SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras – On a warm afternoon near the Caribbean coast, Honduras' pressure eventually proved stifling to a lackluster US national team.
An early moment of attacking brilliance from Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey wasn’t enough to overcome an unfavorable balance of possession and positive play from the hosts. The Americans slowly wore down, ultimately conceding the 80th-minute winner in a 2-1 loss here on Wednesday.
It was a performance that US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann (above) could only qualify as disappointing, given the collective failures on both sides of the ball that led to three dropped points in the vital Hexagonal opener.
“Obviously not as good as we wanted it today,” Klinsmann said in the postgame press conference. “Too many mistakes in too many areas. Tactically in some ways; individually; and we gave Honduras too many chances, and they took advantage of it.”
Honduras also took advantage of a US game plan that seemed generally designed to concede possession and lay back, attacking with only limited numbers going forward. When the US did go forward, poor giveaways consistently allowed Honduras to attack with numbers back the other way.
“That was a lot of mistakes,” Klinsmann said. “We had problems closing down the passing lanes throughout the whole first half and the second half. Too many mistakes and too many players not playing up their potential.”
Los Catrachos, on the other hand, kept coming even after the US opened the scoring against the run of play. After equalizing through a moment of individual brilliance from left back Juan Carlos García, the hosts continued to chip away and finally found the late winner.
Most disappointing for the Americans may have been the inability to get the offense going when the game was there for the taking. In spells, the Hondurans looked desperate for the lead, throwing numbers forward and becoming potentially vulnerable to American pressure that never materialized.
“I was still hoping we could calm it down a bit and keep possession,” Klinsmann said of a second period barren of American chances. “But we gave it away too often too early. We were forced into too many substitutions. And you still hope that you create something, which with our front line is always possible.”
In the end it wasn’t possible for this American team on this Honduran afternoon. The US will now regroup for a tricky pair of March fixtures – against Costa Rica at home and at Mexico in the Estadio Azteca – that have suddenly become all the more important.
“Obviously, it’s not what we wanted,” said Klinsmann. “We wanted to start with a positive result. But we knew it was going to be difficult. There are excuses, but when you lose a game there are reasons for it. The reason tonight was that too many players were below their usual performance.”