After a disappointing day in Honduras, there are few pluses for the United States Men’s National Team to fall back on. While loss at a good Honduran team is nothing to sound alarms about, the way that it happened will be troubling. Not only did the U.S. score first, but for much of the match, the U.S. seemed to be managing their way to a result. But a fabulous overhead kick from Juan Carlos Garcia and a 78th minute defensive collapse handed the U.S. their first opening loss in final round history, with New England Revolution attacker Jerry Bengston giving Honduras a 2-1 in San Pedro Sula.
Perhaps more disappointing that the team’s result were the performances of the U.S.’s component parts. Tim Howard made some nice saves but failed to effectively communicate with his defense on the game-winning goal. An inexperienced defense possessing little familiarity with each other looked uncertain and ineffective, no more so than on Bengston’s goal. The midfield lost their battle with the Roger Espinoza-led Hondurans, while the States’ attackers failed to make an impact beyond Clint Dempsey’s 36th minute opener.
In one of the match’s limited bright spots, midfielder Michael Bradley was the States’ best player, even if he had little success limiting Espinoza’s effectiveness. Still, Bradley’s contributions far outweighed his teammates’. As always, his presence in the middle provided a consistent, settling presence for a team that often has trouble acting decisively moving toward goal. As he was moved slightly forward throughout the second half, his distribution from side-to-side helped try to attack the Honduran fullbacks. As the match went on, Bradley became more influential defensively, contesting some of the second balls that went unchallenged in the first half.
Bradley’s 54 successful passes were 20 more than the U.S.’s next most-prolific passer (Dempsey). He completed them at a 83 percent clip. He and Dempsey had the team’s only shots on goal, while Bradley was also responsible for five recovered balls, two interceptions, and two blocked shots.
There may not have been that many Man of the Match candidates from the U.S.’s ranks, but Bradley was certainly the best of them, even if it wasn’t his best match. But as is usually the case when the States play, Bradley was the team’s best player.
Man of the Match is just the start. Stay with ProSoccerTalk throughout the day as we break down the result in Honduras.
Tottenham Hotspur’s thin hopes of winning the Premier League demand all three points from its visit to Chelsea on Monday (Watch live on NBCSN at 3 p.m. ET and online via Live Extra).
Spurs are eight points behind Leicester City, and a loss or draw makes the Foxes the 2015-16 champions.
[ MORE: Burnley clinches promotion to the Premier League ]
Reigning champion Chelsea, in an odd twist, can play the spoiler for either its London neighbors or the fairytale Foxes.
Chelsea: Begovic; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; Mikel, Matic; Willian, Fabregas, Pedro; Diego Costa. Subs: Amelia, Baba, Loftus-Cheek, Kenedy, Oscar, Hazard, Traore.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris (c), Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose; Dier, Dembele; Lamela, Eriksen, Son; Kane. Subs: Vorm, Davies, Wimmer, Carroll, Chadli, Mason, Clinton.
Sam Vokes‘ 61st minute header has Burnley back in the Premier League at the first time of asking, and there’s only one way to describe it.
[ MORE: Bobby Wood to Hamburg for $4 million? ]
Burnley clinched automatic promotion thanks to its 1-0 win over QPR and Brighton’s draw earlier in the day. With Brighton facing Middlesbrough this weekend, only one could pass Burnley in points.
Take away the math, though, and Burnley is flying off the emotion of the 1-0 win.
From the BBC:
“It’s magic, it’s a great feeling. You could feel the anticipation around the place when we kicked off. We knew what we had to do after the Brighton result earlier. Magic scenes here today. Getting that goal sparked relief around the place. I missed a lot of the Premier League last season but hopefully I’ll get another chance next season.”
And here’s Sean Dyche, classically stoic in the face of extreme emotion:
“That was well off our performance level but the result was all that mattered today. The resilience, belief and character got us through. You can’t be brilliant every week, we don’t think we’re the real deal, but we’re a real group that sticks together.”
If you don’t know much about Burnley, we suggest Joe Posnanski’s SportsWorld piece from last season’s Premier League campaign.
Congrats to the Clarets.
One claret and blue team has been relegated from the Premier League, but another is taking its place.
Sam Vokes did not score in 15 Premier League appearances last year with Burnley, but his goal on Monday boosted the Clarets back into England’s top flight.
[ MORE: Bobby Wood to Hamburg for $4 million? ]
Vokes, 26, headed home in the second half to give Burnley a 1-0 lead over Queens Park Rangers, and the Clarets held on to make sure their absence from the Premier League was a mere season long.
The win gives Burnley 90 points with one match to play. With Middlesbrough and Brighton & Hove Albion sitting on 88 points and playing each other on the final day of the season, only one winner can pass the Clarets.
There seems to be growing interest in USMNT striker Bobby Wood, who is having a sensational season for Union Berlin in 2.Bundesliga.
Linked with Liverpool in March, Wood is now said to be desired by Hamburg in Germany’s top flight.
[ MORE: Klinsmann calls up 40 for Copa America camp ]
Hamburg’s strike corps consists of young target forward Pierre-Michel Lasogga, ‘Gladbach loanee Josip Drmic and veteran Ivica Olic.
Bild.de says the fee is around $4 million, but that the club has yet to begin discussing terms with Union.
Wood has 17 goals and 3 assists in league play this season, and has also become a mainstay with the U.S. team under Jurgen Klinsmann.
[ MORE: Timbers striker wanted by Palace, St. Etienne ]
Union Berlin is sixth in 2.Bundesliga, while Hamburg is 11th in Bundesliga.
Fellow USMNT striker Aron Johannsson has faced a long injury lay-off with Werder Bremen, while a similar situation has faced Terrence Boyd. The latter is with Red Bull Leipzig and is set for a promotion to the Bundesliga barring extreme unlikelihood over the final few weeks.