A couple of weeks ago I discussed five things I wanted to see from the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Honduras. Just for a quick refresher, those five things were as follows: a fast start, a settled back line, clean sheets, a positive style of play, and killing off the game. I’ll summarize how the U.S. did in those five areas and giving them a rating out of 10, with 10 being the best score possible. Keep in mind that I’m just some spud with a computer, and my views and opinions are probably questionable at best. With that said, let’s do this thing.
A Fast Start: 6/10
This is one of the things that the Yanks did pretty well with. In both games, the Red, White & Blue came out of the gates with high energy and controlled possession in dangerous areas. In the early going of the game against the Ticos, Christian Pulisic put a shot over the bar at the end of a counter, and Jozy Altidore had a penalty shout ignored by the referee in the 24th minute. While Costa Rica was by no means being run out of the park, the U.S. certainly looked the more likely side to score. At least until Marco Ureña’s opener that is.
The game against Honduras was much the same story. The U.S. started brightly, with Pulisic in particular seemingly able to get down the left flank of the Honduran defense at will. Jordan Morris rolled a shot just wide of the post and the team generally looked confident and full of ideas. Unfortunately, it was the same story as the previous game for the Stars & Stripes. Romell Quioto scored in the 28th minute, erasing the team’s good start to the first half.
Overall Impression: Not so great. While the team started both games well and looked to be in the drivers seat, it instead conceded first-half goals and was forced to play catch up in games that many people expected them to win.
A Settled Back Line: 2/10
Ahhh yes. The back line. In the buildup to this pair of games, a lot was made of the absences of John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin. And with good reason. In both games, the U.S. back line looked far from comfortable (and that’s putting it kindly). The Tim Ream and Geoff Cameron pairing during the Costa Rica game just did not work. Cameron’s ill advised pass in the second half led to the second Ticos goal, and as for what happened on the first goal? I’ll just let this picture do my talking for me.
So yeah, there’s that. As far as the Honduras game goes, Graham Zusi looked very much like a midfielder playing right back, with almost every first half Honduran attack coming down the flank he was patrolling. Omar Gonzalez had his fair share of nervy moments, with the poor judgement displayed in the lead-up to the Honduran goal being the culmination of his shaky night.
Overall Impression: Poor. All three goals that the U.S. conceded were direct results of defensive mistakes, and there easily could have been a few more opposition goals. This was a team that sorely missed Brooks and Yedlin in the back line, and showed it for almost all 180 minutes.
Clean Sheets: 0/10
Probably the easiest of the five categories to analyze. The U.S. wasn’t able to keep clean sheets in either game, and as mentioned above, looked like it could have conceded more than the three goals that it did. The team has now only kept two clean sheets through eight games, and conceded 11 goals in the process. Not exactly an inspiring defensive record, and while CONCACAF qualifying is known for being devilishly tricky, this still isn’t what fans, or Bruce Arena for that matter, would have wanted to see.
Overall Impression: Awful. As stated above, three goals conceded, could have been more. This one was an all-or-nothing rating and, since no clean sheets were kept, it’s going to be nothing.
A Positive Style of Play: 5.5/10
Kind of a difficult one. At times, most notably in the beginning of halves, the Yanks played with energy, purposeful possession, and created several good chances. However, once the first-half goals went in, some of the air seemed to go out of the team, with long balls played out of the back becoming more common than possession in the final third. The U.S. did have occasional good spells of pressure and possession, especially in the lead-up to the equalizer against Los Catrachos. However, the sporadic spells of positive play only made the fact that the Yanks weren’t playing that way for the majority of the game all the more frustrating. The team was never going to come out and dominate for a full 90 minutes in San Pedro Sula, but the performance against Costa Rica is particularly troubling to a lot of people.
Overall Impression: Not so great. The U.S. essentially showed what it was capable of in brief flashes without truly realizing its potential.
Killing Off the Game: 0/10
It’s sort of impossible to kill off a game, when you never actually had the lead. With that being said, the team wasn’t able to go forward and find a late winner against Honduras, and while the U.S. initially seemed to want to get a second goal, it soon engaged in some time-wasting tactics. While it’s hard to fault the team too much for wanting to escape with a point, it’s always nice to see a team use the momentum from scoring and try to go on and win the game.
Overall Impression: Not too much to say about this one, it’s going to be another all-or-nothing rating, and another zero.
That’ll about do it for my completely subjective, opinion-based analysis and ratings. Best of luck to everyone ahead of the incoming storm. Be smart, stay safe, and stock up on the essentials like pizza and beer.