Article by Leanne Elston
Jürgen Klinsmann put out a 4-3-3 lineup that surprised some. In defense, Fabian Johnson and Timmy Chandler took care of the left and right back spots respectively, while Omar Gonzalez and Geoff Cameron partnered in the center. For Chandler and Gonzalez, the match cap-tied them to the US, ending a particularly long saga in the case of Chandler. In midfield, Michael Bradley patrolled the middle of the park while Jermaine Jones and Danny Williams deployed wide. Up top, Jozy Altidore was supported by Eddie Johnson on the left and Clint Dempsey on the right.
Unfortunately for the US, the lineup and formation failed to really create and struggled to counter the pressure put on by the Hondurans. The opening 15 minutes were shaky, with Honduras controlling most of the play. Honduras got their first big chance of the game in the 23rd minute, but Tim Howard was there to tip Roger Espinoza’s shot over the bar. Fabian Johnson came to the rescue in the 32nd minute, cleaning up after Espinoza got the better of the US defense, and Howard punched out a shot from Mario Martínez a minute later.
One of the best opportunities for the US came in the 29th minute when Eddie Johnson sent in a cross to Jozy Altidore, whose resulting shot was just over the bar. In the 36th minute, Clint Dempsey opened the scoring with the US’ only goal of the match. Jermaine Jones lofted a perfect ball over the Honduran defense, which Dempsey struck on the volley and sent sailing into the net. It was a world class play, but the celebrations couldn’t continue for long.
Less than five minutes later, Juan Carlos García one-upped Dempsey for another brilliant goal; his overhead bicycle kick gave Howard no chance and left the game tied at 1-1 going into halftime.
Klinsmann made no changes to his side to start the second half, but play started out better for the US. Michael Bradley got a shot off from outside the box in the 51st minute, but it was deflected wide. The US created little more for the rest of the game. Carlo Costly would have made it 2-1 in the 56th minute, but his goal was called offside.
Around the hour mark, Maurice Edu replaced Danny Williams and Sacha Kljestan came on for Eddie Johnson. Klinsmann used his last substitution in the 67th minute, putting in Graham Zusi for Jermaine Jones. None of the changes proved enough to get the US another goal.
Honduras bagged their win with 10 minutes left to play. Poor defending and a lack of communication in the back allowed Oscar Boniek García to beat Tim Howard to a pass from Maynor Figueroa. García then got the ball to Jerry Bengtson in the middle, who easily finished the chance and put Los Catrachos ahead 2-1.
At that point, the US was long gone. While Dempsey’s goal stands out as its own highlight reel, the game was otherwise severely lacking for the US. The team wanted for width and creativity in the midfield, generally failing to attack with purpose and effectiveness, while the new center back pairing of Gonzalez and Cameron showed their inexperience.
The US’ next Hex match is at home against Costa Rica on March 22nd.