Coach Jurgen Klinsmann earned his first victory since taking over the reins of the squad as the Americans defeated Honduras, 1-0. in a Saturday friendly. Fulham star Clint Dempsey scored the game’s only goal in the 35th minute, scoring off his weaker left foot as he fired a well-placed bending shot out of the reach of Honduran goalkeeper Donis Escobar. Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard earned the clean sheet for the Americans, making key saves on shots by Honduras’ Jerry Bengston and Carlos Costly to present Klinsmann with the victory.
The 47 year-old Klinsmann was hired by the U.S. Soccer Federation on July 29 to replace Bob Bradley, who had coached the USMNT since the end of the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. Klinsmann, who coached the German national team in that tournament to a surprisingly strong third-place finish, had been approached several times over since thens to become the USMNT head coach, but it took five years for an satisfactory agreement to be to be reached by both parties.
Klinsmann received a quick baptism of fire, having to coach the Americans against their biggest international rivals, Mexico, in a friendly less than two weeks after his hiring and only six weeks after the Mexican side had stormed back from a 2-0 deficit to score four unanswered goals and win the CONCACAF Gold Cup against Bradley’s Americans. A 73rd minute tap-in goal by Robbie Rogers drew the Americans level with Mexico and gave them a 1-1 draw, a result favorably received by most American team fans.
Two 1-0 friendly losses in September by the Americans to Costa Rica and Belgium saw some criticism of Klinsmann, including the opinion that current German national team coach Jogi Low was the tactical brains behind Germany’s fine run in the 2006 World Cup. So Saturday’s win in Miami against a Honduran squad that played in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa was a needed result for Klinsmann.
After the rain-soaked match, Klinsmann had this to say about the team’s performance against Honduras. “I think we saw a match that we kind of expected. Honduras is a strong and physical side, with surprises and technically gifted players who can score goals out of nothing. It took us a bit to get to a higher pace and the first 20 minutes were a bit too static, movement-wise. Then we took over, created a lot more chances and I had a feeling it was just a question of time until we scored that first goal.”
Klinsmann also added that “I always want to win and get the results right. I think the work and the transition for the team might be easier when they get wins and get the right results. They’re being challenged by us coaches to step it up and go to the next level, to raise the pace and put more work into everything they do. There was a lot of intensity every day [this week] out there and that’s what we demand. We know they can’t do that over 90 minutes yet but that’s our goal. In that process it’s good to have the feeling that we’re doing the right thing but it’s also good to have the feeling that we’re getting the results.”
The California-based German has featured many players in the four friendlies since taking charge, drawing not only from the “regulars” of the USMNT with World Cup experience but also bringing in new players or those who haven’t featured for the national side for awhile. Three Bundesliga players. Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Timmy Chandler (1.FC Nurnberg) and Daniel Williams (1899 Hoffenheim), who was making his U.S. debut, started in Saturday’s match. (FC Ingolstadt’s Edson Buddle did not see the pitch for the American side). Here are four different ratings for the three Bundesliga players.
Steve Cherundolo (right back, 90 minutes) 5.0 Picked up a card for a foul on Benningston, but was involved in the build to Dempsey’s goal. Did get beaten a few times down the line on a fairly poor night for the USA back line. (Goal.com)
5.0 He worked well on the right flank with Williams on overlaps and interpassing, and won a lot of his battles, but didn’t always deal competently with Costly and Bengston. He set up the goal with a slick reverse turn and delicate ball up the flank that Brek Shea drove across the goalmouth. Hit a few good corner kicks that the Hondurans won in the air. (Soccer America)
6.0 A quiet but effective performance. Helped spring Shea in the buildup to Dempsey’s goal. Had some decent set piece deliveries as well. (ESPN Soccernet -Jeff Carlisle)
6.0 A solid performance from the long time vet as he continues to show why he is still the team’s right back. (Yanks Abroad – Brian Sciaretta)
Timmy Chandler (left back, 76 minutes) 5.5 Looked good again on the left. A couple of little mistakes here and there, but generally a solid showing out of his normal position and got forward as expected. Was beaten on a good chance in the second half. (Goal.com)
6.0 Worked some great combinations with Shea, and hit several dangerous crosses, one of which Shea flicked narrowly wide. Shea ran onto a Chandler ball played into the channel to fire a shot narrowly wide. He’s still raw and his reading of situations has to improve, especially against one-twos, yet his athleticism and aggression are pluses. (Soccer America)
5.5 Looked more comfortable playing left back in this match than he did against Belgium and was more of a threat going forward. Still needs to be cleaner on the ball as well as with his positioning. (ESPN Soccernet – Jeff Carlisle)
6.5 Chandler’s second game at left back was much better than his first last month against Belgium. His combination play with Brek Shea created numerous opportunities. Still, he must improve his passing with his left foot. (Yanks Abroad – Brian Sciaretta)
Daniel Williams (right wing, 65 minutes) 6.0 Solid first outing on the right wing. Had some nice combinations with Dempsey and Altidore and had a couple of very good scoring chances. Would have been nice to see a goal out of him, but overall a good showing. (Goal.com)
6.0 Debutant went 65 minutes on the right flank and displayed ruggedness and a willingness to go for goal; a point-blank header on a far post cross was blocked, a curling shot just missed the top corner, and low shot forced an excellent save from Donis Escobar. He didn’t cross much but laid a couple balls for Cherundolo to do so. He showed his inexperience defensively by getting caught upfield and chasing the wrong option, yet did well against a difficult opponent in rainy conditions. (Soccer America)
4.5 Played with plenty of energy, but there was little end product to his endeavors, especially with regard to his distribution. Should have done better when presented with a clear chance in the first half, although he forced a good save from Donis Escobar in the 50th minute. (ESPN Soccernet – Jeff Carlisle)
6.0 It was a very solid debut for the German-born Williams who was not at all familiar with the US national team prior to camp. He was comfortable on the ball and his defense was also effective. Normally a central midfielder, Williams was out of position at right midfield but he looked like he will help the team moving forward. (Yanks Abroad- Brian Sciaretta)
The 22 year-old Williams, who formerly played at SC Freiburg before moving to Hoffenheim in the summer transfer window, had this to say about his U.S. debut. “In Germany, I used to play a little bit more in the center but I also enjoyed being on the right midfield. I will play wherever the coach will let me play. I have to get use to them and they have to get used to me. I felt comfortable on the field and it was nice.” Williams also shared what Klinsmann told him prior to the match. “He said I should have fun and put a smile on my face. Everything would be fine.”
Klinsmann will have the opportunity to build on his first U.S. victory as the national team hosts Ecuador Tuesday evening at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey. Ecuador defeated Venezuela 2-0 in Quito Friday in their first match of CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying. Ecuador were ranked 69th in the last FIFA world rankings in mid-September. Honduras were ranked 53rd while the Americans were ranked 31st, 11 spots behind Mexico.