I know that Honduras always chokes when the stakes are high...but come on! That was flat-out ridiculous. How do you miss a point blank header...and a PK? How do you let an angry bald paperweight put two in your net? And yet...and yet the US almost managed to equal the choking. From the absolute gift from Onyewu for Honduras' first, to giving up a late PK, to missing an absolute sitter that would have sealed the deal...
But we're in. Stow the shock and wipe away the dumbfounded looks. We're in.
* Bob's got a secret. Seriously. Who in their right mind thought we'd be starting Conor Casey in this match? Not I. In fact, my furiously scribbled notes are quite liberal with obscenity and question marks...up until the ugly first (off the shoulder unless my crappy web feed got the pixels swapped). I'm still in shock that a CONCACAF official allowed that to stand. The second was much better taken, and again, correct me if my crappy web feed had me seeing things, but wasn't it Casey getting fouled (though it looked a bit like he tripped over his own feet) to set up Donovan's FK for the match winner? Un-freakin-believable. BigSoccer meltdown in 5...4...3...
* Possession up top. It needs to be better. There were stretches where we looked semi-competent, but if I was counting the number of times poor or lazy touches from our forwards led to turning the ball over, I'd have run out of digits in short order. And no small few of those were in the center of the park in our own half, leading to direct opportunities for the opposition. Casey did it. Davies did it. Altidore did it. Even Donovan did it when he was in the "midway" role between Altidore and the midfield. Speaking of Donovan...
* Know when to hold 'em? So I get that it's worth having Donovan out there, even if he's in yellow peril for what might be a do-or-die final match. He even proved that he needed to be there with that lovely free kick goal. But why was he still out there in the later stages when he was clearly gassed and turning the ball over too frequently for my tastes? A tired player is a lazy player, not just with the passing, but with the tackling as well. That could have spelled disaster. I know he's our best player, but I still would have yanked him.
* Know when to Holden? Okay, say what you will about the PK giveaway (that was Holden, wasn't it? the web feed wasn't clear), but my abiding memory of StuHo's performance will be a positive one. That wasn't an easy atmosphere to play in, and the kid did pretty damn well. His cross in the first half should have opened our account, and his possession play in the later stages was welcome relief. But my favorite moment was when he proved that he may not be the most physically gifted or talented player on the park, but he's among the smartest. Time's ebbing away, Holden has the ball moving into the left corner. Okay, you think. Here's where he takes it to the flag and kills about 20 seconds, right? Wrong. He starts to make that move, but then sees an opening and threads a ball back for an attacker (Bornstein? UPDATE: Feilhaber) to run onto, leading to a one-on-one with the keeper that should have sealed the game. Bradley's response? Yank the kid and get another defender on. Sigh.
* All we need is just a little patience? Say it with me now, "patience, boys, patience." We had our moments, but all too often we would have the ball in the attacking end and would panic, looking for a shoot or through ball opportunity rather than holding possession. Prime guilty party? Junior. I think I counted three chances where he had even numbers or better on the break and went for the long-ranger rather than looking for a pass or to hold the ball. I sometimes forget how young the kid is, but if he's the midfield "general," he needs to be better there.
* The Suazo addition played right into our hands. Sure they had a third forward, but they lost numbers in midfield, allowing us more leisure to hold and counter.
* Amateur hour in CONCACAF. The refs are always a problem, but they were a problem for both sides. Perhaps not equally, but fairly close. Frighteningly inconsistent.
* How long can Spector coast on that one good cross for a goal in the Confederations Cup? His crossing was a series of looping, aimless balls that were lucky to find a noggin before drifting out of play. Downright Hejduk-ian.
* Gooch gave away the first all on his own. Playing (or not playing) for Milan may have long-term benefits, but in the short term, it's hurting us.
Wanna hear me bitch about the Whistlemen a bit more? Or about Bob's substitution patterns or player selection? Not going to happen. I'm going to go get a nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, put the laptop down, and just bask in the fact that we're in with a match to spare. I'll admit that I was expecting the worst going into this match. Honduras have been deadly at home in this cycle, and our road woes are legion. When I saw that we were starting Casey, I thought we were toast since we'd effectively be playing a half-man down. And even up two goals in the second half, the Honduras fightback fairly reeked with inevitability. How Pavon missed a PK and a point-blank header, I'll never know, but I can only assume it's the lingering stench of the Galaxy that's yet to wash off.
We're in...it feels strange to say it tonight rather than Wednesday, but...