Not even Jurgen Klinsmann could manage a smile after that one.
There was no hiding it: The Hexagonal World Cup qualifying opener in Honduras was an almighty struggle and there was little positive spin that Klinsmann could put on the 2-1 defeat in San Pedro Sula (watch the highlights here). The most positive commentary came on the Honduras equalizer, which Klinsmann called “the goal of the century” for the Catrachos.
So what went wrong? First, a litany of errors. “Too many players today just didn’t reach their usual potential,” Klinsmann said. “We made too many mistakes. It’s not easy, as we knew, the Europeans flying in, two days’ preparation, all that stuff. But we gave them far too much space.” (Watch video of Klinsmann’s analysis here).
On a basic level, the US also never showed a possession game: “We didn’t hold the ball well enough, long enough, to pass it around, to make the opponent chase the game,” Klinsmann said. “It became the opposite: We had to run after them.”
Then there were the elements: “It was hot, the grass was long, it was tough on our legs,” US ‘keeper Tim Howard said. “But we still could find better ways to press them and make them cough up the ball like they did to us.”
”A lot of these players on our team play in Europe,” Dempsey said. “And you come here and you play in 90 degree heat which you’re not accustomed to.” (VIDEO)
Tactically the US also left something to be desired: ”The ability to in these type of games tactically, to control things a little bit better and as a team be able to shift and be a little bit better in how we controlled certain situations,” midfielder Michael Bradley commented. (VIDEO)
Go easy on him. The game-winner may have come on Omar Gonzalez’s watch – he was clearly not expecting Jerry Bengtson sneaking up behind him to score the decider – but Klinsmann refuses to lay the blame on the LA Galaxy defender: “There will always be moments when there’s miscommunication,” Klinsmann said. “But the backline is not the reason we lost that game.”
Gonzalez was more self-critical: "I did not have the best game," Gonzalez said. "It was tough for me to clear balls today” The 2012 MLS Cup MVP also offered his thoughts on Bengtson’s late finish: “Definitely a dagger,” he said. “I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t see (Bengtson) on the left post. Maybe I should have looked faster.”
If there’s an area of the field that Klinsmann was particularly critical of, it was the midfield. "That's why we did the subs in midfield," the USMNT manager said. "We didn't find our passing flow, we didn't combine well enough, we didn't hold the ball well enough. We often lost the ball far too early."
So you’ve read what the US players and coaches had to say about their performance. Now it’s time for the observers, starting with USMNT legend and ESPN analyst Alexi Lalas alongside US World Cup veteran and KickTV star Jimmy Conrad. Taylor Twellman identifies what he thinks is the crux of the issue on ESPN: The USMNT desperately need a center back. (VIDEO)
And so given all this, USMNT players may not want to be checking the customary player ratings. There were a few 3.5s handed out by MLSsoccer.com’s Greg Seltzer. Brian Sciaretta gave one member of the squad a “2” for The New York Times and Soccer America gave seven players a grade of “4.”
Whatever the gloom and doom that Wednesday’s match may have brought about, Klinsmann is unrelenting: “Tonight, it didn’t work out the way we wanted so we have to make sure that from the next games we collect the points we need to qualify for Brazil — which we will do,” he said.
And it makes the next match on March 22 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park against Costa Rica a must-win: "You never want to start with zero, but you can't panic. There's nine more games to go," Bradley said. "At this point the three points in the next game are crucial."
Klinsmann and Bradley have to be upbeat. So don’t tell them how ESPN’s Soccer Power Index dropeed the USA’s chances of qualifying to the World Cup “from 61.6 percent to 52.7 percent.”
But what if the result in Honduras was merely a sign of a power shift in CONCACAF? The USMNT wasn’t the only traditional power to struggle on Wednesday. Mighty Mexico was held to a 0-0 tie by Jamaica at the Estadio Azteca (watch the highlights here). Panama could have Matchday 1 of the Hexagonal top of the group, but they watched their 2-0 home lead over Costa Rica vanish in a 2-2 draw (watch the highlights here).
Even Wednesday’s World Cup qualifying result won’t diminish the enthusiasm for a long-awaited home qualifier in Seattle’s CenturyLink Field. US Soccer president Sunil Gulati apparently hinted at it when speaking to US reporters in Honduras.
Fans of the New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas will be able to forget about the USMNT match quicker than others. RBNY will play Swedish side Malmö in a preseason match this afternoon (3:30 p.m. ET, catch the live stream here). One hour later, FC Dallas take on the reserve side of Liga MX club Atlante in Cancún, Mexico.
Along with the friendlies, the rumors continue to swirl about potential player arrivals ahead of the MLS season. Among the latest names is that of Colombian striker Fernando Uribe, who is being linked with a move stateside.
Find out about the 21-year-old left-sided player from Trinidad and Tobago who is trialing with Toronto FC. (VIDEO)
Today might be deadline day if the Colorado Rapids hope to add to their South American contingent. According to the agent for Paraguayan player Eduardo Echeverría, either a deal is done with the Rapids today, or the players joins a major club back in his native country. (SPANISH)
We’ll see if we get any more clarification on a rumor that hit late Wednesday: Former Honduran star David Suazo is apparently set to join Sporting Kansas City for training in Orlando. (SPANISH)
The Montreal Impact were said to be looking in South America for a new talent and they will have one on their flight to Orlando for the Disney Pro Soccer Showcase. His name is apparently Andrés Fabricio Romero.
There may be plenty of people rooting for a Frank Lampard landing in MLS. Not England manager Roy Hodgson. After the Chelsea midfield legend notched another international goal for the Three Lions yesterday, Hodgson made it clear: “I'm rather hoping we'll still see him if not in England, then Europe, which will make my task easier,” he said. “If he goes further afield and follows David [Beckham], it complicates matters.”
Things are complicated for Real Salt Lake. Manager Jason Kreis will be using the next few preseason matches to figure out how to get by without their playmaker after Javier Morales went under the knife. Here are some of the names the club is looking to.
The infirmary list is much longer for the defending Supporters’ Shield winning San Jose Earthquakes and it’s already a cause for concern: “I’m a little nervous,” manager Frank Yallop admitted. “We’ve not really seen many of our guys yet, and we’re two weeks into preseason. It’s up to the rest of the squad to carry that and not worry about it and just get results.”
LA Galaxy tickets have been in demand in recent years with the presence of former midfield star Beckham. Without the Englishman, who has since moved to Paris Saint-Germain, don’t expect Robbie Keane to take on the mantle of star attraction: “I don’t think I’m ever going to be an MLS pin-up,” Keane said. “With my Irish skin, I don’t think so. People might get a fright at how white I am.”
Yesterday was national signing day in the NCAAs. But while the mainstream press focuses on college football and college basketball programs, TopDrawerSoccer.com gives you the Top 20 recruiting classes in the men’s soccer ranks.
Finally, the feature piece of the day: a profile of Chicago Fire boss Frank Klopas. "In 27 years my mother never missed one day of work – not even a sick day," says Klopas. "I look at where I am today, the opportunities I’ve had to be doing something I love doing. Every time I want to complain I put on the board '27' and look at that and say, 'I have nothing to complain about.'"
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