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.