Reaction to the United States 1-1 Tie with Honduras in World Cup Qualifying

The United States displayed no ability to pass the ball well or keep possession against Honduras on Tuesday, and only a handful of U.S. players looked like they were trying to win. The performance was so devoid of collective passing or positives that analysis of the game is virtually pointless.

Christian Pulisic, Clint Dempsey, and Jordan Morris played very direct from the beginning, and Kellyn Acosta was also looking to build up a passing rhythm and advance the ball with incisive forward passes.

Darlington Nagbe and Michael Bradley were not involved enough or impressive.

Pulisic was certainly direct and aggressive against Honduras, and the Borussia Dortmund midfielder pulled off at least two nutmegs while most of the team looked disinterested.

Dempsey and Acosta were involved and looking to keep possession and attack the goal, but Nagbe was virtually invisible without any trademark dribbling bursts. Morris starting at first striker was the other U.S. player who played like he wanted to win.

Where the goals came from

One again a defensive mistake caused a goal. Omar Gonzalez missed a tackle close to goal that allowed Honduras to score an easy goal at the far post, and he either didn’t have the pace to get down fast enough on his slide tackle or he just mistimed or whiffed his slide tackle. Bruce Arena still has Graham Zusi playing right back despite not really equipped to play the position at the international level, as Zusi is after all really a midfielder.

With some five minutes left, Bobby Wood brought a ball down off his chest and stabbed the ball off the bounce into the back of the net. It was a composed and cool finish off a bit of a melee after an excellent Kellyn Acosta free kick where Matt Besler kept the ball alive after a richochet.

Final Thoughts

All in all, not being able to keep possession and create more scoring chances against Honduras or any CONCACAF opponent for that matter is still unacceptable. The United States has the players to play better soccer, but there wasn’t enough urgency and directness against Honduras with the exception of several players. Nagbe was pretty flat for a player of his ability, and the outside backs didn’t provide much in the way of attacking down the sidelines.

Once again a 4-4-2 was used by the U.S. and there was a big gap between the midfield and the attack where Pulisic tried to fill the hole by attacking people off the dribble.

The United States had a formation that work, and it was an attacking formation where Bradley featured as the lone defensive midfielder behind three attacking midfielders and two forwards. Certainly, using a 4-2-3-1 would also work well with the U.S.’ talent pool, but reverting back to the 4-4-2 is causing the U.S.’s play under Arena to regress.


Takeaways from 2-0 United States Loss to Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying

For some reason, right after the United States’ 2-0 loss to Costa Rica, Kasey Keller on ESPN declared that the United States hadn’t fouled Costa Rica enough. Many people have a hard time accepting the fact that better soccer with better passing and more technical ability directly leads to more wins. Bad passing and not a lack of fouling led to the U.S. loss.

Here are my takeaways from the USA’s 2-0 loss to Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying:

The United States’ passing against Costa Rica was poor

The U.S. didn’t seem capable of stringing more than two or three passes together against a Costa Rican side who bunkered. The space was there for the United States to play through balls or build up a passing rhythm, and Fabian Johnson, Darlingon Nagbe, and Christian Pulisic all had the dribbling ability to open up space for incisive passing and final balls.

Not starting Clint Dempsey took away the creativity and attacking threat of Pulisic and Dempsey playing together

Once Pulisic started playing for the United States with Clint Dempsey, the level of the U.S.’ creativity, technical ability, and attacking play improved dramatically. Why Bruce Arena would not field those two players together when he could is anyone’s guess. Surely, using Dempsey as a substitute when Arena doesn’t need to is a bad idea.

There’s also still a sense among too many that the United States is good enough to not really need Clint Dempsey, or at least there’s a sense that not playing him when he isn’t tired is some how a good idea.

Geoff Cameron and Tim Ream were scapegoated

The two U.S center backs didn’t play as bad as many people believed they did. Certainly a bad pass from Geoff Cameron allowed Marco Ureña to have something of a breakaway and score easily on Tim Howard for the second goal, but the first goal was something of a billiards shot from Ureña, which Howard probably should have stopped.

