Assuming they get to the stadium….
Thank you, thank you.
All political conflicts aside, the Americans will face a different looking Honduras than the one they encountered in Chicago in June. A few weeks ago, TSG gave you a primer piece with a link to the replay of the match on the 360. If you had a moment to take in that game, you most probably came away from the affair with excitement about upcoming matches and more confidence than ever in our offensive game.
You may say now that the U.S. play went sideways through the summer, largely content to sit back and play defense and only manage offensive efforts as necessary or opportune.
Conversely, Honduras will come in with the entire nation looking for a respite from the ongoing political strife harrowing their nation. They’ll also come in with a confident mindset as well; the Honduran team is 8-0 in WCQs at home. The situation will probably be most similar to the August 12th U.S. visit to Mexico, with the parallels being the national team needing a win, with a collective nation on edge and raucous and charged home crowd ready to contribute.
Thankfully, Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano itself will provide a barrier to those emotionally charged fans. Olimpico has a track around the playing field, providing a decent-enough barrier from the fans suffocating their foes. Whereas the Azteca was a pit, Olimpica is an island.
Again take a look back our primer piece for our past observations.
As usual we’ll follow the TSG preview format:
TSG “What We’re Looking For”
11 at the Whistle
TSG ” What We’re Looking For”
Overview: The U.S. will need to counter a Honduran team that loses some stability with quarterback Amado Guevara and holding middie Danilo Turcios off the pitch. It will be interesting to see what Honduran head coach Reinaldo Ruedo does in the midst of the loss of two key midfielders.
One option is to bring in Carlos Costly and play a modified 3-2-3-2 with Inter Milan loanee David Suazo back in the mix and playing the point forward role. The U.S. were lucky enough to miss Suazo, who already has 4 goals for Benfica, back in June. Or Ruedo might confine Costly to the bench as a late game sub–as he did in Mexico–and go with Wigan midfielder Hendry Thomas and Torino’s Julio Leon as replcements in the center of the pitch.
With either line-up count on seeing the Hondurans much more aggressive than they were June 6th in Chicago. In that game, Honduras tried to march up the middle of the field with 2 and 3 linking passes to a runner coming around the corner. Didn’t work.
With Guevara and Turcious in street clothes, look for Wilson Palacios to play an even bigger and more important role centrally and look for the Hondurans to shoot up the pitch a little faster and attack from wider angles. It’s in their best intest to get the ball quickly to Pavon and Suazo and maybe even Costly if he’s in there early and let them go to work. If they have success the U.S. might go turtle shell on defense and again sit until a counter attack opportunity opens.
Here’s our things we’re looking for from the U.S. squad in San Pedro Sula:
• With Clint in the infirmary, who gets the left, or right, middie slot?
It’s amazing how much more you miss Clint when he’s out of the line-up. Certainly TSG as well many other publications have questioned his
desire and play over the last few qualifiers. However, in his absence, I’m left with questions like, “Is Stu ready?” or “Is Benny the type of winger we need in this game?” and “Is this really the place you want to give Torres another shot?”
I’m even asking, “Well, who is the super sub then?”
I didn’t consider however, “do we change our formation?” We know we’re not going there less than one week away.
This is a tough one and I think that Bob Bradley will go with either Benny or Paco, but I think Stu Holden is the right choice. The US attacked voraciously up the flanks in the previous match and Honduras largely let the play come to them on the sides, relying on their two holding middies to provide support to their outside defenders. Holden fits the Dempsey role (take a look at the replay of the game) perfectly from his ability to either maintain possession or push the pace up the right flank.
The right decision is Stu Holden given Bradley’s strategy, Honduras’s penchant for using a 3-2-3-2 line-up and Holden’s ability to get back on defense. What does Bob Bradley do? (Let me think about it for the a little longer in this preview.)
Update: Ok, I thought about it, here’s my Monday conclusion. Bob picks Stu. I know a few paragraphs ago I wasn’t thinking that…but Bob’s been in Stu’s corner all summer and Stu has performed for him. He’s continued to give him more and more responsibility on the USMNT and Stu has delivered and then some. Benny is not the choice, because as we are wont to say all too often, Bob Bradley (and I) favor the least disruption possible when making a selection. If you play Benny, then who’s your central midfield reliever? Stu? Not sure about that one.
