Klinsmann quick to defend Gonzalez, young US backline
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras – In the US national team's Hexagonal opener at Honduras, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann gambled on the future of the American defense. It’s hard to say he came out on top – at least this time.
With usual captain Carlos Bocanegra looking on from the bench, Klinsmann sent out the green center back combo of Geoff Cameron and newcomer Omar Gonzalez, who won his place in the team with an excellent winter camp. The pairing – particularly the Galaxy man – alternated between good enough and somewhat shaky all afternoon, as the Catrachos attacked in constant waves.
In the end the effort of the young backline – which along with wingbacks Fabian Johnson and Timmy Chandler had a total of zero matches’ experience in Hexagonal games – didn’t quite measure up, particularly on the plays that led to the Honduran goals.
Still, Klinsmann was quick to defend his defense, especially the LA Galaxy center back.
“We believe that Omar is ready for the next step at the international level, and the only way you find that out is to give him a chance and throw him the cold water,” Klinsmann said following the game. “There will always be moments when there’s miscommunication, but the backline is not the reason we lost that game.”
The first Honduran goal came after a series of American miscues led to a corner kick for the hosts. A lack of passing precision resulted in unnecessary pressure on the American line in the 40th minute, when Gonzalez stepped up to make a saving tackle that ended in the corner on which the home side would tie the game.
“Obviously no one expected a goal like this a couple moments after scoring the first one,” Klinsmann said of Juan Carlos García’s stunning bicycle kick. “It was just an outstanding thing that they did in that moment. We didn’t hold the ball well and make the opponent chase the game, and so compliments to them today.”
The US had taken the lead just four minutes earlier. After the Catrachos goal, the plan looked to be to hold tight and try to earn a valuable road point.
But just when it looked like the effort might be enough to accomplish that, the central defensive pairing was exposed on Honduras’ 80th-minute goal. Cameron failed to anticipate a slicing through ball, and Gonzalez was caught flat-footed as Jerry Bengtson raced past him for an easy tap-in.
"I thought we were starting to get stronger and then all of a sudden they get that second goal," Gonzalez said. "It was definitely a dagger. I didn't see it coming the way it happened, I didn't see the guy on the left post – maybe I should have looked over my shoulder and saw him quicker but that's the way it goes. Obviously I didn't have my best game."
Still, the newly capped Gonzalez was as positive about the experience gained as his coach.
“It’s a meaningful experience, to have this game here,” said the MLS Cup 2012 MVP. “These games will only help us in the end. In the end it got out of our hands but it’s just the first one.”