TSG’s Official USA vs. Honduras Preview: Pulling The Landon Donovan Security Blanket

The beginning goes back to the end....

The beginning goes back to the end….

A fitting beginning you might say as the US goes back to the end of the last Hex.

It’s the United States, in San Pedro Sula, in a critical World Cup qualifier.

The last time the US found themselves in a game of this magnitude during World Cup qualifying it was the same foil, the same location, the same pitch.

It wasn’t the same environment though; Honduras and its capital was riding a bumpy presidential coup that put the October 2009 World Cup-game-to-go match in a shroud of doubt just days beforehand. No, no coup this time, but the environment is much worse as San Pedro Sula and Honduras itself has become an increasingly more dangerous place for visitors to come since ’09.

Will it be the same of the USMNT? If the Honduras program and player progression is any clue, then, yes.

Going back to that October 10, 2009 match, it marked an emphatic milestone, a Robert Frost-esque tale of two roads diverging and which path the United States would take over the next few years.

It was, of course, the last game that a healthy Oguchi Onyewu and a healthy Charlie Davies would play together. And incredulously as well, it’s also the last time that USMNT fan darling Stu Holden was a factor in a critical US game. Really? Yes. Amazing, huh? Yup.

Holden, of course, appears the lone member of that trio scratching for a course correction.

Davies and Onyewu, on the other hand, may never have been destined for some sort of Europe-affirmed elite status–that said Charlie Davies was a Sochaux leading scorer at the time while Onyewu had jumped to A.C. Milan player over the summer–but they did represent foundational points of a Bob Bradley system that was hell bent on breaking opponents through last-minute defending and counter-attacking treadmill pushed to its max.

Dirtying-up games through punishing up-and-down play and emergency defending was the former coach’s modus operandi and thus the narrative that the 2009 evening would omnisciently extend to a peripheral player that fit that mold only makes sense.

It would be the much maligned knockaround guy Conor Casey who would be the ultimate hero.

Coyles, 2009

Thankfully, I was inside Danny Coyles.

Standing in Danny Coyles, a San Francisco bar, the contrast in how the expletive was applied to Casey’s name audibly told the story of his impact.

Thirty minutes before the match when the announcement was signaled with high frequency via Twitter, that curse was a very acerbic and swearing “F*cking Conor Casey?” with resignation and defiance. (Let it be said that TSG had defended Casey’s roster inclusions and suggested the then-Rapids striker might even start.)

After the 72nd minute of the match, well it was a more than jovial, oh-good-golly, “Fucking Conor Casey,” with a mishmash of incredulity and elation and a backslap to the fan nearest to you.

<< (TSG’s 5:04AM-published game review of the US 3-2 victory over Honduras in 2009.)  (Video highlights)>>

October 10th, 2009 will always be known as The Conor Casey Game–though Landon Donovan’s midfield conduction had probably as much of a bearing on the outcome–but it many respects the USMNT that put up the fight that day is long gone and (dare it be said) the States team poised to take the field Wednesday is in better shape to deal with the specific challenges of the Catrachos.

Just about enough last time around...

Just about enough last time around…

Why is that?

Well the US got busted up time and time again on its backline. Bradley’s central defenders found themselves way out in space typically on a return counter, asked to defend high on the quality strike partnership of Carlos Pavon and Carlos Costly. Against any striker worth their national team place, that is typically a recipe for disaster and it almost led to disaster that night for the US as both Costly and Pavon missed opportunities that should have otherwise been converted.

On the right flank, Jonathan Spector consistently was off his angle and it took a lot of Onyewu clean-up to keep the sheet clean at least in the first half.

This US squad protects centrally and seems cohesive definitely at all costs. As a result, they score less too, but against this version of Honduras (missing their long-term savvy midfield stead of Wilson Palacios and Hendry Thomas) they should be able to shake Clint Dempsey, Herculez Gomez or Jozy Altidore loose for at least a goal–even with Roger Espinoza’s coming in on a good run of form.

Without further Freddy Adu, we get to our customary TSG preview:

TSG, what are we looking for

11 At The Whistle

About the Opponent: Honduras


TSG What Are We Looking For

One thing can be counted on Wednesday? This celebration won't happen.

One thing can be counted on Wednesday? This celebration won’t happen.

» The Landon Donovan security blanket, don’t leave home without it.

One name.

One magnanimous name.

The United States will go into The Hex for the first time in almost a decade without their talisman even in the squad, or  even with an “injured-with-a-set-to-return time.”

