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Analysis

Dempsey's two strikes allow U.S. men to outlast Honduras in Gold Cup.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

(Tuesday, July 7, 2015) -- The United States men opened the CONCACAF Gold Cup Group A play with a hard fought 2-1 victory over a much improved Honduras before a sellout crowd of 22,357 tonight at Toyota Stadium in the Dallas suburb of Frisco.

With Panama and Haiti playing to a 1-1 draw in their Group A opener, the U.S. is atop the group with three points, heading into Friday’s meeting with Haiti Friday night at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. An American victory would win the group.

The match was a foul-filled and physical affair with the U.S. getting a pair of goals from striker Clint Dempsey and then holding off a determined foe which came close on several occasions from drawing level.

Honduras might well be the most improved team in CONCACAF, the federation of North America, Central America and the Caribbean. It lost just once this year, a 1-0 loss to host Brazil. The Americans had their hands full tonight and by no means was the dominant team.

Twice, once in each half, Dempsey put himself in just the right spot to head in a goal. In the 25th minute midfielder Michael Bradley’s short corner fell in the box. Jozy Altidore hit a sharply angled shot that was saved by Honduras goalkeeper Donis Escober. The ball deflected toward Dempsey who headed it into the net for a 1-0 lead,

In the 65th minute, Dempsey rose over defenders to blast a Bradley cross home foe a 2-0 advantage.

Honduras drew a goal back in the 70th minute when Honduras defender Wilmer Crisanto split two defenders on a quick counter, fed reserve midfielder Carlos Discua, who beat U.S. back Ventura Alvarado and slammed a shot past keeper Brad Guzan into the upper right corner of the net from eight yards out.

Honduras’ volatile coach Jorge Luis Pinto put his team into a somewhat defensive alignment, playing five defenders into what has become known as a Brazilian five back. The two outside players are really midfielders and move quickly upfield in counter-attacks when Honduras had the ball.

The strategy was very effective in the first 20 minutes or so when Honduras considerably outplayed the U.S. and again at the start of the second half. Dempsey’s two goals, both of which were mostly against the run of play, brought the Catrachos into a more offensive alignment. This helped the Americans.

With teams having to play every four days, with travel in between, coach Jürgen Klinsmann needs to juggle his lineups to keep his roster rested. Tonight, he had defenders Omar Gonzalez, Greg Garza, Tim Ream; midfielders Alejandro Bedoya, Alfredo Morales, and Mix Diskerud, and forward Aron Johannsson on the bench.


U.S. Player Ratings

Starters

Goalkeeper - Brad Guzan 7: He was officially credited with only two saves, but he was much busier. He thwarted Honduran attacks with timely punches and he went high to tip Andy Najar’s blast over the crossbar. He moved very well in his box and controlled play for much of the match. He was beaten by a close-in shot that he had little chance to save.

Defender Timmy Chandler - 5: He is a midfielder trying to learn to become an outside defender. Tonight, he was great as an attacking midfielder, going on long dangerous runs and setting up as least one near goal, but as a defender, he was much less effective, having problems all night with Najar.

Defender John Brooks - 6: He got a silly yellow card early for a foul in the midfield. He was solid in the middle and made several key defensive stops..

Defender Fabian Johnson - 4: This decidedly was just not his night. Many of his passes went astray and he gave up the ball often. He was pulled in the 62nd minute.

Defender Ventura Alvarado - 4.5: He had difficulty picking up late runs into the box, including on the Honduras goal. He too had a much less than desirable outing.

Midfielder Michael Bradley - 8: His entry passes led to both American goals. He was a force particularly on attack, but also on defense.

Midfielder Gyasi Zardes - 5.5: He was forced to mainly play defense, but he did so effectively, breaking up a number of Honduran advances. His midfield play allowed Bradley to play a mainly offensive role.

Midfielder Kyle Beckerman - 5.5: The defensive midfielder saw himself deep in the defense covering for absent backs. On several occasions, he cleared dangerous crosses. His play in the midfield was less spectacular.

Midfielder DeAndre Yedlin– 5: He played at a frantic pace all night, but his runs to and fro added to the disorganization of the U.S. midfield. He might have been a greater help if he stayed put and worked better with teammates.

Forward Jozy Altidore - 5: He made a number of good plays in the Honduras box, keeping the ball alive and in one case hitting a shot that Dempsey knocked home on the rebound. By the time he came out, he had visibly sagged and was out of gas.

Forward Clint Dempsey - 7: He was told by Klinsmann to shoot more and be more offensive minded. He responded with a pair of goals. This was one of his better recent U.S. efforts.

Reserves

Forward Chris Wondolowski (59th minute for Altidore) - 5: He tried to make himself available but got no service over the final half hour. He did make several plays on the defense.

Defender Brad Evans (62nd minute for Chandler) - 6: He helped tighten up the U.S. defense in the late going, making at least three individual stops in dangerous moments.

Midfielder Graham Zusi (87th minute for Zardes) – no rating: A very short appearance, but he did break up one Honduras attack in stoppage time.

SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Clint Dempsey.


Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.

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