Wednesday, February 6, 2013

USMNT Drops Hex Opener to Honduras

The ten-match competition that is "The Hex" began in disappointing fashion for the US, as the Stars and Stripes lost to Honduras, 2-1. After getting on the scoreboard first courtesy of a Clint Dempsey goal, the US watched Honduras get a highlight-reel, bicycle kick goal from Juan Carlos Garcia and it seemed to deflate their spirits. Honduras dominated possession for most of the remainder of the match, scoring the decisive goal in the 79th minute when Tim Howard, Geoff Cameron, and Omar Gonzalez all seemed slow to the ball, allowing Jerry Bengston to tap in the game winner.

Here are my three positives from today's match:

1. Dempsey dazzles again
Clint Dempsey is without a doubt the most dangerous threat to score on the US team these days, and he showed his class in the 36th minute with a spectacular goal off an equally stellar feed from Jermaine Jones. Dempsey did not have many other opportunities to score, which can be attributed mainly to lack of chances created by the midfielders behind him.

2. The Timothy Chandler Saga is over - he is one of us
Over the past two years, USMNT fans have ridden a roller coaster when it comes to Timmy Chandler. In 2011, Chandler played for the US a handful of matches and looked to be the future at outside back. In 2012, Chandler declined an offer to play in World Cup Qualifiers that would have cap-tied him to the US (cap-tied means you can no longer play for another country). Many thought he was reconsidering his international allegiance, hoping for his native Germany to invite him to play for them (he has an American father and German mother, giving him options to play for either). Today, Chandler started at right back for the US in the qualifier, meaning he is cap-tied to the stars and stripes. Chandler had an up-and-down day, but he is just shy of 23 years old so he should only improve as he gets more comfortable in the Starting XI backline.

3. There are nine matches left in the Hex - five of which will be home
When the Hex schedule was released, I was worried. I did not like the fact that two of the first three matches for the US would be at the toughest places to play in the region, Honduras and Mexico. Sandwiched between those matches is the next qualifier, at home vs Costa Rica on March 22. The US must win that match and get an important three points - and momentum - heading into what will be a high-spirited affair at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City on March 26. After that match, four of the seven remaining matches in this final round of qualifying will be on home soil. With today's loss, there is less room for error as the US strives to finish in the top three in order to secure an automatic berth to the 2014 World Cup.

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