It’s a point that cannot be under-told.

This may be Clint Dempsey’s team now–and that notion is unclear. Or it could be Michael Bradley’s team.

But in CONCACAF in the new millennium, Donovan was an automatic on the team sheet and typically in the scoreline.

The Los Angeles Galaxy superstar started or played in more than 80% of all USMNT CONCACAF matches (excluding the 2009 Gold Cup) since 2003–if you leave out the last four for the US, that number climbs to 85%.

Tack on to that Donovan was often counted on to be the lone consistent generator of offense during that time through counter, set piece or other and his impact on the USMNT, and CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, cannot be denied.

The US will head down to its first truly critical World Cup qualifier without the Landon Donovan and the test will say everything about how Klinsmann has shaped the team and for a few keys players is they’re ready to step up to the mantle of first on the outfield team sheet.

The US appears ready and the narrative coming out of this one may be about the graduation from the Donovan decade, not “When’s he coming back?”

No Introductions Necessary

This guy will make it happen, but can he on set pieces and on which side?

This guy will make it happen, but can he on set pieces and on which side?

This is a difficult qualifier, both for Honduras, but more so for the United States. Many players won’t join their respective squads’ practice reps until Monday.

Think about that.

Travel multiple time zones and have your muscles stagnate after a weekend game. Get with the team. Two run-throughs and it’s high pressure. It’s even more difficult for the States, who have their first practice Monday in Florida and their next in San Pedro Sula the next day and, you know, it will the typical CONCACAF Central American welcome

(We know your hotel and we don’t believe in noise ordinances down here.)

Therefore it’s imperative that the States keep as many familiar faces in familiar positions in the line-ups. (More on the line-up below).

Further, expect the States to stick to a simple game plan that maximizes getting the ball into the handles of the two best US players on the pitch Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley.

And further expect the States to do what they normally do on the road. Defend and take few chances. Take a look at those midfield roster selections.

This is really going to happen folks. We think.

This is really going to happen folks. We think.

» “Camp Chameron” and the outlet zone

For the most part the US is in excellent position with it’s right rearguard through Geoff Cameron and Tim Chandler.

Both are emerging defenders with multiple reps in multiple roles and capable of a making a play on defense as much as recovering to make one when beaten.

That said, the US under Klinsmann has stuck true to getting the ball wide out to the flanks–when under duress–in their half of the field.

Steve Cherundolo’s savviness and simple crossover dribble was and is often a key part of building the US attack–especially when getting the ball centrally to Michael Bradley is a challenge. You most recently saw the effect of Dolo in this role against Jamaica in September of last year. Time and time again the initiation of the attack came through Dolo and time and time again Dolo made the right decision with opponents closing him down.

Conversely, the US started Chandler and Cameron against Russia and with Danny Williams off form and Michael Bradley taking less initiative (either through Klinsmann’s design of the friendly or through his own druthers) to get the ball, the US attack shuddered to a near halt.

Dolo is that important to the US game plan, even more so when you consider that Geoff Cameron while more comfortable on his right foot has been more cautious with the ball–and less likely to put his FB counterpart under duress–on his weaker left foot when playing LCB.

Against a Honduras team that will use Roger Espinoza to pinball around the central area of the field, how does the US initiate that attack? Can Cameron and Chandler be clean on the ball in possession, individually and no author a game-changing turnover?

Expect–and hope for–either a wrinkle here in the Klinsmann-Vasquez game plan or some real steady and responsible work needed to be done “off-Bradley”–who will be keyed on–by either Jermaine Jones or Danny Williams.

» Miscellaneous

»» Weather pressure: Wednesday in Honduras? 85 degrees at kick-off, high humidity and some rain. Which team will be more ready to, uh, weather the conditions. The US who had to hopscotch players and training destinations on the way to the game or a Honduras side with many players not in season. Look for the US to press the tempo defensively and find out just how fit the Catrachos are.

»» Did you X-Factor In….: Who’s the US game changer off the bench in this one. Is it Jozy or is it EJ, the two most likely candidates or does one of those players start? Is it even Omar Gonzalez, called in to deposit a set piece? And speaking of set pieces, who takes them in-game now that Donovan is out? Bradley? Herc? and if Omar Gonzalez starts on the bench who are you looking for in the box? Just Dempsey and Bradley?

(Roger Espinoza controls the play and Jerry Bengston finishes in the air

as Honduras’s Olympic team sees Spain out of the London Games.)

