The US Men’s National Team opened up group play in the Gold Cup against Honduras. Honduras isn’t a great side, but they did qualify for the 2014 World Cup, so they aren’t terrible. The US have been handed a relatively simple group, and even high expectations. Jurgen Klinsmann has made this tournament a priority, making sure his team qualifies for the Confederations Cup. The Honduras match was the first step to that goal.
There was a historic milestone for one player in the United States starting lineup. Michael Bradley, in addition to wearing the captain’s armband for the first time officially, earned his 100th cap for the US. The General has been in the national team picture since he was 18, and has long been one of the most consistent performers for the United States. His presence in the central midfield has been invaluable, and will continue to be as the team moves forward. Lets take a look at the other players who started and played in the match
Brad Guzan started his first competitive tournament as the number one choice in goal, and he looked pretty solid given the defense. The back line to start was Timmy Chandler, Ventura Alvarado, John Brooks, and Fabian Johnson. Chandler was abysmal all night, and got subbed off for Brad Evans in the second half. Alvarado and Brooks haven’t really gotten the chemistry yet, and it really showed last night. Fabian Johnson was the lone bright spot, playing with a aura of confidence that was critical piece on the night.
The midfield, along with Bradley, saw Kyle Beckerman tucked behind as a holding mid, while Gyasi Zardes and DeAndre Yedlin were on the wings. The midfield had a terrible time all game of controlling the ball and the pace of the game. Apart from a few glorious set piece deliveries from Bradley, there were not many positive points from this group. Graham Zusi got a late cameo and looked solid in his few minutes, providing fresh legs and a veteran presence.
Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey started up front for the USA. Jozy looked like he was struggling in the humidity, and both failed to link up. Dempsey did get a couple of headed goals, which was the saving grace for the Yanks. Chris Wondolowski came on for Jozy in the second half, and put in a good shift of energetic play with plenty of running.
The game overall was very physical. The ref did not opt to give a lot of cards, and allowed quite a few rough fouls to be played on. There was almost a sense that a fist fight was moments away from ensuing the entire match. The first half was almost all Honduras. They controlled the tempo and flow of the match, while the US hoped to weather the storm. Clint Dempsey got his head on a rebound to put the US up 1-0 in the 25th minute, but that was about it in terms of positive plays for the Yanks in the first half. Yedlin had an excellent chance that he put right at the keeper.
The beginning of the 2nd half was a bit better, but the US still struggled to maintain possession for any length of time. The midfield really struggled, and the forwards couldn’t hold up the ball with Honduras playing physically. Guzan had to save multiple shots as his back line got beat multiple times. Frustration began to set in, as the US committed some really dumb fouls, including John Brooks getting a yellow card. In the 64th, the US won a free kick on the left half. Bradley bent a beautiful ball to Dempsey, who headed in his 2nd goal of the game. A few minutes later, Carlos Discua answered back with a goal of his own. The rest of the match was the US holding on for dear life with tired legs and tired minds.
There were a couple of important milestones along with Bradley’s 100th cap. Ventura Alvarado became officially cap-tied to the US with his start. There remain a couple players on this roster who have not featured yet, and are technically still not cap-tied. Alfredo Morales, William Yarbrough, and Greg Garza are all still technically eligible to compete for other countries, but an appearance in this tournament would cap them officially for the United States.
The team struggled mightily in the opening game, and Jurgen Klinsmann will be looking to improve his side ahead of their second game against Haiti on Friday. You take every win you can get, no matter how ugly, and that was what happened against Honduras.