Jose Francisco Torres is probably you’re only other choice; and he did relieve against El Slavador on the road earlier in the year. Paco is solid, but he’s closer to a linking midfielder rather than an on-the-fly winger. We need the winger in this one. It’s between Paco and Stu. We say Stu by a hair.
• Does Ricardo Clark play as far up the pitch as he did against T&T?
TSG reader “Kevin” pointed out the Ricardo Clark makes the T&T shot 7 out of 8 times in our follow-up piece on the T&T game.
I wasn’t a believer….so I went and watched some Dynamo games and Kevin, you have my apology. Given the opportunity to run onto a ball or shoot in an open space or with an open look, Clark actually has a solid shot. So my apologies there.
That being said, I still don’t like Clark all the way up the pitch and I’m curious to see what transpires here in Honduras. Clark has been at his best for the U.S. at tracking down counter attacks, providing defense cover in the middle, and even making some overlapping runs from the middle (not into the middle). Clark has been nearly a nightmare though in managing linking and possession up the middle. Frankly anyone can see that.
We’d like to see BB drop him back down into his customary pseudo-holding role and if he needs a man up the pitch it’s Mike Bradley, not Rico. Of course, I always favor a Benny pairing with a defensive mid in the middle of the pitch and in this game, I feel no different.
• What is the U.S. wingfull strategy in this one? Watch how this one plays out.
US outside fullbacks, and rightfully so, are maligned for their lack of involvement in attack. Going into this qualifier, I would hesitate to give them a full license to get up the pitch, especially in the opening minutes on the road. Honduras will come with a more offensive game plan and whereas Spector and Bornstein contributed to the attack in Chicago, I think they need to be cautious here to start this one out and let the game come to them, feeling out the Honduran strike team.
I would favor a message like Bob Bradley’s at the halftime of the El Salvador game to “starting finding the ‘fulls up the pitch.” I think if the U.S. gets the right tempo then most certainly get the “d” guys involved, but first let’s see them bend-and-no-break against the initial emotional offensive volleys from Honduras.
Oh, and one more thing, now you’ve got a new outside middie who needs to communicate and provide cover of the top of one of these guys. Will be very interesting.
• Let’s see what you got Charlie Davies.
Charlie Davies has looked like a a wind-up mouse the past two games, sporadically darting at and through defenders then counter attacking heavily…but only in small isolated spurts, until his engine unwinds. Sure, Davies has suffered from poor service–I can’t forget the opening 20 or so minutes against T&T where Charlie’s attitude was “go-go-go” but he wasn’t on the same page with the midfielders who either overlapped incorrectly or weren’t ready for the dump pass.
Charlie’s efforts have to be more consistent and, yes, his teammates need to get him the ball. There is arguably no better player on the U.S. who can break down the defense when given license 1-on-1 from a standstill. (Donovan for all his skill is probably even with Charlie on this, but the more masterful of the two on slicing runs and creating opportunities on the counter attack.)
If Davies can continue to pressure the Honduran defense in 1-on-1 situations off the corner of the box, it will–much like a boxer begins to drop his arm after persistent rib shots–force the Honduran midfielders into deeper cover than they want and conversely help out the US defense.
Let’s see it for a full 90 Davies this time.
11 at the Whistle
G: Tim Howard
D: Steve Cherundolo, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra, Jonathan Bornstein
M: Stu Holden, Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark, Landon Donovan
S: Jozy Altidore, Charlie Davies
- Brian Ching for Jozy Altidore
Jozy’s been on the bench as we’ve commented earlier this week and Ching is a veteran of these situations. Bob Bradley might prefer Ching as someone who can receive the over-the-top balls from the defense and then lay them off to Davies or Donovan. That being said Bradley almost certainly goes with Altidore here once his fitness is reviewed in Miami.
- Benny, Paco, Robbie Rogers or Bobby Convey for the Iceman
Of course, we’re kidding and certainly joking on Bob Convey. Call it a coin flip between Stu and Paco, with Bob Bradley going with Paco if he favors the need for a leftie and some more Central American experience.
- Spector maintains the nod at RB over Cherundolo
Highly possible. Spector looked solid to very good against La H in Chicago. One problem, he’s been in the freezer for West Ham for the past few weeks. ‘Dolo is probably your option here on fitness alone.
That’s it, the Dempsey situation created and creates a lot of pondering on the line-up. Let’s see what happens.
On to the comments!
*Oh, one more note as my brother mentioned to me–if you get Stu on the pitch, how about the Dynamo star taking some of our set pieces. Seems logical.