Fri, Feb 08 2013 12:00 PM Posted By: Carlos Flores
Jermaine Jones' service to Clint Dempsey was gentle and precise, as if the usually short -tempered ruffian were delivering an orchid to the prettiest girl at the dance.
Arcing into the penalty box in the 36th minute, the floating ball descended in front of Dempsey who, in mid-stride, tapped the ball with his right foot and sent it loping over Honduran goalkeeper Noel Valladares and into the back of the net.
The four-second exchange was filled with such grace and beauty that even Margot Fonteyn would have been left breathless. It was, however, the only piece of art the U.S. Men's National soccer team would produce during their first World Cup qualifying match of 2013, a 2-1 losing effort.
The game's first 20 minutes was a remarkable demonstration of defend first, pressure later. Honduras, enjoying the home field advantage, spent most of that time showing the Americans what attacking futbol is and though the Yanks were the first to score, Honduras dominated the match and kept Team USA on its heels.
And while the Jones to Dempsey exchange might have been a pas de deux, the Juan Carlos Garcia bicycle kick-goal in the 40th minute was a George Foreman punch to the ribs, effectively knocking the wind out of a team that was just starting to play as if it knew how.
Thirty nine minutes later, with Jerry Bengston's second half goal Honduras not only broke the tie but they also exposed the United State's sloppy defending for what it was and has been for some time— porous and in need of a further overhaul.
Only the maniacally optimistic were expecting a U.S. win in Honduras Wednesday. Given their form during the 2012 round of qualifying games it was far more realistic to hope for a tie and expect a mediocre showing. Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has tried varying combinations and formations of players with limited success of finding his standard 11.
That the U.S. has found their way into CONCACAFF's hexagonal round is more a testament of Team USA's grit and luck than a reflection of depth and talent.
The team isn't without quality players. Dempsey, Jones, Michael Bradley and a stingy sprinkling of others on their bad days can provide the false sense that the U.S. senior team is good. It's not. It is, instead, a collection of talented individuals who haven't figured out how to elevate each other's performances.
It's not too late for Team USA to make adjustments, find personnel (which might include Sweetwater High alum Joe Corona) that can work together, and develop a consistent attacking style that can carry them through to the World CUp next year. But given the fact that they now have zero points and must play Costa Rica and Mexico in March, the road to Brazil just got a little longer and it was made so by this ugly misstep.
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