Team America is World Cup bound. All the teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing about the squad’s inconsistent play, their inability to score goals from the run of play, Coach Bob Bradley’s squad selection – it can all go away, at least for a little while. The US beat Honduras 3-2 Saturday night in San Pedro Sula, the only team to win down there during qualification. And they did it by battling hard, refusing to quit even after going down a goal, and riding the superior skill and tireless efforts of one Landon Donovan.
I ended up watching this game on my computer via alternating webfeeds from Central America and Iraq (of all places). The quality was bad and the feed lagged at times, but at least I was able to watch. Five point in your bound-for-South Africa Pentagram…
- Conor Casey? Yes, Conor Casey. CC has always had a couple of key attributes: his physical play (running into keepers) and his clinical finishing skills. It’s why, now that he’s finally been able to play a full season without injury, he’s near the top of the MLS goal-scoring list. Casey is slow and looked downright bad at times in the Confederations Cup, but he was all aces Saturday night. Were those two goals enough to book him for next summer?
- Holden should play next summer. He’s athletic and skillful enough to make a difference; now he just needs more seasoning (and to stay healthy). His crosses provide an added dimension on the flank, and he was like a mini-Hejduk out there tracking back and overlapping. Dempsey remains the best option on the right, but Holden has clearly set himself up for some PT.
- Backline looks shaky again. After putting it together his last summer for a time, the defense has work to do. DeMerit has been sorely missed, but there’s no guarantee Bob would start him there again anyway with his obvious preference for Bocanegra (who seems to be good for at least one bad mistake per game). Gooch’s lack of playing time for Milan was evident, as was Spector’s. Meanwhile, Bornstein seemed better on the left, but most of us can’t wait to see what Edgar Castillo might do there.
- Donovan continues to bring it. He was everywhere. Again. Setup the go-ahead goal for Casey and then stepped up to hit that free-kick like your MVP should, not to mention the tireless running and composure on the ball. During the first half, when Honduras was pressing, he seemed like the only midfielder able to bring the ball forward. Hopefully Bob decides to employ some different midfield options to alleviate this (Edu, Jones, Feilhaber?), so Landon can do more playmaking.
- Now what, boys? First of all, beat Costa Rica on Wednesday and win the Hexagonal outright. Then we can talk about integrating guys like Castillo and Jones (assuming his leg heals). We can all begin wringing our hands about the 23 players who will make the trip next summer, all while hoping to avoid key injuries. It will be interesting to see what kind of friendlies the US lines up in preparation. Here’s a guess – you will see some marquee teams on the list. But of course most important in all this is the actual World Cup draw, which will take place in Cape Town on December 4. A favorable draw (like getting one of the weaker Asian or African teams) would make things a lot more manageable than the group of death we faced last time around in Germany.
In other sports-related news from the weekend, Beemsville endorses the Grubbhub analysis of what happened in Champaign on Saturday.