About Honduras:

The skinny: It’s a sign of the times–both for Honduras and MLS–that probably six of the likely starters for Honduras Tuesday will have swung through the US domestic league.

Oscar Boniek Garcia. Let the Dynamo fans tell you about his exploits...they had him as an MVP candidate last year...

Oscar Boniek Garcia. Let the Dynamo fans tell you about his exploits…they had him as an MVP candidate last year…

Mario Martinez, the diminutive attacking midfielder, now plays his club ball in Seattle, while Boniek Garcia Honduras other crafty midfielder takes to Houston’s BBVA stadium for his home games. The name Roger Espinoza is more familiar now than it ever has been. The former Sporting KC star made his name in Kansas City, parlayed that into a spot on the Honduras Olympic team and nailed that opportunity by opening the eyes of Wigan manager Robert Martinez and now is sitting deep in their midfield.

With Espinoza in those Olympics was New England striker Jerry Bengston who could be a challenger for this year’s Golden Boot. In of one those games, Bengston will likely be tasked with going one-on-one with San Jose Earthquakes strongman centerback Victor “The Bouncer” Bernardez. Bernardez should have been a best eleven nod in 2012 for the Quakes, but a hamstring injury knocked him out of the line-up for a handful of games.

Carlos Costly–with a brief pit stop for Houston in 2011–is the only member of the sextet who time can be considered unsuccessful so far.

Rounding out the rest of the US line-up are some notable veterans of the Catrachos. Keeper and captain Noel Valladares is the spirit of the team. He was minding the net last time when the US pumped in three in 2009. He’s not a bad shot stopper, but he has challenges commanding the box. For a team like the US who has difficulty with set pieces–likely why you saw the wrinkles in a friendly against Canada last week–that may not matter.

The backline ahead of Valladares sees three familiar face though Celtic leftback and perennial Honduras starter Emilio Izaguirre is expected not to dress in this one. Surrounding Bernardez is Arnold Perlta, the swashbuckling RB that should pose a few threats to the US throughout the game. On the port side to Bernadez and Peralta’s starboard is Wigan’s Maynor Figueroa, no stranger to US fans, who slots-inside and who is flanked by Olimpia’s Juan Carlos García.

The final spot in the eleven is probably the one most in question. Pairing Roger Espinosa in central midfield will likely be Hibernian deep man Jorge Claros is Serbian leaguer Luis Garrido (22 years old) selected over Claros. Speed trumps experience.

Honduras official line-up with forward motion overlaid.

Honduras official line-up with forward motion overlaid.

As for the Catrachos, this is perhaps the best Honduras side the US has ever faced. That said, it’s still a side that is prone to bouts with losing shape and patches of “emotional play.”

Klinsmann’s US squad will be facing a La H that functions very similarly to Bob Bradley’s old 4-2-2-2, albeit with much better striking options up top.

The two up top obviously start with Costly and Bengston. Neither in possession will dazzle you  with their one-v-one play, but both move very well off the ball and both can pick up scraps in the box and drop them into the back of the net.

Behind, the striker due is Honduras’s true attacking engine in Mario Martinez and Oscar Boniek Garcia who function very much like Donovan and Dempsey did in the Bradley system. And, if you must, Garcia is more the Donovan of the group while Martinez the Dempsey. They switch sides often and depending on the movement and their movement–dictated by where Bengston and Costly have moved in front of them–also open up trailing crosses from the Honduran fullbacks who tend to pinch in more than gain the flank (though Peralta will occassionally overlap.)

In the middle, Espinosa and Garrido function very much like Bradley and Jones did under Bradley. No, not an empty bucket–that term is overused and actually incorrect. Bradley used to be the lead man funneling to Jones or making tackles of opportunity–that will be Espinoza’s role. Jones typically sat deeper as Garrido will for the Catrachos. Garrido is Honduaras’s up-and-coming Danny Williams-guy.

And finally, the back five of Honduras is a veteran crew in the middle but not completely airtight.

Peralta at RB and Garcia at LB mean Honduras know they need to defend the flanks. They will will venture forward cautiously. Bernardez and Figueroa are the spine. They should win most set pieces in the box; their lone disadvantage being dawdling on the ball too much in possession on a turn and trying to thread a pass–both can be prone to baking some turnovers for patches of games.

Think Blake Jordan trying to take a three or dribble the break instead of giving it up and getting it back…or something like that.

