Klinsmann gets first victory at U.S. helm, helped by Dempsey strike.
By Robert Wagman
(Sunday, October 9, 2011) -- The United States men gave Jürgen Klinsmann his first victory as their manager, a 1-0 decision over Honduras in front of 21,170 drenched fans on a rainy and windy Saturday night at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.
It was far from a convincing win against not even the best 11 Honduraa coach Luis Suarez might have put on the field if he had called in an all of his veterans, which he didn't.
Klinsmann's "philosophy" appears to be more offensive-minded than his predecessor, Bob Bradley, and to carry the play to the other team. The Americans came out with great enthusiasm and nearly suffered disastrous results because of it.
The midfielders -- Kyle Beckerman, Maurice Edu, Danny Williams (in his U.S. debut) and Breck Shea all pushed forward. The result was a huge gap that opened in front of the U.S. defense, a vacancy that Honduras took advantage of. Only some heroic goalkeeping from Tim Howard prevented what could, and probably should have been, three Honduras goals in the first half hour.
Beckerman and Edu then pulled back a bit and were more conscious of their defensive responsibilities. When Michael Bradley entered the defensive midfield in the 65th minute and with Oguchi Onyewu joining the central defense for the second half and closing down what was a big hole in the U.S. back-line during the first half, Honduras was pretty much closed down for the final third of the match.
At least on paper, Klinsmann presented a formation that featured Beckerman playing in front of the back four and behind Edu, with Williams and Shea running the flanks. Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore paired up top.
The problem with this, as was almost immediately apparent, is neither Beckerman nor Edu consider themselves holding midfielders whose first responsibilities is defensive. The American defensive shape seems to be much better with Bradley and the absent Jermaine Jones.
Yet again, the U.S. was reduced to a single striker on attack with Altidore often left as the lone striker with Dempsey dropping into his more accustomed midfield role. The only goal of the night came in the 36th minute when Dempsey used good ball handling to open space for himself to curl a 15-yard shot into the upper left corner of the net.
This match again showed the Americans' glaring need for Landon Donovan, absent because of a thigh injury. With both Donovan and Dempsey playing as attacking midfielders, pressure is usually taken off Altidore and he can be more effective.
Klinsmann praised Honduras as "a strong and physical side with surprises and technically gifted players who can score goals out of nothing."
He might have had the Catrachos confused with Spain or Brazil, because Honduras' best players tonight play in Major League Soccer and last night's proceedings resembled an MLS game.
The U.S. now travels up the East Coast to Harrison, N.J., for a Tuesday night encounter with a supposedly much stronger opponent, Ecuador, at Red Bull Arena.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Tim Howard - 8: Came up big early and had to work surprisingly hard for a clean sheet. A spotless performance.
Defender Timmy Chandler - 5.5: Looks like midfield might be a better position for him and, if on defense, he might do better on the right instead of left flank. Still, he did well, was not beaten on defense and pushed forward often.
Defender Carlos Bocanegra - 6.5: Not a flawless performance, but he covered a lot of ground in back and cleared numerous balls out of danger.
Defender Michael Orozco Fiscal - 3.5: If Howard's dirty looks could have killed, Fiscal would have been carried off feet first early. Beaten to the outside and to the inside, he just looked like he didn't belong.
Defender Steve Cherundolo - 6: He once again showed that experience pays. Rarely out of position, he cleaned up and cleared a number of Honduran chances, and was occasionally attack.
Midfielder Maurice Edu - 5: An offensive-minded midfielder, he looks out of place in a more defensive role. Got into the attack often, but was then adrift trying to get back to help defensively.
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman - 5: He likes to roam, as he does in MLS, and lacks the discipline needed in the role he was required to adopt tonight. It was not that he played badly, he just didn't adapt as well as he should.
Midfielder Danny Williams - 6.5: With his new American passport, German-American Williams, like Timmy Chandler, fit in quite well, earning his first cap for his newly-adopted country.
Midfielder Breck Shea - 6.5: Was consistently on the attack and showed convincingly he can play on this level of international match. The question remains whether he can step it up to the next level against top-notch international competition.
Forward Clint Dempsey - 7: Was absent early on, but settled into the match, scored the only U.S. goal on a wonderful individual effort and had a second goal disallowed. He was the main offensive threat.
Forward Jozy Altidore - 5.5: He had an admirably high work rate, but too often was forced to go alone against two or three physical defenders.
Defender Oguchi Onyewu (46th minute for Orozco Fiscal) - 6: Plugged what was a gaping hole in the U.S. back-line and had a very solid half. Should have scored a goal on a rebound, but muffed the sitter.
Forward-midfielder DaMarcus Beasley (65th minute for Williams) - 5.5: Quite a good appearance. Showed he can play strong defense while also using his pace to help create offensive chances. His rehabilitation seems complete.
Midfielder Michael Bradley (65th minute for Edu) - 6.5: Took over the middle, shut down the lanes in which Honduras was using to push forward and played at the level expected from a veteran.
Jonathan Spector (76th minute for Chandler) - 6: Normally, a player making a short appearance would not have much of an impact, but he was solid in such a role. He made two excellent passed from the back, while playing solid defense. He deserves a longer look, perhaps on Tuesday.
Forward Juan Agudelo (83rd minute for Altidore) - 5.5: He immediately caused problems for a tiring Honduran defense and deserves more playing time.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Tim Howard.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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