Pressure on USA coach Klinsmann
Since Jurgen Klinsmann took over as head coach of the US men's national team, his tenure has been described in glowing terms as a renaissance - a transition from what was portrayed as the dark ages (an unfair portrayal of a period far more successful than revisionist history is suggesting). Klinsmann is serving as the prophet sent to deliver American soccer from mediocrity.
While it will be some time before we know what Klinsmann’s ultimate impact will be, we know that, at some point, results will matter, and after three matches without a win, the clock seems to be ticking just a tad quicker on Klinsmann’s honeymoon.
Klinsmann is 0-2-1 as head coach, and as much as he will start facing more questions if his team doesn’t start winning, the veteran nucleus of the US team is already starting to feel the need to start showing results.
“You’ve got to start putting pressure on yourself to start getting the right results,” star attacker Clint Dempsey said. “You need to get to winning ways and we’re a team that has experience and the quality on our side that we should be expecting from ourselves.”
If the United States is in need of a win, then it could ask for a worse opponent that Honduras. The Americans know Honduras all too well, having played the Catrachos five times in the past three years. While Honduras is a good opponent, and still one of the better teams in CONCACAF, the United States has also developed a habit for beating the Hondurans, unbeaten playing first-team players versus the World Cup-qualifiers since 2001 (though Honduras did beat a US team consisting of MLS players in 2009).
The US team that will take the field at Sun Life Stadium will be as close to a first team as we've seen since Klinsmann took over. With the exception of Landon Donovan, who is missing the match due to a leg injury, any player who has played for the United States with any regularlity over the past year will be available for selection.
Projected Starting XI, United States vs. Honduras, October 8, 2011
The squad includes what has the makings of the first-choice US defense for the foreseeable future. Tim Chandler is looking like a good bet to start at left back again, after showing well at the new position against Belgium. Steve Cherundolo should anchor the right back spot, and the familiar centerback tandem of Oguchi Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra looks like a good bet to start.
Onyewu’s return to the national team (after failing to appear in the Gold Cup) ends a lengthy stretch away from first-team national team action. The long-standing starter struggled to regain the form he showed prior to a torn patella tendon he sustained in October 2009.
“His movements are a lot better,” Bocanegra said of Onyewu. “He’s had a few injuries the past few years, and now he’s playing for his club team. His movement, and his overall confidence are looking good.”
Among the new faces in camp, one who has impressed is German-born defender/midfielder Danny Williams. The 22-year-old Hoffenheim player recently completed the paperwork for his one-time switch to play for the United States and has enjoyed a smooth transition into the squad, impressing with his versatility and his bite.
Danny Wiliams has slotted into the United States team effortlessly. (Photo by J Pat Carter/AP Images)
“He’s like a sponge - he just wants to take everything in. He’s very excited,” Klinsmann said of Williams. “He’s also proud, very proud to come into this camp.
“He can play several roles. He can play in midfield, almost everywhere. He loves to go forward, he loves to finish things off.
“(Williams) can be nasty. We talked about it after the last game, in Belgium. I saw positives and negatives about the game, and one thing that was a little bit lacking was more nastiness in our game.
"He goes at you. He goes one against one, he can be very tough to deal with.”
Another player who has stepped up in the current US camp is Jozy Altidore. The form he’s shown in jumping out to an impressive start for Dutch club AZ Alkmaar, where he has scored seven goals in all competitions less than two months into the new season, has caught the attention of teammates and Klinsmann.
“The way he has presented himself is a big difference to a couple of weeks ago,” Klinsmann said of Altidore.
The United States will need Altidore to create problems for a Honduras side that we last saw giving Mexico trouble in the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals, where Mexico needed overtime to win. The physical forward combo of Carlo Costly and Jerry Bengston should pose problems, while MLS midfielders Marvin Chavez and Roger Espinoza should provide good tests to the US fullbacks.
Defensively, Honduras could be more vulnerable than in past editions, with European-based standouts Hendry Thomas and Emilio Izaguirre absent and Wilson Palacios also pulling out of the Honduras camp.
The US attack should be able to create opportunities, and with an in-form Altidore and Dempsey leading the offense, Jurgen Klinsmann stands a good chance of recording his first win as US manager.
Now if he and his team doesn’t record that first victory, and the Americans fail to put away chances (as they did in the surprise loss to Costa Rica), you’ll see the clock on Klinsmann’s honeymoon period begin to tick even faster, with questions about whether the Klinsmann is moving the team forward.