Darlington Nagbe isn’t a playmaker, and he didn’t provide incisive passes from his central midfield position

Darlington Nagbe has showcased plenty of individual dribbling skill and scoring ability, but he’s yet to showcase much in the way of final balls and through balls. This might be an area where Nagbe can improve, but he hasn’t shown himself to be a playmaker as of yet. When Arena used Nagbe out left, he was able to cut inside and blow past defenders, but as a central midfielder with Michael Bradley, he didn’t make sure that the team played through him. Pulisic is really more of a playmaker, and the 4-4-2 Arena used relegated Pulisic to too much of a wing role where Nagbe didn’t have the passing ability needed to pull the strings from the center of the midfield.

Bobby Wood’s movement, pace, and directness were on full display

The Hawaiian striker hit a couple of passes too heavy in the beginning of the game, but he did start combining well with his teammates and getting behind the Costa Rican defense. On at least two occasions, Wood blew by the Costa Rica defense, and on one of those occasions a non-existent foul was called on him, and on the other his shot was blocked by a Costa Rican defender immediately after it left his foot. Nevertheless, Wood was again showed how dangerous he is, and how the United States has never had another striker with his combination of pace, skill, and movement.

Fabian Johnson looked dangerous and active despite receiving criticism

On multiple occasions, Johnson played dangerous diagonal balls in front of the penalty box and continued his runs only to not receive the ball back. Johnson was active the whole game looking to push the pace and get the ball into Zone 14.


Who Should the United States Select for the March World Cup Qualifying Roster?

Who Should the United States Select for the March World Cup Qualifying Roster?

Bruce Arena’s has a big decision to make when he selects the U.S. Men’s National Team for the March World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama: how many of the new and impressive players will he give roster spots to?

There’s a possibility that all of the deserving new or newer players won’t all get a roster spot, if Arena feels more comfortable going with familiar regulars. Looking at the U.S.’ midfield, Arena needs Benny Feilhaber, Sebastian Lletget, Dax McCarty, Darlington Nagbe, and Kellyn Acosta all on the roster, but the American coach might insist on including the mediocre Alejandro Bedoya, who is something of a burning who offers little passing or quick combination play. There are also defenders like Walker Zimmerman, Steve Birnbaum, Eric Lichaj, and Jorge Villafaña who all offer qualities and skill-sets that the team needs, but several ineffective regular veterans could prevent them from receiving a roster spot.

Whatever starting lineup Arena plans on using dictates the rest of the roster because after planning on a certain lineup, the rest of the roster spots are substitutes for each of the 11 starters. Some of the roster spots are quite predictable – if Michael Bradley is the starting defensive midfielder, then Dax McCarty is the backup defensive midfielder, but other roster spots aren’t as clear-cut. If Christian Pulisic is the starting left wing, then is Darlington Nagbe or Sebastian Lletget the back-up, or is Lletget the starting right wing or box-to-box midfielder? Is Feilhaber or Sacha Kljestan going to play as the team’s Number 10, and if it’s Kljestan, which would be the wrong call, then will Arena include Feilhaber, Lletget, and Nagbe all on the roster?

In the defense, there are questions about who will be the backup center backs for Geoff Cameron and John Brooks. Will it be Gonzalez and Birnbaum, or will it be Birnbaum and Zimmerman? Will Matt Besler be called up?

There are tough decisions to be made in the attack as well. Should Arena call up Jordan Morris and Juan Agudelo, or is Jozy Altidore too experienced and still too young not to call up? Clint Dempsey and Bobby Wood have to be the starting forward pair, but Arena could insist on using Altidore and Dempsey and maybe crazily omit Wood from the lineup.

Who knows who the coach of the United States will select? But, here is a 23-man roster that is not exactly a prediction, but more of an opinion of which players should be selected:


Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, William Yarbrough


Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, Steve Birnbaum, Walker Zimmerman, DeAndre Yedlin, Eric Lichaj, Jorge Villafaña, Fabian Johnson


Michael Bradley, Dax McCarty, Kellyn Acosta, Benny Feilhaber, Sebastian Lletget, Darlington Nagbe, Christian Pulisic, Paul Arriola


Clint Dempsey, Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, Juan Agudelo