USMNT: 11 At The Whistle

A possible US deployment Wednesday is attacking movement overlaid.

A possible US deployment Wednesday is attacking movement overlaid.

G: Tim Howard

The skinny: Howard’s leadership will be critical here as the Honduran forward interplay will cause problem. Remember the last goal the USMNT “A” team gave up was to a far-from-spry Carlos Ruiz getting loose behind a late-to-dinner Carlos Bocanegra in the center of the pitch.

DEF: Tim Chandler, Geoff Cameron, Carlos Bocanegra, Fabian Johnson

The skinny: A much better backline than in 2009 to deal with the shifty Honduras play up front.

In that match, Bocanegra and Onyewu were caught out often though they typically recovered well. Jonathan Spector was absolutely awful in positioning and angles. Jonathan Bornstein’s effort was actually above average.

This time, the US appears to be in better hands, especially on the right side of that line.

CDM: Maurice Edu

CM1: Michael Bradley

CM2: Jermaine Jones

The skinny: There’s a chance you could see Maurice Edu in the defensive hole–and this will be the roster gambit in this preview. Remember it was Edu who was asked to hold down the fort against a very unrelenting Guatemalan side in mid-2012 on the road. Also Edu now have two games in Turkey under his belt while Williams has been sitting for Hoffenheim.

More so, Klinsmann’s selections of both Williams and Edu and his omission of Beckerman suggests two things here: 1) That the US expects this game to be played more vertically than perhaps they would like and 2) That you can count on Michael Bradley, with Jermaine Jones as his henchman, handling the bulk of the linking duties in midfield.

Jermaine Jones yellow card? 1st half, even money; 2nd half, 1 to 3.

RW: Graham Zusi

CAM: Clint Dempsey

The skinny: Fabian Johnson’s left flank runs brought to you by….Clint Dempsey. When Dempsey plays for the States, Klinsmann has a dilemma. He’s not going to sacrifice a midfield three so he can choose to either play Dempsey centrally or play Dempsey wide left and have him cut it.

(Note: If Dempsey doesn’t play, you normally see a US LFW (Brek Shea, Eddie Johnson, etc.) pushed way up high into almost a STR2 role. TSG calls the collective role the “swing role” or “swing player.”

The thing to look for here is where is Dempsey tasked defensively when Honduras are in possession and further Johnson. If Dempsey is to play centrally that’s a lot of ground to cover and a left flank very exposed–something Jones and Williams will need to look out for.

As for Zusi, the Sporting KC star could be the difference maker in this one. He’s so adept at reading the play and where to go next with the ball that with the Catrachos focused on Dempsey and others he might have a little room to work.

STR: Herculez Gomez

The skinny: Klinsmann’s game plans away are based upon effort, consistency and defense as the starting points. If you believe that then Herc–not Jozy–if your starter here.



63 responses to this post.

  1. I think even money for JJ getting a yellow card in the second half might actually be a worthwhile investment. I’d lay 2 to 3 odds on it without blinking.


  2. Posted by Erik on 2013/02/05 at 9:35 AM

    Really hope Edu doesn’t start in this match. Would much rather see a Kljestan/Bradley CM combo with Jones holding DM.


    • Posted by Jared on 2013/02/05 at 9:44 AM

      Has Edu even played 90 minutes since he left Rangers? I agree that I would rather see Kljestan than Edu.


      • Posted by Erik on 2013/02/05 at 9:48 AM

        Haha good question. According to wikipedia he’s played two games since then. Once at Stoke as a sub (which I remember that game, not impressive per usual) and once for Bursaspor where he’s loaned until the end of the season. Dunno how many games he could have started/played though for Bursaspor, I don’t tend to watch the Turkish league, nor care what Edu is doing with his career anymore.


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/02/05 at 9:59 AM

        I believe Edu has played 90 minutes now twice since Stoke.


  3. Posted by Jared on 2013/02/05 at 9:46 AM

    Jozy needs to start. I’ve been critical of him in the past but he certainly seems based on his scoring record and handling of the racism issue that he moved on from being the player who needed the push to one who has listened to the message. Gomez is just too limited up on his own.


    • Posted by CTMO on 2013/02/05 at 12:07 PM

      Gomez will put in the work. I actually LOVE the idea of Jozy coming off the bench for the last 20 minutes or so:

      Take into account his current form and his desire to establish himself in the squad, let simmer @ 85 degrees for 70 minutes on the bench.

      I’m hoping this will result in some kind of best-mode Jozy, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the game after the Davies crash.


