USA 1 – Honduras 0: Just Good Enough

Editor’s note: The majority of this article was written by Ben Koch. And he did a great job! But I can’t seem to be able to list two authors. So, thanks Ben!

We are as pleased as Jurgen Klinsmann that patience has paid off and USA’s new brand of futbol has yielded an important psychological win. It wasn’t overwhelming, but it was solid. A little combo which Dallas-based FFG likes to call the “Texas Connection” (Brek Shea to Clint Dempsey) was all USA needed to overcome Honduras. But let’s take a look at the stats behind the match.

Formations: 4-2-3-1 (USA) vs 4-4-2 (Honduras)

We were just a couple personnel off in our match preview predictions, not having anticipated Danny Williams getting the start. Here’s how things looked at the starting whistle.

Our 4-2-3-1 gave us the man-advantage in the middle we needed to dominate possession.

The formations dictated the flow of the game for the most part. The US used its man advantage in the midfield to control possession and act as the aggressors. Not surprisingly, the gringos did end up with 58% possession over the course of the whole match. Honduras, on the other hand, played on the counter, flitting quickly upfield when they gained control of the ball.

Early danger

Honduras certainly wasn’t without chances. Their early strategy was to  send passes to the strikers in wide positions. Both Carlos Bocanegra and Michael Orozco-Fiscal struggled to control forwards Carlos Costly and Jerry Bengston. Orozco-Fiscal had a particularly hard time and even made simple mistakes trying to play an offside trap. Fortunately, Tim Howard rescued his defenders when they erred. Honduras also seemed to have adopted the ill-advised strategy of trying to beat Tim Howard from outside the box, with 6 total shots coming from distance at the USA goal. Overall, however, they did manage 3 more total shots than the gringos, despite much less possession.

Looking to the Left Wing

Most of the USA’s best early chances were created by Brek Shea and Timmy Chandler. The fullback often read Shea’s runs beautifully, sending a number of teasing passes into Shea’s feet as the winger charged into the box. The Honduran center backs, though, dealt admirably with their teammates’ failures to cope with Shea and Chandler.

The “Deuce” Strikes Back

Aside from his wonderful display of skill in finishing off the only goal of the match, Dempsey fulfilled the playmaker role admirably. He did drop deep in order to connect with his holders (Kyle Beckerman and Maurice Edu) and one weakness of last night’s formation was that there wasn’t a link-up between him and deep center midfield. He distributed well, and all but one of his unsuccessful passes were attempts to penetrate the defense in the final third.

Dempsey's pass distribution vs. Honduras

Weak Performances

One player who may want to forget yesterday’s match in terms of personal performance is Beckerman. The dreadlocked holding mid did have a solid passing day (53 out of 60) but was bad defensively, winning only 2 tackles but losing 4, and conceding 3 fouls but winning none. In all fairness to Beckerman, however, Edu was not much better on the night, with 4 conceded fouls and 2 won, and only 2 tackles won. Edu and Beckerman may just be too similar to play side-by-side.

Despite a wonderful passing percentage, Beckerman had a poor defensive showing

Gettin’ Along without Daddy

Perhaps the surprise midfield performance of the match was Michael Bradley. Get this: zero missed passes. Sure, it was only a half, but 100% completion rate?

Bradley put out a stellar passing performance

Closing Thoughts

Klinsmann got his first “W” and can get that monkey off his back once and for all. He showed a pretty possession game can yield goals. In fact, it should have been a 3-0 game in terms of opportunities created when we consider the major whiffs by Oguchi Onyewu – who had an otherwise fine showing as a substitute – and Shea. Overall, however, we feel pretty good. We held nearly 60% of possession, didn’t concede a goal (thanks, Timmy), and our most skilled veteran on the pitch stepped up and found the net with a little help from the next generation.

We didn’t have time to cover everything. Gringos, what stood out for you? What would you like to see on Tuesday vs. Ecuador?

5 Comments Post a Comment
  1. David says:

    Nice write-up, guys. I was only able to catch the first half so I’m curious to know what you think about a few of the reactions I had. I didn’t take notes or anything, but I seem to remember Deuce giving the ball away more than just once within the midfield (i.e. not a penetrating pass). I point this out because I got the feeling after about 30 or so that he isn’t as comfortable as the enganche as he is when he plays the inverted winger role a la Robben or Villa. His goal was class, but I felt he drifted too deeply and for stretches became sort of anonymous on the pitch. Do you all think the fact Beckerman and Edu were sort of one in the same (holding midfielders more than anything) was the reason for this? Did Bradley’s introduction provide more of an attacking link with Deuce? Curious to know your thoughts. From your comments, it appears Bradley played quite well. I seem to remember most of his success at Monblach was as more of an attacking minded midfielder rather than how Bradley Sr played him.

    Thanks again for the write-up.

    • Blake Owen says:

      Thanks, David!

      I think you hit the nail on the head with Dempsey’s comfort-level. He is much better inverted on the left.

      But I think the reason for his meandering was the play of Honduras’ defense, particularly the center mids and the center backs. They did an amazing job passing off Dempsey as he moved through the zonez. As a result, Deuce was forced to move closer to Edu/Beckerman to bring to fore the numerical advantage.

      Honduras’ starting CMs and CBs won 13 tackles, losing none, and intercepted 9 passes.

    • bensten says:

      Yes, I completely agree with Blake on the Deuce’s midfield issue. You are absolutely right, David, in that he did have stretches of invisibility. Both Edu and Beckerman have the same instincts–to sit in front of the backline and destroy. This left a huge gap and, even though we still dominated possession, Dempsey got stuck in a no-man’s land for spells.

      The interesting thing about Bradley’s performance was that subjectively it wasn’t spectacular. At the end of the match I didn’t think, “Wow, Bradley played great!” It wasn’t until we saw the stats and thought back that we realized how solid his performance was. I think you are once again correct, David, in that Bradley could be the link between holding midfield and Dempsey or whoever is in the playmaker role, since his “instincts” are a little more aggressive and he likes to sit higher in the midfield. Should be interesting to see if he gets the start on Tuesday!

  2. James says:

    The insertion of Danny Williams probably had a little do with the flow and chemistry as well. I felt technically he was sound, but he appeared to play more like a central mid than an outside mid or winger. I don’t recall seeing any overlaps with Cherundolo, so that was missing as well. I wonder how he’d do as that central link. Shea and Beasely were interesting as the outside mids after Williams went off. All in all, a good effort and wonderful strike from Demps.

    • Blake Owen says:

      James, Ben and I talked about that exact thing on the phone following the game. Williams certainly didn’t play poorly, but he’s clearly not a traditional winger.

      What I really like about the Beasley insertion was that it moved Shea to an inverted position. It drives me crazy with FC Dallas that he plays so much on the left even though he naturally drifts inside.

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