Good teams always find a way to win. That was Brad Guzan's quote after the United States Men's National Team eked out a tight, hard-fought, 2-1 victory over a determined Honduras team. The goalkeeper's statement is true, but in this case, the good team will not be able to win if they continue playing the way they did on Tuesday.
Honduras could easily have won that Group A match. They came out with a Brazil-esque formation that had five defenders, four midfielders, and a single forward. That gave the Americans the impression that their Central American opponents would play a passive game.
Instead, it was just the opposite.
Los Catrachos pressured heavily to start the match, forcing Guzan to make a huge third-minute stop. Their physical play caught the US off-guard. If the Hondurans would've been able to finish more efficiently, they would surely have put a goal (or even two) on the board early.
Clearly, the USMNT, or, more specifically, coach Jurgen Klinsmann, weren't prepared for the onslaught thrown on them by their perceived weaker opponent.
This same thing could happen to them again at any time throughout the tournament. For all we know, their next competitor, Haiti, could have a whole new strategy to defeat the Americans. It's time that the US finds a way to do a better job stopping their opponents from getting so many early chances.
There were two main reasons that Honduras was able to pressure so well: the US's failure to keep good control on their half of the field and their inability to generate a good counter-attack.
The first reason is the result of poor play by defensive midfielder Kyle Beckerman. The Real Salt Lake star found difficulty taking the ball away from attacking Honduran players and finding it after it squirted out of the 18-yard box. This gave Los Catrachos second-chances, and while they were unable to make good on any of them, it is a problem that Klinsmann has to deal with.
Beckerman isn't the only player having the issue. Center-backs Ventura Alvarado and John Brooks had trouble calmly dealing with loose balls in the area. Every time they were forced to handle a loose ball, the defenders would immediately clear it instead of settling it down and finding an open teammate.
Honduras were able to keep pressuring because of that, and the result was more and more chances to score for the visitors.
The second problem can be blamed on the tactical selections of Klinsmann.
The manager sent his side on the field in his customary 4-4-2 diamond formation. That meant that in the midfield, Beckerman would play just in front of the center-backs (and essentially became one as the game progressed), DeAndre Yedlin and Gyasi Zardes would play on the wings, and newly-minted captain Michael Bradley would be the center attacking midfielder.
Bradley was unable to create plays as well as he usually was for much of the match, but the real reason for the lack of counter-attacking was that Yedlin and Zardes were clearly out of their comfort zone on the wings.
Yedlin, the former Seattle Sounder, is normally a full back, so he spent more of his time defending than making runs down the wing. When he did attack, he generally failed to create any sort of play. Zardes, normally a forward for the Los Angeles Galaxy, looked like he was in no man's land for way too much of match,
The lack of counter-attacking took away a lot of the United State's attack. Oh, how lucky they are that Honduras somehow managed to forget to mark Clint Dempsey on set pieces.