Posts Tagged ‘Honduras’

Assault Lake City: TSG’s Official USA vs. Honduras Preview

It's a redemption shot for the USMNT and certainly Fab J.

It’s a redemption shot for the USMNT and certainly Fab J.

The USMNT finds itself in Sandy, Utah this week looking to affix a three-point dollop of whip cream-and-cherries on top of the 6-point ice cream sundae it crafted at the expense of Panama and Jamaica over the past week. Sure would be nice with expected temps at game time hovering around the nineties.

The States have manufactured four goals during this Hex stretch in four distinct ways, a salvo that has resulted in two victories and put the Yanks close to punching that coveted 2014 World Cup ticket.

The Honduras fulcrum game here is one that loomed large and pivotal on the qualifying calendar upon announcement but even more so after the US tripped over itself and coughed up a 1-0 lead–and its gumption–to the Honduran squad in February’s opening round of the Hex campaign.

Now, though, the US is dining from a position of strength atop the qualifying table and Los Catrachos are the ones powered down for the return match.

Victor Bernardez, Maynor Figureroa, Boniek Garcia and Jerry Bengston among others all set to miss the Sandy city clash on Tuesday for the visitors. Additionally, while Honduras pummeled the Jamaican speed bag on Friday–a 2-0 win that sent Reggae Boyz skipper Tappa Whitmore to the Jamaican Fed guillotine–the lead-up to the match saw Los Catrachos go scoreless through the two previous road qualifiers against Panama and Costa Rica.

Against a States team that has been rippling the nets, going scoreless probably doesn’t get Honduras the draw and single vital point in this match-up that they seek.

Scoops up!

Without further Freddy Adu, we get to our (near) customary preview.

It goes:

TSG What Are We Looking For?

About The Opponent: Honduras

11 At The Whistle

(Photo courtesy American Outlaws Salt Lake City)

(Photo courtesy American Outlaws Salt Lake City)

TSG What Are We Looking For?

» Middle management

This game will may “will likely” be won again in the midfield.

Here are the numbers in February from the central midfield battle between Los Caratchos and the Yanks:

Honduras: 107 of 127 passing (84.25%), 5 tackles won, 4 interceptions, 15 recoveries

United States: 114 of 139 passing (84%), 5 tackles won, 1 interception, 13 recoveries.

("You'd want the one on the left")

(You want to have the chart on the left. The one on the right looks like some incubating virus or something.)

Seems rather even, yes?

One more datapoint to add.

That Honduran CMF stat line was accomplished with two field positions (and two players, Luis Garrido and the indefaiguable Roger Espinoza) while the US line was accomplished with three field positions (and five players Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones/Graham Zusi and Danny Williams/Maurice Edu.)

Those numbers are astounding. Let it be noted that most of the damage was done by former Sporting KC johnny-on-the-spot Espinoza–no boots to the face in the match though (yes, that’s Ike Opara, Sam Cronin and Cody Arnoux in that video also).

Honduras flat-out bossed the midfield. It took Los Caratchos three fewer players and they defiantly shoved the line of confrontation into the US’s defensive half. By the way, subtract Danny Williams’s contribution from the numbers and the difference in the stat line of Bradley-Jones versus Espinoza-Garrido is staggering. Bossed.

Things have a funny way of changing of course and the roles here seem reversed; Honduras’s depleted troops and Los Caratchos being on the road may make the US midfield selection more complex actually.

After Tuesday’s man of the match performance, many will want to see Stoke City utility man and TSG fave Geoff Cameron in central midfield.

However Honduras may elect to press the midfield–given their success with that strategy last time–much more than Panama. In something few pundits incredulously pointed out, while Cameron excelled on Tuesday, he did so with very little pressure on him on-ball and in possession–think of a running back whose blockers have lined-up defenders and so the back doesn’t need to elude but instead can take his time and pick his holes.

That was Cameron on Tuesday who gave an excellent performance against a weak opponent with a perplexingly passive defensive effort. It may be different if the Roger Espinoza terrier is unleashed.–as it was in the series opener–to push high and shut down the deep US attack supply line.

Not his best day to be ... nice.

Not his best day to be … nice.