  4. Posted by matthewsf on 2013/02/05 at 10:00 AM

    I’m not sure how Jozy’s handling of the racism situation means that he’s focused for 90 minutes on the pitch. If there is anything I loved about the Klinsmann regime it is not making Altidore an automatic starter and pushing him to reach his skillset potential.


    • Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/02/05 at 11:03 AM

      It depends on how you look at it. If we attribute his lack of focus to immaturity then the racism incident is evidence that he has matured. Not sure that you can correlate lack of focus and immaturity in this particular case although they are commonly found together.

      I agree with him not being an automatic starter but there is a big difference between not playing for Hull and being second in the Dutch league in scoring. At some point you need to reward people for club play and give them a shot. Like Herc, like Sasha, etc.


    • Posted by Alex Song on 2013/02/05 at 8:19 PM

      But what is the point of pushing Altidore to reach his potential if you aren’t going to take advantage of it in a critical game like this? I would like to see him out there.


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/02/06 at 12:24 AM

        How is he at that potential? I’m writing a column on this, but Klinsmann’s team is risk adverse and defense first. I have not ever seen a single USMNT game save one–the Charlie Davies-RFK match–where Altidore brought it on both sides of the ball for 90 minutes.

        You just can’t risk that–in my opinion–*if* that’s your strategy.

        Additionally if you’ve watched Altidore in the Netherlands he’s profiting quite a bit from other’s movement. That’s essentially Deuce’s role, not the striker’s in JK’s system.


  5. Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/02/05 at 11:05 AM

    Is there any chance we can see Jones as a 6 and Sasha in Jones’ place in Matt’s diagram?


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/02/05 at 11:07 AM

      Nope. Jones is not a CDM in Klinsmann’s system. He’s more of a Schweinsteiger. In fact, I pretty certain that Jones has never played the CDM role for Klinsmann (Bradley has, but not Jones.)

      Klinsmann’s CDMs are of two ilks. 1) Possession oriented funnelers (Beckerman) or 2) Fly around the pitch track everything down (Williams, Edu).

      So if you wanted Kljestan then you would go with Bradley in the back which I think would be more probable, but not likely.


  6. So here is what I think about Donovan and USMNT: http://youtu.be/t0nv0UxI0xY. He’s not part of the team and that is mostly of HIS own choosing so lets stop worrying about him. He’s dead to me until he decides he wants to play again and if that doesn’t happen… then he stays dead to me. Harsh but those are how I see it.

    Now lets move on to the players that WANT to be here, including Chandler! I don’t think Altidore is a sub type player (difference maker as a sub); however, if he’s not the best option over Gomez or EJ up top then he doesn’t start. Personally, I think Altidore starts because he’s been hot for club and if his attitude has changed can be that physical player JK wants; then either Gomez/EJ plays the left side while Dempsey is below Altidore, which means Zusi does not start. EJ comes in for Altidore in 2nd half or around 60 minute mark and Zusi comes on for say Jones after he gets his yellow card at some point in the game! Just my guess, unless something goes wrong for us and we have to become more offensive.


  7. Posted by twewlife on 2013/02/05 at 12:02 PM

    Would love to see Kleijstein swapped out for Edu to maximize distribution through the midfield.


    • Posted by Tom Patton on 2013/02/05 at 12:52 PM

      I would prefer Edu simply because Kleijstein can not defend and is not fast enough to run anyone down who gets behind him when disposed or caught up pitch. He is a far superior offensive threat true but he this is a road qualifier not a home match. We need tacklers and players who dig in and Edu’s presence allows Bradley to play a bit more of a creative role. Without Donovan, who is dead to all until he passes through-or does not- his early mid life crisis that matches his hair line, Bradley is best long passer we have on the pitch followed by Dolo.

      PS- I also cringe every time Edu passes out of the back but we are what we are as a national squad and there are many gaping holes yet left to fill.

      Pray to good it is a open, but not too open, contest.

      PS- This current love affair with Zusi- I have not seen it’s cause yet. We are always falling in love with the new shinny toy only to have it not fulfill our expectations. We, USNT fans, are famous for this.


      • Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/02/05 at 1:12 PM

        The love affair with Zusi is significantly helped by the previous Christmas Tree 3 CDM formations that we saw. Plus it also has a bit of a FU Landon, see we don’t need you feel to it.


