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ASN Weekly Debate

But Really, How Bad Was the Loss to Honduras?

Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon watched the United States' 2-1 loss to Honduras in person. It looked as bad in the flesh as it did on television. They debate the fallout and what it all means.

BY Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon Posted
February 08, 2013
11:14 AM
FROM AN AIRPORT IN SAN PEDRO SULA....

Noah Davis:
So, that loss. Aye Carumba, etc. etc. But grand scheme of things, how bad was it?

Ryan O'Hanlon: Not as bad as it was made out to be, I don't think. I mean, we talked about this before: this was probably going to be the second-toughest game of the cycle. The more I think about it—the afternoon kickoff, 90-plus degrees, the midweek game with a bunch of guys playing on Sunday and then having to play this upcoming weekend—it might actually be the toughest. So, a loss is not the end of the world, but it looks worse because they had the lead and since it's the most recent game.

Davis: I'm less concerned by the result than a few of the factors that led up to said loss. The U.S. came out flat. Again. They failed to impose their will against a lesser opponent. Again. They allowed a quick goal after scoring. Again. (Probably? I don't know; this seems to happen a lot.) I keep hoping for the Americans to take the "next step" and it never seems to happen. When was the last good result? Italy happened a year ago. Mexico, which looks less impressive considering Wednesday's draw with Jamaica, was six months ago. The win over Guatemala in Kansas City is hardly a win upon which to hang your Oktoberfest cap.

O'Hanlon: Yeah, this game kind of fit in perfectly with all the previous road qualifiers. Start off on the backfoot, then play well for, like, five minutes, score, and then give up one or more goals afterward. There were moments and some pretty good combinations—but that always seems to be the case. You'd like a dominant performance on the road, but that's not realistic. What is: something cohesive, which this wasn't.

Davis: I think a cohesive performance would lead to a dominant one, but whatever. The problem for me is that this isn't a collective; it's a group of 11 individuals who show up to play a game and look like they have no idea what the other ones are going to do. The number of arms raised in frustration or confusion perhaps hit an all-time high at Estadio Olimpico. I understand Klinsmann is trying to inject new starters—and better too early than too late—but did it have to be this early and on a game when the team had essentially one training session together?

O'Hanlon: You just described what I meant by "cohesive." Thanks for being better at me than I am. At the not-as-terrible mixed zone yesterday, Michael Bradley said something vague about the team needing every player in the squad along the way, which is a platitude, but also true. Each game is different—players are tired, players are injured, opponents are different, fields are different sizes—so just in general, you'd think you'd have a specific sort of plan for each game, tailored to all the conditions. Soccer isn't always played in an air-conditioned bubble—although that is fun.

Davis: But why is it so hard? Bob Bradley-era U.S. teams were never exactly pretty, but they did look like they knew each other's names and more or less where and when the runs were going to happen. This is a bit of rose-colored glasses viewing the past and a harsh read of Klinsmann, but I think we should be able to expect more. At the breakfast with Sunil Gulati—I can reference press events, too—he said something about telling Klinsmann that people would immediately expect him to walk across the Hudson. That would be a) gross and b) unfair to the new head coach since progress comes slowly, but I'm growing increasingly concerned that the bridge isn't even being built.

O'Hanlon: Timmy Chandler was the only player not wearing sneakers (he was in sandals and socks) when the team got off the bus before training. Can you beat that? But yeah, I don't really know because I'm not really sure what I'm seeing, maybe? Like, there is a plan for soccer in this country—play better soccer, develop more technical players, don't let the next Messi slip through the cracks—but those are all kind of obvious points. And this team is part of that and (maybe unfairly) the barometer for that. But we never really know what to expect when they play. It almost never feels like they're in control of what's happening on the field.

Davis: But, at least in road qualifiers, we do know what to expect: slow start, struggle to maintain possession, disjointed attack if it's there at all. The only place where confusion reigns is on the field. I've gone negative on this team. I haven't lost faith that they will figure it out, but I'm trending downward.

O'Hanlon: Apparently so have I? But again, this game was really tough. That they lost is fine—who knows what happens if that flick by Altidore is a couple inches lower and finds the upper corner, too—but the way that they lost, I think, is what we're sort of getting angry-behind-a-computer-screen at.

Davis: Estoy furioso ahora. I don't care about the loss. I care that forward progress seems to be stalled. Maybe we are getting set up for a great leap ahead at some TBD point in the future, but man, I'm starting to lose faith that's going to happen in the next six or eight months.

O'Hanlon: Good try, but I'm not going to call Landon Donovan "our savior." *crosses self* *bursts into flames*

Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon do this every week. Sometimes, there are pupusas.

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