Jermaine Jones has proven he has the steel and ability to run with the ball and deliver passes with a man on his hip already. So maybe the decision in favor of Jones is rote?

However, Honduras may, in fact, look to sit deep and protect their second-string centerbacks. Does Klinsmann then opt to keep Cameron on the field–while either granting more rest to Jones or even Bradley–because he did well in tracking space and spraying passes against a similar defense?

Then again, if Honduras is consistent with its two previous road deployments, it will likely put out three central midfielders, one more than February. So I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. So Jones is the pick?

The bet here is that Klinsmann goes back to Jones-Bradley in the middle and uses the former’s harried on-ball defending to push the line of confrontation to around the halfline. Both Jones and Bradley are adept if Honduras starts pressing and putting them both on the field likely dissuades Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suárez from thinking he can gain an advantage by pressing.

(Note A: A big theme in the February match-up was the inability of US fullbacks–Fabian Johnson and Tim Chandler–to get ahead in the attack or even provide width and–while that is true–it’s damn near impossible to get ahead in the attack if your midfield is losing the turf war centrally in your defensive end.)

(Note B: There’s some prevailing notion out there that central midfield is Cameron’s best position–hard to say that. He’s a very good stand-up defender on the interior and he’s good at surveying the field from the middle, but his best skill is not turning in traffic with a defender on his hip. Centerback is likely where Cameron ends up on the club and national team level and where he ultimately excels.)

» Backswap

A look back at the Panama game plan suggests that Klinsmann and staff expected Panama to have more bite in their  central midfield.

Last week, Klinsmann schemed to get Jozy Altidore going in the Germany friendly with early balls in stride to his feet through Brad Evans. Tuesday, Klinsmann game-planned to get DaMarcus Beasley and Matt Besler active earlier in possession and providing supply up to Fabian Johnson, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore–because pressure was expected in central midfield and because Panama’s Leonal Parris tends to put himself in positions that even Lindsey Lohan would find shocking.

Anyway.

The US left rear pairing had the second (Besler, 72) and third (Beasley, 70) most pass attempts on the evening after Michael Bradley’s team-high 87.

All *incomplete* passes by Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez. Besler was given license to drop more long balls up the field, 2 to 1.

All *incomplete* passes by Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez. Besler was given license to ping more long balls up the field, 2 to 1. Gonzo’s long balls were typically clearances as well.

Many expect musical chairs to ensue and for Fab Johnson to be moved to the backline with Brad Davis or Eddie Johnson moved ahead of him, but that seems poorly conceived if it transpires.

First Fab Johnson is giving the States some much-needed width on the left through his ability to hold the ball and break down defenders. Davis would give the States width, but give very little going forward. Eddie Johnson would offer width, but little cover for a new leftback.

The logical choice to deputize is Edgar Castillo who has the ability to distribute appropriately from the back and defend on the break.

Castillo hasn’t many supporters this camp, but he’s versed in Honduras’s style and he’s got a way of playing big when he’s truly needed.

(Castillo was called on after having gone through morning training already for a Canada friendly in May 2012; he was one of the best players on the field. In the US’s first victory at the Azteca in an August 2012 friendly, Castillo played pristine positional and on-ball defense as DaMarcus Beasley failed to track back on multiple occasions.)

» Good circulation

Given that Honduras probably retreats some in this one looking to clip a draw or 1-0 win, how does the States elect to break down the bunkered defense.

The schematic seems simple and is one that anyone hanging around Kansas City in October of last year probably is familiar with. October 2012 saw the US shellack Guatemala at Sporting Park 3-1. The Guatemalan side they faced that day  looked a lot like the US opponent Tuesday; Guatemala was beset by injuries, especially to its backline resulting in a novice centerback pairing.

In the October 2012 match, the US aggressively pushed the ball up the flanks to create space centrally, both in possession (Eddie Johnson on the left) and through passing sequences (Graham Zusi on the right). As they worked on the fullbacks for Los Chapines, the young Guatemalan centerback pairing was called in for support.

That cued space in the middle, something that Clint Dempsey knows exactly how to make use of. With Herculez Gomez running the channels, Clint Dempsey playing hide-and-seek and Michael Bradley making his Late Box Runs, Los Chapines were overwhelmed and succumbed.

