What we learned from Wednesday’s stunning United States comeback win in Sarajevo

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The United States had one bad half Wednesday in Sarajevo – and then one that was just this side of stunning.

Even though it was just a friendly, the take-aways are important for Jurgen Klinsmann’s group, the confidence generated from a stirring comeback and from knowing that a difference making striker (Jozy Altidore, of course) is still on the case.

Here is what else we learned from Wednesday’s 4-3 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The summer of Jozy Altidore lives on:

More on the fabulously in-form U.S. striker later at PST. But do know this: with Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan, all backed by the shrewd, timely passing of Michael Bradley, there is reason to be excited about the United States’ attack next year in Brazil.

Klinsmann gets the tactical change right:

I suppose some might suggest that Joachim Low phoned in that useful U.S. tactical change at halftime, right? Because Klinsmann doesn’t know  his tactics, right? That was all his assistant’s work previously at Germany, right?

Clearly, that’s silly. Klinsmann’s forte is innovation and man management, but it’s not like he doesn’t know how many players to put on the field. The switch from a 4-3-3 into the 4-4-2 at halftime was critical Wednesday, getting Eddie Johnson into a far more comfortable spot. (Can we agree that he’s not a winger now? Please.)

That, along with Altidore’s ongoing sharp movement, unsettled the Bosnian back line. Yes, the home team’s substitutions made for diminished opposition, but credit the United States for taking advantage, and credit the tactical tweak for much of it.

(MORE: Jozy Altidore hat trick steers U.S. to comeback win)

Two successful U.S. debuts:

Center back John Brooks made his U.S. debut, just days after making his Bundesliga debut. Some week, eh?

The 20-year-old German American wasn’t perfect, relaxing momentarily late against Edin Dzeko and paying the price for it on Bosnia’s third goal. And the communication with Geoff Cameron was understandably shaky. But Brooks was otherwise dominant in the air and fine with the ball at his feet. Again, far from perfect, but promising for the youngster.

Iceland-raised striker Aron Johannsson had an active 30 minutes, demonstrating why the United States was excited about his switch. His energy was useful, his movement produced two good looks at goal and Johannsson’s passing was usually sharp.

Michael Bradley’s has a fabulous soccer brain:

But we knew that, didn’t we? Once again, we see that Bradley has a such a great instinct and feel for the game, knowing just when to play safe and when to lean in for something more assertive. Wonderfully weighted balls created two of the goals Wednesday.

The streak lives, for whatever that means: I have a sneaking suspicion that Klinsmann was secretly happy the United States took a punch in the nose in the first half Wednesday. Because Klinsmann has indicated the team’s 11-game winning streak was something of a tin man, a run built almost entirely at home, and all almost entirely against CONCACAF sides that are middling or worse.

Wednesday’s opponent was another level, and the United States needed a half to “get it.” Credit the team for finding the next level and overcoming a good team, one that is headed to the World Cup – the very type of team the United States will need to get by next year in Brazil.

As we always note, it’s just a friendly. But in this case, given the way it played out – a rally on the road from a two-goal deficit – you could argue that Wednesday’s achievement was one of the best moments of a highly profitable summer.

This is why Klinsmann needed a mix of young and old:

The United States was overrun in the midfield and exposed for some naiveté at times in the back in Sarajevo. I know there were some calls for running more of the young guys out there, but this is exactly why Klinsmann needed a young-old blend. Can you imagine what the result might have looked like if guys like Altidore, Bradley and Tim Howard weren’t around to provide some guidance and stability out there?

Left back remains a trouble spot:

You know how Edgar Castillo recently reminded us that he’s probably more effective as a left-sided midfielder than a defender?

And remember how DaMarcus Beasley keeps reminding us that he’s stretched as a defender, and therefore probably better as a midfielder?

Well, doggone if Fabian Johnson may not be better as a midfielder than a left back. Which would be OK … if only there was a solid solution for U.S. left back.

