Knives will be sharpened after the United States opened the Hexagonal phase of World Cup qualifying with a disappointing 2-1 loss at Honduras. While it is too early to put Jurgen Klinsmann on the hot seat, a lot of his decisions will be second guessed for a few weeks until the U.S. faces a much tougher opponent in Mexico. Here are three observations from Wednesday's loss.
Jurgen Klinsmann warrants criticism for tactics and recent comments:
The United States unveiled a hybrid 4-3-3 formation against Honduras and there was a glaring flaw within Klinsmann's newly implemented tactic: Where's the right midfielder?
Klinsmann opted to forgo the position completely, starting three defensive midfielders and (over)relying on right back Timothy Chandler to provide width on that side of the pitch. Not only was Chandler gassed by the end of the first half, the lack of creativity on offense was very apparent. Despite having several midfielders from several top European club teams, the U.S. was dominated in possession, only retaining the ball 43 percent of the time.
But tactics shouldn't be the only thing concerning Klinsmann. The United States looked lifeless throughout the game, which is troubling considering the team's usually relentless attitude.
Aside from Dempsey's opening goal in the 36th minute, the U.S. had very little fight, which is a problem considering it was the team's opening match in the Hexagonal. Here was a chance for the United States to send a message to its CONCACAF opponents that it will be force in the region, but instead the team looked overwhelmed by a hungry Honduran squad. While players and coaches will likely blame the heat and altitude of the Estadio Olimpico, could it be possible that players are beginning to get frustrated under Klinsmann?
The German manager has been very vocal in criticizing some of his teams top players and that might be backfiring a bit. While players might respect Klinsmann as a soccer legend on the pitch, he hasn't done much to separate himself from his coaching predecessor Bob Bradley despite being paid four times more. Definitely a situation to keep an eye on.
Jozy Altidore's goal drought still remains
Altidore may be scoring for fun in the Netherlands with AZ but he has yet to score in open play for the U.S. under Klinsmann.
Altidore didn't score in 2012 and the 23-year-old's only goal under the former Germany boss was a penalty against Slovenia in Nov. 2011. Altidore's last goal in the run of play came in the 2011 Gold Cup against Guadeloupe.
It is unfair to single out Altidore for his lack of scoring considering the lack of scoring chances created by the U.S. but one concern is his lack of production in other areas. There were too many periods of time against Honduras where he was non-existent. It's one thing if a player isn't scoring but it's not out there winning opportunities and being effective when he receives touches.
It is for those reasons why Klinsmann prefers Herculez Gomez even if his club production isn't on par with Altidore's.
Chandler and Omar Gonzalez are cap-tied
It was expected that Chandler would start after accepting his call-up to play against Honduras but it was still strange to see him on the field of the Estadio Olimpico in a match that actually mattered.
His three-year period of indecisiveness towards the Stars and Stripes not only frustrated fans but two head coaches in Bradley and Klinsmann and fellow players. Now, with both feet in, it was interesting to see Chandler adjust to a CONCACAF opponent on the road. He clearly struggled with fatigue early on as he adjusted to the hostile environment in San Pedro Sula. Overall, it was a tough debut for Chandler, but he should improve with more CONCACAF road trips under his belt.
One dual national who showed potential in his World Cup qualifying debut was Gonzalez. The LA Galaxy star started ahead of Carlos Bocanegra and played well overall in only his third appearance for the United States, although his poor tracking at the end of the match resulted in Jerry Bengtson's game-winner in the 79th minute.
However, one would have to wonder if Bocanegra's days as team captain are numbered, though his leadership in the back was clearly missing in the second half.
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