The key of course to this attack, like most, is quick ball circulation. Below is Danny Williams passing chart for that match. 82 of 88 passes completed on the day, nearly all of them laterally. Don’t play Hot Potato with that man; he’ll be still standing.

Danny Williams, horizontal shuttler, USA vs. Guatemala (3-1 US, October 2012)

Danny Williams, horizontal shuttler, USA vs. Guatemala (3-1 US, October 2012)

The faster you move the ball, the more out of position the support defense is and the easier the opponent’s defense breaks down. With two of Fabian Johnson, Eddie Johnson and-or Graham Zusi on the wings Tuesday, this will hopefully be the same tale for the States on Tuesday.

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Andy Najar Commits to Honduras

Najar didn't flip for the States...

As expected, Andy Najar today made public what people had long expected.

Najar will play for his native Honduras when it comes to international play.

There had been some murmurs that Najar might seriously consider the United States. However with what could be a five year wait for citizenship, Najar, who possesses skill to play in Europe sometime in the next few years, wouldn’t have a large audience outside of DC United for his talents.

Perhaps a moment to consider that many players don’t have that choice, a great perspective from Neil Blackmon of The Yanks Are Coming.

Group H game 4 – Spain versus Honduras

Getting very beat up!

PEEEEEEP PEEEEEP PEEP. Well this sets up for a very exciting finale for Group H. Chile could very well not go through with 6 points as they meet up with Spain. Switzerland need a win if they are to have any chance.

3 minutes of extra time.

90:00 - Some incredible build up by Spain as they just tease the Honduran defenders with some slick passing and well timed runs. In the end the final ball to Mata is a touch too strong. They are really a joy to watch when the defense is so welcoming!

87:00 – Navas sends in a great cross that Villa should have hit firs time to get his hat trick but he controls it and as he shoots Mendoza slides in and takes the ball off him.

86:00 – Spain playing very loose, as they are giving balls away needlessly.

84:00 – Honduras win a corner but before they take it, Jerry Palacios comes on for Suazo.

81:00 – Welcome gets a chance as he heads a free kick in the general direction of the goal. It bounces wide as Casillas has to wake up from his nap to gather the ball for a goal kick.

79:00 – Pique slowly getting covered up in band aids. He’s beginning to resemble a mummy!

76:00 – Arbeloa on, Ramos off. He’s had a great game and had many opportunities, but his final touch was not quite there.

75:00 – Villa desperate to get his third tries to race onto a Navas pass that he originally set up but the ball was too strong.

70:00 - Torres off, Mata on. He’s had a poor game by his standards. He needs a goal, but that will come in due time.

68:00 – Spain get a few corners in a row, Ramos has a volley deflected behind then Navas (who has been a real difference in this game) has a weak header saved.

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Group H Game 1 – Chile versus Honduras

Will we see this celebration today from TSG's potential breakout player of the tournament?

Well Chile win but they could have won by 4 or 5 if it wasn’t for some fine defending and goal keeping by the Honduran back line.

93:00 – A brief attacking moment for Honduras results in them losing the ball and Gonzalez runs for the counter but his shot (once again a pass would have been the better idea) is over.

91:00 - Gonzalez really trying to impress “el loco” by taking two hasty shots that go above the bar and wide, when passing might have been the better option. Not the best way to to get noticed.

3 minutes of extra time

89:00 – Georgie Welcome (a very fun name to say) tries a shot from outside the box but it’s over the bar.

87:00 – Mark Gonzalez on Valdivia limps off.

81:00 - Chile take of Vidal and put on Contreras.

79:00 – Chile really laying siege upon the Honduran goal but they bravely defend it and it’s still 1 – 0.

75:00 – Vidal has a shot and Valladres parries it out back into play; Sanchez though controls with his hand (looked purposeful and should have been a card) as Valdivia tries to knock it in. The side line judge see’s it though and raises his flag.

69:00 – Honduras might be left wanting in attack but their defense is superb. They have impeccable timing when it comes to sliding tackles and last second clearances in their penalty box to deny Chile a second goal. To be fair to them, they aren’t trying to park the bus (and not are not) but Chile’s attack is relentless.