  8. Posted by dude on 2013/02/05 at 12:28 PM

    I’d love to believe that Zusi will be the difference maker, but the Canada game changed my opinion of him. He was supposed to be the experienced leader, and that game was a rudderless mess. He’s hard working and will get some crosses in, but if we rely on him to be anything more, we’re going to have a tough time in the Hex.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/02/05 at 12:31 PM

      You and I watched a different Canada game. Not sure why Zusi was put onto the flank, but every time he moved or got the ball in possession he (nearly) made the right play. In my opinion. But that’s what makes these games and this site fun….


      • Posted by Kevin O' on 2013/02/05 at 1:08 PM

        I agree. I was at the game and thought Zusi was one of the lone bright spots and a tireless engine. The indecisiveness of his teammates in support cost us more opportunities. Particularly the Brads’, Davis and Evans. I really don’t want to see EJ in this game unless it’s as an emergency sub. His first touch in the Canada game was rec league dreadful – the kind of giveaway that Guatemala will pounce on and counter in a heartbeat.


        • Posted by Kevin O' on 2013/02/05 at 1:14 PM

          Make that Honduras. Someone needs more caffeine.


        • Posted by panchomiguelmoralesdeconejo on 2013/02/05 at 1:19 PM

          I don’t’ disagree with your assessment of EJ’s game against Canada, but I’ll be mildly surprised if he doesn’t start. He was the only wing ‘speed’ option in the last 2 WCQ and started and will be there again…but I also don’t think he will be as successful as he was against Antigua/Barbuda & Guatemala. Honduras is another level altogether.


          • Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/02/05 at 1:30 PM

            Although at least for A&B, the USMNT was playing on a narrow choppy field which dictated that we played more crosses and long balls as opposed to width and passing. I don’t expect that to be the case for Honduras. From what I have seen on twitter, JK pushing towards moving the ball quickly against Honduras.


      • Posted by dude on 2013/02/05 at 2:12 PM

        Was this the same game where none of the midfielders produced as much as De Ro offensively? I think so. Zusi never made the right play, or else we’d be talking about his assist instead of a yawning snore fest. We actually improved with Feilhaber on instead (how scary is that). If he’s not helping us win, or at least score, against Canada, then his uses are minimal. I expected much more from either him or Davis, and neither delivered anything tangible.


        • Posted by Jared on 2013/02/05 at 2:14 PM

          Dude’s not Messi. He’s not going to break down a parked bus when the rest of the team was not good and Klinsi has Brad Evans as an attacking mid. I don’t think it’s scary at all that we improved when Feilhaber came on. He’s shown repeatedly that he’s more than good enough to play against Concacaf competition when his head is right.


        • Posted by Tom Patton on 2013/02/05 at 3:26 PM

          Now that’s honest and correct analysis. Why when someone critiques on any board they are, and I quote my 12 year old daughter here, a hater?

          I have watched Zusi play 3 times internationally and about one week at a Bradenton camp and he he has a lovely free kick that does not seem to show up in matches. This is especially so when the speed of the game picks up. In other words, he is our typical american player. Great in the MLS but can not make the leap in speed when the competition speeds up or the defense of the other team holds 9 behind the ball like the Faeroe Islands………excuse me, The Canadian C squad. (all apologies to De Ro, a player who perhaps young Mr. Zusi should watch and learn from)
          We need players who have the ability and confidence to make their own luck. I would add that to Klinnsman’s list of jingles he constantly repeats.


    • Posted by Jared on 2013/02/05 at 1:16 PM

      I think it’s a little harsh to put the blame on Zusi for the Canada game being such a mess. Zusi wasn’t in central midfield to really be a playmaker that was where Evans was and that was where attacks went to die. Throw in the fact that Wondo and Johnson looked like they had zero communication and the whole strategy was poor especially since it should have been obvious that Canada would just bunker.

      Zusi isn’t experienced at this point. He only has a handful of caps. Fewer than Wondo, Beckerman and Johnson.

      I think you hit the nail on the head though with why people are excited for Zusi. He’s a good piece for the full team. The full team needs a player who can get crosses in and work hard because there are other guys in Dempsey and Bradley that will be responsible for dictating the play.


      • Also, Zusi looks a whole lot better when he’s got Stevie C behind him at right back. It’s almost night and day, IMO, because that overlap to the corner opens up the lane on the edge on the box a whole lot more.


