SANDY, Utah – Some early take-aways from the United States’ 1-0 win at Rio Tinto outside Salt Lake City.
The job is all but done
Jurgen Klinsmann insisted the job is far from finished – but what else is a manger supposed to say? So we’ll say it: Something absolutely insane would have to happen at this point for the United States not to make it.
With 13 points, positioned atop the group with such a lovely view of the five pursuers, the United States can feel very, very good about its chances of landing in Brazil – a seventh consecutive World Cup appearance it would be.
Four matches remain, split between the home and road. The United States might even be able to mathematically clinch with one more win. Next up is Costa Rica – a place the United States never does very well. But if the Americans don’t nail it down then …
How sweet would it be to officially qualify for Brazil on Sept. 10 in Columbus against … wait for it … Mexico!
Hanging in there in frustrating games
Some games will be this way. And by “this way,” I mean “frustrating.” It’s important for the team to learn how to deal with it – and it’s important to note the way the United States kept its cool, hung tough and finally found the goal that mattered.
Mattered a lot.
The first half was surely an exercise in frustration. On a couple of goal kicks, if Honduran goalkeeper Noel Valladares had gone any slower, he would have been going backwards. Calls weren’t really going the U.S. way, either. Jermaine Jones was subjected to some rough stuff, mostly without protection from referee Enrico Wijngaarde (from the noted referee producing factory of Suriname).
Graham Zusi got waylaid 24 yards from goal without a call. Throw in a couple of quick injury-recovery turns from the visitors, the lack of quality chances and the heat (mid-90s at kickoff) and it all must have been maddening.
But the United States did a good job of keeping its cool. Said Jurgen Klinsmann: “In a game like this, what really matters is that you be patient, keep going and find a way.”
There is still some fouling in bad spots from the U.S. defense
And that is not a good thing. Honduras was well-organized and, clearly, difficult to break down. So the danger was always in the visitors getting something on a set-piece, and three times the United States obliged, offering up free kicks in bad spots.
Eddie Johnson was guilty early, fouling Roger Espinoza, a real thorn in the U.S. side all night. A few minutes later, it was Jermaine Jones that needed to foul Espinoza as he tore in toward U.S. goal, a foul that earned Jones a booking. After the break, Jones was guilty once again of giving the Hondurans a free kick 24 yards from goal.
(Isn’t this the very thing Jurgen Klinsmann got so upset about with Maurice Edu and Kyle Beckerman last year?)
The better the conditions, the better the chances that Jermaine Jones will be average
The German-born midfielder didn’t have his best night. Not by a long way. It looks a little like this:
Jones excels when the games get gritty. Gritty like him. They need their brave enforcer when the field is bad or the circumstances are trying or intimidating, generally speaking when they need those leadership intangibles beyond the technical skill. When Jones has to “think” his way around the game, and when the game becomes a little more tactical and technical – and it was very tight in the middle of the field at Rio Tinto – he suffers a little. Then he turns into the average player (at international level, that is) that tends to be so frustrating to U.S. fans.
Jozy Altidore is something else right now
But then again, you knew that. More on that is here at ProSoccerTalk.