67:00 - Hendry on, Guevara off for Honduras.

64:00 – SAVE OF THE TOURNAMENT so far by Valladares as from a free kick the ball is headed across the face of goal and Chilean defender Ponce heads it hard that Valladares dives to his right and saves it from point blank range. Excellent by the Honduran keeper.

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San Pedro Sula North?…Not In Section 137

The match (and referee) were a disappointment on Saturday evening at the Home Depot Center, but even more disconcerting, though not shocking, was the continued lack of support for the USMNT on their home soil. Regardless of the validity of the overall attendance figures, the crowd was approaching 70 / 30 split between Honduran supporters and US supporters.

While no one expected a packed house awash in red singing God Bless America, the paltry support for the USMNT makes one wonder if the soccer hype and hipness generated by the Confederations Cup last summer expired when the calendar flipped to 2010.

The view from the American section.

US Soccer may point out that the January friendly saw an attendance increase of nearly 100% from a reported 9,918 for the match versus Sweden in 2009 to a reported 18,626 on Saturday night, but how much of that boost can be attributed to a blue-and-white opponent instead of a blue-and-yellow one?

With US Soccer spending a month on the ground, two MLS teams in residence and a population approaching 10,000,000 in Los Angeles the USMNT should have garnered better support. Of course one can contend the game was meaningless and featured the “B” team, but on-the-other-hand the US is kicking off a World Cup year after finishing first in CONCACAF qualifying and playing for the first time on the “home” turf since October.

No amount of lamenting in words is going to change the landscape overnight, but a group of people banding together in support of the USMNT has got this moving in the right direction. The enthusiasm of the US supporters in attendance on Saturday night should be commended. If you were in or around section 137 you saw what could be, and should be encouraged.

So, good folks of the American Outlaws, Sam’s Army and the US Soccer Supports Club keep fighting the good fight, think of creative ways to get people to the game and continue to forge the American soccer identity. (Any chance these groups can sit next to each other in a “super-section” of peace, harmony and raucous support?)

After a rough performance on Saturday night, US supporters need a little pick-me-up. Thankfully, Max of the Tony Danza Army has come to the rescue with another video for the people.

Home of the brave…indeed.

Added note from Matthew here:

I had the occasion to finally catch up personally with Justin Brunken, a founder of the American Outlaws USMNT support group. I have to apologize for not knowing the full history of the group at the time–I’ll claim that my writing fully envelops me completely and blindingly.

I was absolutely astounded by a few things that I wanted to add to Mark’s column here:

» Justin architected and now manages the American Outlaws (with his fellow founders) for free. I felt certain that a group as organized and as fervent as the American Outlaws certainly commanded at least one person fulltime on them. Not the case I learned; amazing. Even more amazing considering they only began in 2007.

» The chapter phenomenon is one that AO initiated and has served the American Outlaws well…..so much so that legacy fan support group Sam’s Army has decided to adopt the same approach through “brigades.”

» I had one member tell me, “These guys are great. I joined just this year and when I needed a place to stay for the Haiti game in Boston, a number of guys said I could crash at their pad.”

Can you imagine this parallel happening in other sports? I can imagine the conversation would go something like this on a message board.

“Hey I’m Matt. I’m a huge New York Giants fan and I’m going to be at the game this weekend in Kansas City. Anybody have an empty couch that they wouldn’t mind sharing for a big fan?”

“Freak!”

“Freeloader.”

“Do you have a criminal record?”

Nice work AO.

Orange Wedges: The USMNT Is Back

Orange Wedges is TSG’s gameday post that  is updated until kick-off.

Fond memories from the last time the US played Honduras.

The USMNT takes the pitch for the first time in 2010 for a friendly versus Honduras tomorrow in Los Angeles (Carson). It has been 66 days since we last saw the US squad put on a forgettable performance in Denmark, but this is a new year…a World Cup year!

The match will kick-off at 9:oopm Eastern / 6:00pm Pacific time and can be viewed on Fox Soccer Channel and Telefutura. TSG will be converging on Carson to watch the match live from in the American Outlaws section at the Home Depot Center.

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