)Zusi and Dempsey, but in my mind, Bradley is the difference maker, the one who stirs the pot.Last night he proved it again. 3 points boys, great job.

  2. Andrew King, June 19, 2013 at 1:01 p.m.

    I agree with Walt, although the game got a little frustrating at times. It seemed that for much of the game we were just an inch away on scoring opportunities, such as Dempsey's missed header. But the good thing was that we were still creating a number of chances, especially in the second half when we increased the pace of the game. Also, I believe Cameron is making a strong case for himself getting the starting nod over Jones

  3. John Foust, June 19, 2013 at 1:14 p.m.

    Concur - Bradley has become almost a true number 10 (at least on a U.S. scale ...) - not yet ready to put him in the company of the famous 10s, but as Walt said, he's the engine and key linkage. Both outside backs are playing the kind of football that will spread opponents and allow Jozy to muscle in some goals that previously he was too heavily marked to be able to complete.

  4. Bruce Gowan, June 19, 2013 at 1:29 p.m.

    Bradley is helping the young central defenders by coming back and giving them a good outlet target. He also is doing a good job of distribution after he gets the ball. Jermaine Jones is not helping in either defense or offense. He puts himself into bad positions and gives the ball up too much.

  5. Stuart d. Warner, June 19, 2013 at 1:30 p.m.

    Whatever happened to the German-American onslaught? Danny Williams is for all effective purposes gone; I think Timothy Chandler is as well; Terrence Boyd is an afterthought; and I think Jermaine Jones will not be starting come World Cup time (we are so much more balanced with Cameron [who I didn't like at central back and absolutely loathed at right back, and is an ideal #6]). That leaves only Fabian Johnson. And although no one is saying this, I think we're better with FJ at left back than Beasley, who gets beat far too often, which leaves . . . left mid open for Landon Donovan. Also, with the exception of his one giveaway--a bad one at that--I thought Besler was a beast last night.

  6. Craig Soccer, June 19, 2013 at 1:43 p.m.

    I am glad to see that the Americans got 3 points but we should of had a better performance last night. We had a ton of chances but the ball has to be put in the net. We score 1 goal on a team missing many key players and that is all we can get. Please when we play stronger teams one goal will not be enough. Bradley is more effective when he attacks the goal instead of laying back and picking up the ball in front of the defense. The team has finally seen improvements but we are young in places(international caps) but we are coming along.

  7. Eric Shinn, June 19, 2013 at 2:46 p.m.

    Grant Wahl made a great point on the radio yesterday re: Bradley and his midfield partnership with Jones vs. Cameron. Jones I think looks at himself as at least Bradley's equal, and to some extent expects deference from MB. Cameron, however, works to SUPPORT Bradley, allowing him to play his game a little more thoroughly...........Honestly, right now I'd have to lean towards Cameron over Jones, but that could change later on in qualifying. I just thought Wahl's point was particularly astute, and seems to explain why MB was so dominant against Panama but not quite as fluid against Honduras.

  8. Eric Shinn, June 19, 2013 at 2:50 p.m.

    To Stuart's point, my guess is that is exactly what will happen. Fabian will drop back to left back, and Donovan will slot into that left mid position. Wish we had a better option at that back position, because I honestly (right now) think I prefer Johnson to Donovan, but will definitely be interesting come September if we can get that lineup out there and see what they can do.

  9. Chris Sapien , June 19, 2013 at 4:48 p.m.

    I have no need to defend Jones, but would like to remind everyone what he has meant to the side through qualifying to this point. No doubt Klinns may see that Cameron and Jones can provide something slightly different given who the opponent might be. We should support the selection of Jones each time he is called on to start. Both Cameron and Jones are vital commodities. Donovan on the other hand in front of Fabian, is still an unknown, and if Landon doesn't stay wide and provide some service, at least a good part of the time, we will be back to square one on the left side. Agree with you Eric on your points. Michael, is truly becoming "General Bradley"!!

  10. Bruce Gowan, June 19, 2013 at 5:26 p.m.

    Re: Jones
    He is a yellow card risk in every game due to his pointless physical challenges. I am sure that the coaches track poor passes and give-aways so they know what we see. A previous writer made a good point that Jones probably sees himself as the "lead" CM rather than a support for Bradley. He is however better than most of the other CM choices.

  11. beautiful game, June 20, 2013 at 6:59 p.m.

    Good game? The first half was a total disaster. Second half was a bit better, but far from a solid performance. Ball movement and tempo was far too slow. In my book, another mediocre performance and a step backward in reaching the next level.

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