USA Back on Track After Beating Honduras 2-1

Jim NguyenCorrespondent IJune 7, 2009

CHICAGO - JUNE 06: Carlos Bocanegra #3 of the United States (R, facing camera) is mobbed by teammates after scoring the winning goal against Honduras during a FIFA 2010 World Cup Qualifying match on June 6, 2009 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. The United States defeated Honduras 2-1. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The U.S. Men's National Team needed to regain some of their swagger after the crushing defeat in San Jose, Costa Rica on Wednesday. The victory last night over Honduras provided a much needed tonic for the struggling team.

But it still wasn't easy.

After some fancy footwork by Clint Dempsey went awry in the USA half in the fifth minute, the Honduran team quickly pounced on the loose ball and Carlos Costly unleashed an accurate shot from long-range out of the grasp of a diving Tim Howard.

Here we go again, the team thought. Down early to a good opponent yet again.

But to the U.S. team's credit, they fought back. A handball by Honduras in their penalty area just before the first half resulted in a Landon Donovan converted penalty kick, and we were now tied 1-1.

The U.S. went ahead for good in the 68th minute on a corner kick that Dempsey redirected to a corkscrewing Carlos Bocanegra, who buried the ball with head into the back of the net. The U.S. players went crazy, as that moment both demonstrated the importance the goal not just on the scoreboard, but to the collective psyche of this team and its fans.

The U.S. held on, and thanks to El Salvador (who shocked Mexico 2-1), the Americans are firmly in second place in the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying group with 10 points, two points behind Costa Rica (who also won vs. Trinidad and Tobago) and five points clear of third place El Salvador. One has to think that given Mexico's problems, we have a decent shot to get a result when the U.S. goes to daunting Azteca Stadium on August 12.

We learned a great deal about this team after the loss:

First, the U.S. should have learned its lesson about going down early. In other words, that cannot happen again.

Second, the U.S. knows that if it does fall behind, it will take a collectively strong effort to come back - but they know they can do that now if needed.

Third, the U.S. is still not that great tactically but it is an athletic squad that can give teams in the World Cup problems only if it plays hard and aggressively like it did last night against Honduras.

Fourth, there is no room for complacency, especially among our veteran stars. We saw a completely different Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey from the Costa Rica match (the latter after his gaffe): more aggressive, competitive, and willing to put in a workmanlike performance.

Fifth, we discovered some players who look like they will play a larger role on this team going forward. This list of players includes Benny Feilhaber, Conor Casey, Jonathan Bornstein, Jonathan Spector and Jay DeMerit. We have some depth at right back once Steve Cherundolo and Frankie Hejduk return from injury as Spector played well.

Sixth, going with a 4-4-2 alignment will be the preferred lineup. I doubt Bob Bradley will experiment anymore.

Seventh (and finally!) there are a couple of potential formations we may see in South Africa at the Confederations Cup and even beyond based on the personnel and formations of the last two games. I'll take a stab at what I believe we'll see:

Possible Formation 1: 4-4-2 with a traditional holding striker up top






Possible Formation 2: 4-4-2 with Dempsey up top with Altidore





In conclusion, this team appears to have found itself after a bit of soul-searching this week. Some teams need to face adversity in order to grow from the experience and become better.

We're about to find out if the U.S. will learn the lessons from this week and play aggressive, competitive soccer it displayed against Honduras or if it will look out of sorts and timid as it did against Costa Rica.