Johnson tends to make things happen when he gets into the opposition half — in a good way. Unfortunately, he can tend to make things happen in his own end — in not such a good way.

Chastain, MacMillan inducted into US Soccer Hall of Fame

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Brandi Chastain looked at the assembled crowd in a tent under the rain and addressed former coach Tony DiCicco, who had just introduced her at the induction ceremony for the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame.

[ MORE: USMNT smashes six past Honduras in CONCACAF WCQ ]

“Thank you, not just for today but for every day that you gave me the chance to play for the women’s national team, and for having the confidence in me and the guts to tell me I wasn’t going to be a forward,” she said.

Chastain, a forward on the 1991 World Cup champions and a left back whose penalty kick won a shootout for the 1999 title, was inducted Friday night along with midfielder Shannon MacMillan, a 1996 Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion three years later.

[ MORE: Player ratings from USMNT’s win over Honduras ]

The ceremony was held before the U.S. men played Honduras in a World Cup qualifier.

Remembered most for pulling off her shirt after her World Cup-winning goal and celebrating in a sports bra, Chastain grew up in San Jose and talked about her early days playing youth soccer in the area, starting with the Quakettes. After winning her first World Cup title, she was left off the 1995 roster. She revived her career as a defender.

“Change is good. Though, scary, it’s good. And I think we would all benefit from seeing change as an opportunity for growth and development, and for a new adventure,” she said.

Now 38, Chastain scored 30 goals in 192 international appearances and also won a pair of Olympic gold medals. MacMillan, 42, had 60 in 176 international games.

“It was always such a massive honor that gave me chills every time I walked in that locker room, whether it was my first cap, my 100th cap or my last cap,” MacMillan said. “It was something that I never took for granted.”

Soccer America’s Paul Kennedy was given the Colin Jose Media Award.

The Hall’s building in Oneonta, New York, closed in 2010 and a new Hall is being built in Frisco, Texas.

Hernandez, Araujo score in 1st half, Mexico beats Costa Rica

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Javier Hernandez and Nestor Araujo scored in the first half, and Mexico overcame the absence of half a dozen players to beat Costa Rica 2-0 on Friday night in a World Cup qualifying match.

Hernandez scored on a cross from Carlos Vela to open the score in the seventh and Araujo added a goal on a header in the 45th.

[ USMNT: Recap & videoPlayer ratings ]

Hernandez scored his 46th goal with the Mexican team and tied Jared Borgetti as the all-time leading scorer.

With the win, Mexico remains undefeated and has seven points after three rounds to take sole command in the six-nation tournament. Costa Rica stays on six points and is second and Panama is third with four.

The top three teams qualified for the Russia 2018 World Cup.

Mexico beat Costa Rica for the first time since September 11, 2012, when they prevailed 1-0.

Running Away With It

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Christian Pulisic scored and played a part in three other goals as the United States rained goals down on Honduras in a 6-0 win at Avaya Stadium in San Jose early Saturday morning.

Clint Dempsey scored two goals, and Michael Bradley and Sebastian Lletget also scored as the U.S. moved into fourth place in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. Their next match is Tuesday in Panama.

[ MORE: Player ratings | Three things ]

The United States men’s national team’s bid to recover their 2018 World Cup hopes got off to a flying start.

Sloppy Honduran defending caused a turnover outside the 18, and Jozy Altidore played Christian Pulisic in on goal. Keeper Donis Escober got a piece of Pulisic’s shot, but no one followed Lletget to the back post and the ex-West Ham and current LA Galaxy man quickly put the Yanks up 1-0.

The Yanks didn’t stop, and Lletget drew a yellow card when he beat Ever Alvarado down the right flank and forced a take down from the Honduran defender.

Alberth Elis slipped John Brooks’ mark, and the Houston Dynamo man turned to fire on goal. Tim Howard was well positioned to scoop it up.

