Losing the first of ten matches in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying isn’t necessarily time to panic, but it is a wake up call. The idea in the hex is to win at home and to draw away and the results of this week show that this is a strong group of five teams that will make qualifying even tougher. It is time to leave that idea behind and play as a team willing to do the dirty work. Consistency in the line up with players in their true position will help as well. This is a way to instill confidence and work toward winning the rest of the hex matches.
As we all know by now finishing in the final third and width have been recurring issues. However, the other issue is that Jurgen Klinsmann has put forth a new starting line up for each match he has managed after signing on for $2.5 million. There will always be injuries and club conflicts, but building a constant core is possible. The back four against Honduras was a risk as they had never played together before the match.
There is a caveat to this however. The roster must be made up of players that are fit for that match. The Honduras match was a quick turn around for many players. Timmy Chandler was gassed early. He was one of the last to arrive for the match. Chandler and other players based in Europe may still be feeling the fatigue today as their club matches begin. It is great to get Chandler cap tied to the U.S., but was it worth the performance? What is more important in this situation? Steve Cherundolo underwent knee surgery so replacing Chandler would have meant going down the depth chart. Would a fresher Eric Lichaj or even Jonathan Spector, if he were healthy, have had a better match this week?
The players need to play roles they are comfortable in. This could mean leaving a defensive midfielder off the roster to have more depth for the wing. Efficient roster selection should lead to smooth substitutions regardless of if it is like for like or not. A forward thinking game plan for that particular match with clear expectations and goals should dictate roster selection.
Also, team communication needs to be worked out. Perhaps it starts with Klinsmann as he continues to call out individuals players. Now he needs to start talking about his team, not just individuals. Communication was a question going into San Pedro Sula and it is still is heading back to Colorado. If it comes down to doing team building activities, then so be it. Tim Howard and Geoff Cameron were out of touch on the second goal by Honduras, which is a familiar refrain.
Maybe with all this it is time to dump the mantra that the U.S. can be athletic and run to the spot when needed to find a goal. It is time to embrace the grind and play smart. Be physical when necessary. A lot of this starts with making the right roster choices and embracing the team and nation mentality. The result at Honduras has some people calling for a change at head coach, but knowing that isn’t happening it is simply time to dig in.
What do you think must change?