A win, 1-0 over a second-tier CONCACAF side, and probably just about a deserved one, though by no means hugely impressive. The US showed well in patches against Honduras, and a couple of individuals can be proud of their performances, but collectively, the one word that consistently appears in my notes, often double- or triple-underlined, is sloppy.
Too loose in possession, lots of dangerous challenges in flat-out stupid areas, and generally about a half-step slower than their opposition for large periods of play. Maybe some of that is down to a lack of confidence after the slow start to the Klinsmann era, maybe some can be laid at the feet of integrating new faces1, maybe you can even blame the weather. But at some point, you’ve got to start questioning the man in charge.
Let’s go line by line for a change, shall we?
Defense: Howard was immense as usual, keeping the US from going down early, then preserving the slender lead. The fullbacks had reasonable outings going forward, but were a bit suspect defensively and in the air, particularly on crosses to the back post. Little surprise that things looked a lot more solid with Onyewu replacing Orozco, who again wasn’t impressive. Can we declare that little experiment failed please?
Midfield: Edu looked well off the pace to start2, not reacting well with or without the ball, but grew into the game until yet another stupid, lunging challenge saddled him with yellow. Beckerman has his uses, and I can see an argument for his being included in the 23, maybe even in the 18, but I just don’t see him as starter quality at this level. Williams looks an interesting player3, good on the ball, reasonably composed. Shea continues to impress (despite some poor choices on the ball and a botched finish).
Forwards: Dempsey is the indespensible man now; the only one who you can rely upon to reliably find the back of the neck. His moment of quality was the difference and the one called back was typical CONCACAF whistleman bufoonery. Altidore and Agudelo are both handfuls for defenders in their own particular ways, but both are still works in progress and really need to be testing keepers with more regularity.
The big takeway? The result was important. There were some sequences that were promising. But the sloppiness on the ball and in commiting fouls in bad spots are both worrying. Honduras was wasteful4 and could so easily have made things more difficult. I’m going to chalk this tentatively in the positive column, bank those missed chances as ones that go in for a more confident crew, and see what Tuesday brings while maintaining my suspicions about Klinsmann.
Though I think you’d find many wondering at the lack of breadth in the “new faces” audition line. ↩
Blame the SPL? ↩
Particularly playing out of position on the right. Given how tidy he was, I wouldn’t mind seeing him in the middle, even as packed as it now seems. ↩
Yes, yes, better finishing from the US and better whistlemen negate this, but still… ↩