DEMPSEY LIFTS US PAST CATRACHOS
On a rainy and windy night in Miami, the US national team used a 36th minute strike from Clint Dempsey to defeat Honduras and give Jurgen Klinsmann his first win as USMNT head coach.
Prior to tonight the US team had not won since a 1-0 win over Panama in the semifinals of the Gold Cup in June and Klinsmann began the game with a lineup consisting mostly with players who featured in his previous camps.
The only new players for the US were Danny Williams who earned the start at right midfield in first international cap and long-time veteran Oguchi Onyewu earned his first cap under Klinsmann.
The German-born Williams acquired his US passport only nine days ago but as the son of an American serviceman, he admitted to being surprised that he was in the starting lineup. At the same time, he was also honored to represent the United States.
"It was a great feeling," Williams recalled of the experience. "I had goose bumps because when the national anthem was playing I [realized] this was my first time with the US national team and I really enjoyed it."
The US began the game slowly and Honduras had the first chance of the game after US defender Michael Orozco committed a foul on the edge of the penalty box. On the ensuing free kick, Carlo Costly missed the net just wide
The US earned their first chance of the game in the 12th minute when Timothy Chandler, who was playing left back for the second time with the US, hit a cross that found Brek Shea but his header missed just wide.
The play was one of several successful combinations in the game between Chandler and Shea that resulted in scoring opportunities.
"We were roommates in Belgium and we're pretty good friends," Shea discussed of his developing chemistry with Chandler. "It's definitely building each game. We're getting to know what we like each other to do and the space we like to move to. It's getting better each camp."
Klinsmann agreed that the combination is very promising for the US team.
"We saw a continuation of [Shea's] partnership with Timmy Chandler from the Belgium game," Klinsmann added. "This partnership seems like something they're enjoying and I think Brek only confirms here what he's doing in Dallas. He's growing into a better and better player."
In the 19th minute US goalkeeper Tim Howard made one of his best saves of the match when Jerry Bengston got behind the American defense and moved all alone against Howard who would come up with the save.
After that dangerous opportunity for Honduras, the US team came d to come to life and began to dictate the level of play.
"I think it took us a little bit to get into a higher pace," Klinsmann said after the game. "The first 20 minutes was a bit too static movement wise but also because Honduras did a good job pushing high up. Then after 20-25 minutes we took over and we created a lot more chances and I the feeling out there that it was just a matter of time before we scored that first goal."
In the 24th minute the US almost got on the board when Steve Cherundolo took a long free kick that found Maurice Edu in the box but Edu's header was saved by Honduran goalkeeper Donis Escobar.
In the 30th minute Williams almost scored for the US in his first ever cap. On the play Chandler hit a diagonal pass that found Shea cutting into the box. Shea hit a shot that was deflected out but it landed at the feet of Williams who shot it just over the bar.
In the 36th minute, the US finally broke through when Brek Shea sent a low cross from the right side in the direction of Jozy Altidore. Altidore dummied the pass and it slightly deflected off Orozco Fiscal and found Dempsey.
Dempsey collected with his right foot and prepared for a shot. When he noticed it was not a clear shot, he switched to his left foot and fired it past Escobar.
"I tried to hit it with my right foot but I saw it was going to get deflected," Dempsey said of the play. "So I shifted the play to where I could get an open shot on goal and I just tried to place it. It's kind of freestyle. You just try to set yourself up in a way you think you can get a good shot on goal to score."
For Shea, he admits he was not specifically trying to find Dempsey but rather he saw a number of American players in the area and figured a good cross would find someone.
"To be honest I saw a bunch of guys and I just kind of whipped it in there," Shea recalled. "It happened to fall to Clint's feet and he happened to do well to finish it."
Early in the second half the United States almost doubled their lead when Williams found Altidore on the right side. Altidore then swung a low pass across the goal mouth but Shea slipped and could not connect with the ball when he had an open net in front of him.
In the 66th minute the US blew another easy chance when a Dempsey shot forced an Escobar save. On the rebound, Onyewu had a wide open net but hit it over the goal from only 6 yards.
In the 85th minute, the US appeared to have a goal when Dempsey headed home a cross from substitute left back Jonathan Spector but he was whistled for a foul instead.
"The second came in late with Clint Dempsey's header but for whatever reason it was disallowed," Klinsmann said in disbelief of the call. "It reminded us of Belgium - two goals that they stole us but that's the way it is."
The US defense would hold up well for the remainder of the game and after three minutes of injury time, the final whistle blew.
All in all, it was an uneven performance for the US team that created many chances but failed to capitalize on all but one. The team also needed Howard to come up with several high quality saves to preserve a shutout.
"There are some breakdowns in the game over the course of 90 minutes," Altidore said. "That's always going to happen when you have some lapses and some bad giveaways. But I thought throughout the game we did enough to win."
The win gave the United States its first victory for Jurgen Klinsmann. After two losses and a draw, the German-born head coach feels that the win will help the team in its transition towards his style and game plan.
"I think the transition for the team might be a bit easier when they get wins and get the right results - on the way to getting challenged from us coaches to step it up, to go to the next level, to raise the pace, to put more work into everything they do," Klinsmann assessed. "We want them to get used to that high intensity, we know that they can't do that over 90 minutes yet but that's what our goal is."
Tim Howard, who was voted as Man of the Match, agreed that winning is what gives the team confidence in the new system and getting victories was a major goal coming into the games of this international window.
"You never want to go a long period without winning," Howard pointed out. "We've performed well, I think, and we're trying to set a foundation but ultimately you have to win and that was our focus coming into these dates."
The US team will now travel up to New Jersey for Tuesday night's friendly against Ecuador at Red Bull Arena.