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Armchair Analyst: Pressure's on? Not in San Pedro Sula

The US, if they’re going to qualify for the World Cup, will have to learn from this 2-1 loss. It’s Jurgen Klinsmann’s job to make sure that they do. That’s always going to be the first and most important point here – especially since there are nine games left in the Hexagonal.

Here are three others:

Where’s the midfield pressure?

For me, the weirdest and most frustrating part of this game was watching the US make the same mistakes they’d made in the 2-1 loss at Jamaica back in September. Yeah, once again they were burned by one true golazo, but simply put: The amount of unmolested service allowed by the US midfield was unacceptable.

Nowhere was that more apparent than on Jerry Bengtson’s game-winner. The bulk of the blame, of course, rests on the shoulders of Geoff Cameron – he has to clear that ball away before Boniek García gets there. Tim Howard and Omar Gonzalez (check your back shoulder, dude) have their part as well. The central defense, in general, looked like two guys who’d never played together before (ba-zing!).

COMPLETE LINEUPS AND BOXSCORE

But why was the initial pass allowed so easily in the first place? And why had there been 80 minutes of similar plays leading up to it?

Frankly, I think it’s part of the inscrutable formation mysteries that Klinsmann creates game after game. Three defensive-minded midfielders. Sacha Kljestan or Jose Torres on the wing. Maurice Edu in the hole. None of that makes any sense.

The ever-changing sets and cast of characters means there’s always that half-second of confusion when trying to close down service, and against a team as sharp as Honduras, that can be all she wrote.

Jones the enigma

I spent a good amount of pregame time tweeting and writing about how confusing it is to see Jermaine Jones in the lineup (in pen) every time out. He supplied a moment of magic when Honduras were guilty of failing to apply midfield pressure of their own on the US goal, and had several other nice “spread the field” plays, but he was a non-entity on defense.

When has that ever been the case for Jones? If there’s one thing you could count on from him, it’s that he would “grind for 95 minutes,” as Klinsmann explained late last year.

OPTA Chalkboard: USMNT struggles across the board

Not Wednesday. Not in San Pedro Sula. It was bizarro-Jermaine out there, and that’s disappointing because if there was ever a time for the guy to set the tone, this was it. On the road, in the Hex – that’s when the Champions League pedigree that Klinsmann talks so much about was supposed to shine through.

Didn’t happen. It was Boniek, the MLS DP, who set the tone for both teams.

Have I mentioned lately how much I like Houston’s chances in the CCL, by the way?

Width or widthout you

Sorry about the pun.

The US goal was created up the middle against the run of play, for certain. And it was a very nice, opportunistic bit of play.

Final third passes from US fullbacks

But the way the offense was supposed to come was via the overlapping fullbacks, Fabian Johnson and Timmy Chandler.

Look at the graphic at right, which tracks their successful passes in the attacking third. Neither got involved, neither was a factor moving forward, neither threatened. The lasting memory of their combined outing is Chandler, stranded 1-v-1 against Carlo Costly, getting clowned And1-style on the flanks time after time.

The only bit of quality wide play for the US came from Eddie Johnson, who once again put in a very solid shift on the left (I fully admit I didn’t think he’d be up to it vs. Honduras). There was no overlapping, no danger from the fullbacks, and no reason to think, as the game went on, that they’d be difference-makers.

And of course, they weren’t.

WATCH: Full Match Highlights

So that begs the question: If the US are going to concede most of the possession in central midfield (it was 60-40 Honduras at the half), and are going to play with just one forward, and still aren’t going to generate chances wide, then where are the goals going to come from? Or hell – forget the goals. Where are the chances even going to come from?

We’d better find out in March. If not, this US team could be in big, big trouble.