        • Posted by Kevin O' on 2013/02/05 at 4:06 PM

          Exactly. Man oh man, if we’re giving just three games to players to make their USMNT mark, MB90 would’ve been in trouble! I’m not saying Zusi’s close to the total package at this point, but remember he was very effective in his role in the last game that mattered. For me, Josh Gatt was the most exciting player on the pitch in the Canada game, but does that mean he had a hat trick or is the next Messi? Not hardly, but it’s nice to see promising moments from youngsters willing to take risks and push the tempo. It’s the vets like Edu, EJ and especially Jozy that we expect to “get it” at this point in their international career.


          • Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/02/05 at 4:36 PM

            I am going to take the roll of cold blanket on in regards to Gatt. Yes Gatt is exciting in the fact that he tries to take people on and is very fast. Did Gatt challenge people and lose the ball quite a bit? Absolutely. Would I rather have the Canada performance Zusi gave us or the performance Gatt gave us against Canada in the game tomorrow? Zusi by a landslide. Does Gatt have the potential to be a much better player than Zusi 4 years from now? Absolutely.

            Exciting does not equal good. MB90 is probably the least exciting player on the pitch (one touch, two touch, pass) but is arguably the best.


            • Posted by John mosby on 2013/02/06 at 12:57 AM

              Bernie, I’m sorry to nit pick, and I’m sure you are just trying to make a point, but how on earth can you even think to call junior the least exciting player on the pitch? So many crucial goals, that if that does not excite soccer fans we might as well start watching hand ball.

            • Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/02/06 at 8:59 AM

              Sorry, my point wasn’t the greatest. I was more trying to say that Bradley can be the best player on the pitch without creating a moment that makes me jump out of my chair (although he definitely does from time to time). Sometimes the the best player is less sexy but much more valuable then taking someone 1 v 1 ten times and winning twice. Was trying to say that many of the things that make Bradley so great don’t make exciting highlights (his shots from distance certainly are highlight worthy but are by no means his best attribute).

  9. What does “In one those games, Bengston will likely be tasked with going one-on-one with San Jose Earthquakes strongman centerback Victor “The Bouncer” Bernardez.” mean?


    • Posted by Jason on 2013/02/05 at 2:20 PM

      Not sure what you don’t get… It means that in games where NE play SJ Bengston will likely be marked by Bernardez. If you are hung up on the ‘in one those games’ thing I’m pretty sure it is just a typo…


  10. Posted by J on 2013/02/05 at 2:15 PM

    Any TV streams online or are we relegated to matchtracker?


  11. Posted by justin on 2013/02/05 at 2:41 PM

    I like the line up. You need Edu or Williams in there to help cover when either chandler or fab J gets caught out of position. It will be interesting to see how will Boca covers on the left when that happens as DM slides into the back four. I’m not too worried on the right side (Cameron playing RB for Stoke helps in these cases, which is bound to happen), however Boca doesn’t have the legs to cover as well. This is one of the main defensive scenarios that causes some fear.

    I see Kljestan coming in to relieve Zusi, if we are ahead at 60-70 mins, or for the DM (Williams/Edu) if we are behind. But you gotta start with the muscle in the middle for this national holiday celebration.

    Hope to see Altidore start, but that said, I don’t see much service into the box in the first 45 whether Altidore or Herc start. I think from Klini’s perspective he want’s whoever is going to run Honduras’s centerbacks out of position.


  12. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/02/05 at 2:46 PM

    Tactically, I think Dempsey’s role in the defensive phase will be very very important and cannot be under estimated. He needs to get tight on Garrido (or deep lying MF), and track him to make sure you don’t get over-manned in the midfield battle. I am also guessing it’s going to be a Bradley vs. Espinoza head-to-head?


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/02/05 at 2:54 PM

      George, I don’t think that Honduras is going to look to play patient and methodically move the ball. If the US presses, they’ll either try and shoot a pass quickly or it’s going over the top or out to the wing.

      I think you’re looking to see how Bradley is playing in that case because he’s just been pretty much lights-out on being the first piece of pressure (or pushing the ball outside) on a turnover.

      I think that’s a subtle point about the system. Bradley is very adept at knowing when he can make a play coming up or when to stay back.

      I think Dempsey will have a free-er role and the more I think about it, it will be he and Herc on a stopped up top with Jermaine Jones slotting out wide left and DM and MB in the middle if Honduras is in opening possession.


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/02/05 at 4:00 PM

        All very fair points. I was going on the assumption that the US play a minimax strategy, especially in the 20-25 minutes where they will probably keep nice and compact, have have a great defensive shape. This is when I see Honduras especially circulating the ball through Garrido.

