Multidimensional US Has What It Takes To Break Down Single Minded Honduras
By Marc Serber
Honduras did everything they could to turn the game into a generic CONCACAF slog for the United States and credit to them. With a makeshift lineup, they had a plan and executed it well, creating a few chances of their own.
The USA deserves credit as well. Their determination to not abandon the principals instilled in them by Jurgen Klinsmann while still having the ability to problem solve is what led them to Jozy Altidore’s 73rd minute winner.
Honduras set up shop in the middle with the idea of frustrating Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones from dicing open the midfield or looking to combine with Altidore up top.
While Los Catrachos often succeeded in condensing the space in the center, there were still times when Bradley and Jones were able to create off the dribble with driving runs. This opened up the space on the wings where the emergence of Graham Zusi, the dominating play of Fabian Johnson, and the versatility of usual striker turned winger Eddie Johnson has created a new dimension to the US attack.
For the longest time, it seemed the US was either dangerous down the middle OR out wide. All of a sudden, Uncle Sam has a Plan A and Plan B that are seemingly interchangeable, almost one in the same.
Eddie Johnson’s ability to cut inside opened up the space for the German born Fabian Johnson to work his magic down the wing.
And for the record, I had made the Johnson and Johnson joke in a tweet from my @SoccerSerber account (WHY AREN’T YOU FOLLOWING ME?!!) to Ives Galarcep back on June 10. Way before every other Journalist used it yesterday!!
But I digress, the ability to get the ball out wide has also led to Jozy Altidore’s clever runs, peeling off defenders and finding spaces for the finish.
The four goals Altidore has scored in succession have all come off of crosses. The difference here though was the versatility of Altidore’s movement. Instead barreling down the center (Germany, Jamaica) or arriving at the back post (Panama), Altidore adroitly started his run forward to take his defender away before dropping back into the space allowing for Johnson’s pullback from the end-line.
Enough praise has been heaped upon Altidore in these spaces, but after being deprived of service in the last 18 months, the flanks are finally providing the 23-year-old with the kind of quality deliveries that the Dutch based striker has greatly desired.
It’s a great streak. After scoring 31 goals in Holland, Altidore always believed in himself, but it’s huge confidence to a fan base that is truly starting to believe.
While it is too early to say he will be, it is confirmed that in the right environment, Altidore finally has the skeptics believing that he has the tools to become a top class striker.
For his streak to continue with the US though, the players behind him need to continue to be more than just bit part actors. When the middle of the pitch is open, Bradley and Jones (or Cameron) need to continue to play closer to Altidore while dominating the midfield.
Dempsey will continue to take the 23-year-old under his wing and continue the runs that not only puts himself in poll position to receive the ball, but often opens up the lanes for other runners.
In soccer, as in life, everything is contingent upon everything else. The more the US pokes and prods at a compact midfield, the more space they will find out wide where the quality of the runs and final ball in has improved immensely.
If the US can continue to cultivate this one-two punch at the high tempo that Klinsmann constantly implores from his charges in sharp German undertones from the top of his technical area, then the fans song of “WE ARE GOING TO BRAZIL,” will be confirmed sooner rather than later.
Problems still persists, but thats for another day. For now lets just enjoy nine points from three qualifying matches and poll position on the march to the Samba Cup.