In hindsight, the US had a successful 2014 World Cup Qualifying campaign, clinching a berth with two games to spare. The start of qualifying couldn’t have been more dramatic, though, with an away loss to Honduras and an explosive article questioning the harmony of the US team and Jurgen Klinsmann’s coaching acumen.
The US corrected its trajectory by the home rematch against Honduras, but this is CONCACAF, where home games are usually measured by degrees of frustration against an opponent in a deep bunker.
Frustration defined the first 70 minutes of the US attack, with near-misses and half-chances accumulating. The breakthrough came in the 73rd minute with an idealized version of Klinsmann’s vision for the US.
Michael Bradley circulates the ball to Clint Dempsey about 35 yards from goal, with Honduras dropping 10 men behind the ball. Dempsey pushes the tempo, and plays a ball forward to Graham Zusi while racing forward. Three Honduran defenders converge, but Zusi makes a subtle touch to an onrushing Fabian Johnson. Johnson – who started his overlapping run before Dempsey released his pass – finds himself with plenty of space in the box to pick out Jozy Altidore. Altidore’s quick run toward the ball leaves him unmarked, and he finishes with the side of his left foot from 12 yards out with ease.
The US always finds itself in an odd place tactically when it’s forced to dictate the game against a bunkering CONCACAF opponent. Here, the US showed it’s possible to play at a quick tempo in the attacking third, even when the entire opposition falls back.