Lletget turned out to be injured by the Alvarado foul, and Bruce Arena turned to Alejandro Bedoya in the 17th minute.

Geoff Cameron was given a yellow card in the 25th minute for a foul on Roger Espinoza. That gave a free kick to Honduras from 30 yards out, and Romell Quioto fired right at Tim Howard.

Then it was the captain who doubled the lead, as Honduras inexplicably gave him the room to walk across the arc of the 18 to rip a shot across goal. 2-0.

It was Clint Dempsey’s turn in the 33rd minute, after an otherworldly scooped pass from Pulisic.

What. A. Pass. Kid.

Honduras then took a bigger hit: the loss of star attacker Romell Quioto (Houston Dynamo) to an apparent shoulder injury.

Brooks bailed out an out-of-position Gonzalez just before halftime to keep the lead 3-0.

The Yanks needed 15 seconds to make it 4-0, with Dempsey winning a 50-50 tussle and finding Altidore for a flick to Pulisic. He netted his fourth USMNT goal. He’s 18.

Pulisic then won a free kick 25 yards out from goal by embellishing a foul, and Dempsey’s free kick tricked Escober. 6-0. For real.

A scary moment late as a dazed and wobbly John Brooks was forced off despite no apparent injury. Fox’s Jenny Taft said he was dehydrated, which is a relief.

LINEUP

USMNT: Howard; Villafana, Gonzalez, Brooks (Ream, 70′), Cameron (Zusi, 58′); Bradley, Lletget (Bedoya, 18′), Nagbe; Pulisic, Dempsey, Altidore.

Goals: Lletget (5′), Bradley (27′), Dempsey (33′, 49′, 54′), Pulisic (46′)

Player ratings from USMNT’s pounding of Honduras

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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Battered. Throttled. Eviscerated.

Pick your verb of dominance, the United States likely fit it well in a 6-0 destruction of Honduras at Avaya Stadium in San Jose.

[ MORE: Recap + video | Three things ]

The win boosts the U.S. in World Cup qualifying after their 0-2 start, but how did the individuals fare? Obviously well.

Starting XI

Tim Howard — 7 — The team just feels in a safer place with the veteran back there. If the U.S. goes to the 2018 World Cup, Howard remains their No. 1 (and there probably never should have been a question. Sorry Brad).

Jorge Villafana — 7 — Tidy passing and a low-risk game from the Santos Laguna man.

John Brooks (Off 70′) — 7 — An early error before recovering to be his usual free-clearing, athletic self. Scary injury took him out late, as he looked dazed. Fox’s Jenny Taft said he was dehydrated, which is a relief.

Omar Gonzalez — 5  — He wasn’t bad, but Gonzalez is still a positional question mark. Bailed out a couple times by Brooks.

Geoff Cameron (Off 59′) — 6 — Out of position and a bit hobbled, he wasn’t at his best.

Michael Bradley — 7 — One of his better USMNT games in a long time.

Sebastian Lletget (Off 17′) — 8 — Scored, then got hurt on a roasting run down the right.

Darlington Nagbe — 6 — One or two electric moments in the first half, but overall a quiet enough night for the Timbers man.

Christian Pulisic — 9 — Hard to not to hand the kid a 10. He’s quite frankly the most exciting American talent in the history of the program.

Clint Dempsey — 10 — Along with Howard, the sort of player you knew would make sure this game ended with three points. The fact that he nabbed three goals, too, is just a bonus.

Jozy Altidore — 7  — Pretty darn good night holding up the ball, and passed as well as ever, but did he drop a bit too deep too often? The answer is probably, “Who cares? They won 6-0, dude.”

Subs

Alejandro Bedoya (On 18′)  — 6 — Typical high energy, space eating job in the middle of the park from the Union man.

Graham Zusi (On 58′)  — 6 — Good late clearance preserved the shutout.

Tim Ream (On 70′)  — 6 — Interesting to note that Arena went to him over Walker Zimmerman or Matt Besler.