By now, if you’ve read a few of my articles or know me at all, you know I’m a panicky person. I freak out a lot. And no more do I freak out than when it concerns the U.S. Men’s National Team. Today the boys in red, white and blue took on Honduras in San Pedro Sula in the first of their hexagonal matches on the road to qualify for World Cup 2014.
Going in, I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game. As I stated so eloquently in my post about the friendly against Canada last week, I wasn’t expecting this match up to be smooth sailing with an easy three points going the U.S.’s way. At best, I was hoping for a draw and praying for a win. But a loss? Oh Lord, no.
But a loss is what happened. When the final whistle blew, it was 2-1 and the stadium in San Pedro Sula was shaking with the noise. And I wanted to find a pint of beer. Don’t get me wrong, Honduras is not a push over team. In the last few years, they’ve become a strong force to reckon with. Get them on their home turf, and it’s down right scary. But man, I thought with the squad on the books for U.S. Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann, a draw was surely in the team’s future.
Now, the debate has raged since the ending of the game – to panic or not to panic. It’s only the first game of the Hex, but in any tournament in which CONCACAF teams are facing off, every game and point counts. Even the first one. I’ve seen people make statements from both sides. But here’s what I can say for sure; I’m definitely one of the people slamming my hand against the panic button.
I feel I am justified in this as well, considering the sort of play that came from the U.S. Most of the first part of the match was spent chasing after Honduras, who pressed in the final 18 of the U.S. half and even had the midfielders pressing deep to help defend. Seriously people, Eddie Johnson was helping in the final third! This shouldn’t be happening.
There was a bright spot where the U.S. started to hold possession, which helped lead to the fantastic service from Jermaine Jones that put the ball in front of a sprinting Clint Dempsey. That first goal was brilliant. But the joy that goal brought didn’t last long.
So I should really wrap this rambling up with a point, shouldn’t I? Okay, here it is.
My biggest pet peeve about this game? It wasn’t that the USMNT players were sluggish, because there were a lot of factors in that – heat, humidity, the grass, the pitch, etc. Honduras struggled a bit with the heat as well, I believe, but they bore everything else better. It wasn’t that Jurgen used all three of his substitutions pretty early and very quickly. Though that did touch a nerve, I don’t pretend to know what plan he had. No, the biggest pet peeve was the lack of some experience in our back line.
The USMNT’s captain, Carlos Bocanegra, didn’t start the match. He didn’t even get subbed in! I know Bocanegra is getting up there in the years – he’s not the fastest horse out there. But I’ll tell you what he is, he’s a war horse. He’s been there, done that, bought the T-shirt, yadda, yadda. Could he have provided a header goal? Not necessarily. Could he have dashed after Jerry Bengtson and stopped Honduras’ second goal? Eh, probably not.
But what Bocanegra offers is something far more valuable – leadership. Something severely lacking in the team that took to the pitch today. The two guys in the US back line center are young. Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez are good, and they have matured, but they don’t talk to each other or others on the pitch. Bocanegra talks, pushes, points out holes and looks around at what’s going on instead of tending to worry solely about his spot. He’s not the perfect defender, he’s not the best or the fastest. However, he’s got the experience and the knowledge to help settle the team – to anchor it when things get a little out of hand or too stagnant.
I’m not saying get rid of the back line – though I will not get started on my opinion of Timmy Chandler. What I think Jurgen Klinsmann flubbed up on today was leaving out his seasoned vet. Yes, Boca is playing with a second-tier Spanish team. But this isn’t his first rodeo. And that fact could have helped settled the young back line today.
And who knows, maybe that scoreline would have looked a little different.
The USMNT take to the pitch again March 22 against Costa Rica for their next Hex match up. Here’s hoping they can nab those needed three points.