WCQ: US Knows It’s Real Now

By
Updated: February 12, 2013

TALLAHASSEE-The young central defenders know it.

The new Bundesliga based players  know it.

The midfielders that failed to show up know it.

The coach knows it.

It’s real now.

If there is anything to be gained from the US 2-1 loss to Honduras in the opening match of the Hexagonal tournament last week that serves as the final round of qualification for the 2014 World Cup, it is that everyone, from coach down to the 23rd man knows that the pressure, the heat, the conditions, the noise,  the questionable officiating etc. that always makes qualifying out of CONCACAF for the United States such a tricky equation is no longer something that is just bandied about on soccer message boards or told as slightly amusing anecdotes by former players in studios.

It’s real now.

As the minutes ticked away in the hot Estadio Olimpico in San Pedro Sula last Wednesday, with every poor pass, with every half hearted attempt to close down attackers, with every frustrating failure in the final 1/3 of the field, you had a sinking the feeling that you were never supposed to have when the USA take the field anywhere against anyone.

They weren’t ready for this.

Honduras deserved their victory as they were clearly the better team.

But the US weren’t ready.

They didn’t know.

It’s real now.

Sharpness was sadly lacking for most of the match. The US rarely had sustained possession where they could really establish a foothold and aside from the beautiful Jermaine “I’m not just about that Thug Life” Jones pass to Clint Dempsey, there were few moments of offensive beauty, imagination, and guile that made the Honduras uncomfortable, either in the midfield or in the final 1/3.

It’s real now.

The newly drafted players plying their trade in the Bundesliga know it now. Watching them melt in the San Pedro Sula sun like a bowl of ice cream on a Miami sidewalk (I actually thought Timmy Chandler was going to was fall over like a dehydrated triathlete while “chasing” down a defender right before halftime) was not just disheartening; it made me nervous going forward. The US still has away matches to Panama, and Costa Rica a place where they have rarely had any success. After seeing the US bake in Honduras, what do you think the chances are they play those matches in the mid afternoon as well. Didn’t exactly look like the US could hang, did it?

There is still a trip to the Office in Kingston. After bringing a point back from Mexico, D.F. and having beaten the US in the last round, do you think Reggae Boyz are in any way scared of the US right now? Do you think ANYONE is scared of playing the US in their own building right now?

Does anyone think we’re ready to go visit Mexico, D.F. and throw down with El Enemigo right now?

Because it’s real now.

When the US plays El Enemigo, especially in Estadio Azteca as they will on March 26, they aren’t just playing against a group of talented Mexican players who, collectively, are the best in CONCACAF. They’re also playing against the altitude. They are playing against the smog. They are playing against a fan base that will be more than double what the Jamaicans saw last week. They are playing against history.

It’s been argued in the past that we don’t have the individual talent to match up with Mexico. That may or may not be true but where we’ve found our past success against El Enemigo is through our collective effort. That wasn’t on display much against Honduras, certainly not offensively and at the most crucial time, not on defense. From Geoff Cameron’s less than 100% effort to match the run of the Honduran forward Oscar Boniek Garcia, to Tim Howard’s failure to clear, to Omar Gonzalez’ ball watching, the “hard work and determination” that some US fans always point to as what will make this team successful wasn’t there.

US Players now feeling heat after lackluster loss to Honduras
(AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

 

But it wasn’t there for most of the game against Honduras. Who can the US say that they slowed down? How did they impose their will on the game? And most worryingly, after Honduras scored the go ahead goal, did we EVER look like we had it in us to dig in, win the ball back and create a scoring opportunity? They spent the last 9 minutes of the game, half-heartedly chasing after midfielders and defenders who simply passed them into a slow death.

The US wasn’t ready.

And they should have been. Because it’s real now.

Certainly Jurgen Klinsmann knows it now. He knows the questions about the direction and identity of this team won’t cease. About whether Joachim Lowe was the real reason behind Germany’s 3rd place finish at the 2006 World Cup. He’s now seen first hand what we’ve been telling European fans for years about the difficulties of playing away to places like Estadio Saprissa and in San Pedro Sula. He’s now understands that motivational ploys are meaningless if your team is not ready to play. Forget about whether captain Carlos Bocanegra should have started. At this stage, there is no excuse for not having your team ready to play, ready to give 100% for 90 minutes, ready to execute your game plan, ready to impose your influence on the match.

Because it’s real now.

The players have all gone back to their clubs. But I hope this loss sticks in their minds. I hope the veterans of this team pull their lesser experienced teammates forward. I hope the German based players realize that, yes even here in CONCACAF, there are some ballers, some gamers, some “true MF players” as Biggie once said. Timmy Chandler CERTAINLY found out when he got nutmegged on a back heel. I hope the coach instills the sense of urgency that US fans have long known is necessary to succeed in the Hex.

Jamaica knows it. They should have won against Mexico but left Azteca with a well deserved point. Costa Rica knows it, they were down two goals to Panama before coming back to tie. Mexico now knows it because they dropped points at home against a team they usually dominate.

The Red White and Blue needs to show later next month that they understand.

Because it’s real now.

 

 

 

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