        Less than 24 hours to kick-off!


      • Posted by Crow on 2013/02/05 at 7:27 PM

        Giordano Bros tomorrow??


  13. Posted by Rudy on 2013/02/05 at 3:45 PM

    We have to be very careful in this game. Honduras and Mexico are at another level than the other teams. This opening game is tricky.


  14. Posted by Tom Patton on 2013/02/05 at 6:14 PM

    Let’s just win 3 nil. Everyone plays up to or above their capabilities and we can all smile and be one big happy family until Mexico!!
    Wouldn’t that be nice?
    Then whatever happens in Mexico we can blame the altitude and the Azteca.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/02/05 at 7:50 PM

      Tom: The people/readers/fans come here for a nice, cordial, non-personal as objective as possible forum.

      Everyone here is entitled to their opinion so long as it is not trolling or slandering.


      • Posted by Tom Patton on 2013/02/06 at 6:49 AM

        Matthew -so do I . I hardly consider what i write slander or personal criticism of other posters . That is why I have left all other boards and when I do disagree with other posters I go to great lengths to explain why I disagree.


  15. Posted by 2tone on 2013/02/05 at 9:15 PM

    I agree that it will be a 4-3-2-1. But I would go with Jozy as the striker, Deuce as the CAM/LF, and Gomez as the hard working RF.


  16. Posted by catracho on 2013/02/05 at 11:56 PM

    honduras we got this easy….usa is not in are level sorry


  17. […] Want some even more links/stories?  The Shin Guardian has their official preview up.  Brian Straus looks at the “passing of the torch” as Landon Donovan is not here […]


  18. Posted by Eric on 2013/02/06 at 6:32 AM

    The US would have to play narrow with this kind of roster. The width should be coming from Fabian and Chandler getting up the wings and maybe even Zusi going wide every so often.

    On the road, in a hostile environment with perhaps less than ideal pitch conditions (don’t know for sure but we’ve all seen CONCACAF fields sometimes) the US should be looking to be strong defensively and take a few shots off the counter. This is one of those games you plan to try and take a point from and will be delighted if you can get three from.

    I would expect Honduras to come out attacking and applying heavy pressure at first, hoping to sneak an early goal and force the US to come out of its defensive shell a little. The longer the game goes on scoreless, the more it favors the US since Honduras will continue to become more aggressive as the home team and eventually open up gaps that can be taken advantage of by Dempsey and the other attackers. I will say that I wish Gatt had been brought along as a late game option from the bench for this very reason. If it’s 0-0 late in the game and Honduras is throwing numbers forward with some desperation, Gatt could absolutely torch them with his speed.


  19. Posted by Eric on 2013/02/06 at 6:41 AM

    Honduras has already announced their starting 11:

    GOALKEEPER Noel Valladares

    DEFENDERS Arnold Peralta, Victor Bernardez, Maynor Figueroa, Juan Carlos García

    MIDFIELDERS Oscar Boniek Garcia, Roger Espinoza, Luis Garrido, Mario Martínez

    FORWARDS Jerry Bengtson, Carlo Costly

    I would think that Klinsmann will choose a 4-1-3-2 with dempsey playing a free role up high with Gomez. That way he can keep the middle tight with three midfielders and not get overwhelmed in the middle of the field. That said, I worry about Martinez getting matched up with Fabian. Martinez is a good one-vs-one player and Johnson, for all his wonderful attacking qualities, has shown that he can be beaten when isolated.


  20. Posted by Chazcar2 on 2013/02/06 at 7:41 AM

    I am wondering if Klinsmann goes highly unbalanced here:
    Defensively looks:


    Giving EJ and Dempsey the freedom to switch that position as the feel necessary. Maybe instead of EJ its Altidore or Gomez


  21. Posted by twewlife on 2013/02/06 at 7:55 AM

    Hey guys,

    Has anyone found a stream for this yet?

    My usual gateway, atdhenet.tv, doesn’t seem to be offering it.



  22. Posted by mbw on 2013/02/06 at 10:59 AM

    (1) Width has to come from the fullbacks. Will Chandler and Zusi combine as well down the right flank as Cherundolo and Zusi did in September and October?

    (2) There are question marks in the center of defense. Williams has had a rough few months. Boca has been hurt. Cameron has been playing elsewhere. How will they hold up?

    (3) Which Jermaine Jones will show up?

    (4) How good is Honduras, really?


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