The experiment that was Jurgen Klinsmann’s starting lineup for the United States failed to deliver Wednesday afternoon, conceding a 2-1 loss to Honduras in a pivotal first match for World Cup qualification. New England Revolution’s Jerry Bengtson would score the game-winning goal for his national team in the 79th minute, finishing a tricky pass from teammate Oscar Garcia in front of the net. The U.S. team looked gassed by the time Bengtson scored, perhaps not accustomed to the 90 plus degree heat and sweltering humidity at Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano.
More criticism will fall on Klinsmann from this loss, but not only for testing out defensive players who have not played together before a World Cup qualifying match. All three substitutions were used before Honduras’ goal, giving Klinsmann no insight on who to throw into the game for a late offensive surge when the U.S. needed it the most. Perhaps Herculez Gomez could have been the spark the team needed to at least draw. However Jurgen’s roster changes and starting lineup tweaks are not the only problem with this team.
U.S. Soccer has been troubled by inconsistent play and lack of a star player since the departure of Landon Donovan. Where was Michael Bradley’s reliable midfield play? Why has Jozy Altidore lost his touch? Who besides Clint Dempsey can score on this team? These are the issues the team faces now, and could be facing after they miss Brasil 2014 if they do not get their act together. It pains Americans to see their team squeak by on 1-0 victories thanks to Tim Howard bailing out the defense for 90 minutes. It is not the formula to get to Brasil, and certainly not the formula to make it out of the group stage if they were to reach it. Performing to the highest level is critical to staying competitive on the world stage, as well as utilizing a forward on that forces the opposition to make significant changes. Who will be our Wayne Rooney? Our Lionel Messi? Our next Landon Donovan?
Taking a painful 0 points in the first match, the national team will host Costa Rica in March in the next qualifying match. As hard as Honduras fought, games will only get harder from here on out as Panama and Mexico look awfully dangerous at the right time. It is not to say the U.S. team can not turn things around in the next month, but it will not be easy. In nine more games, one can only hope team chemistry and an unsung hero will come about this team.