USA vs. Honduras: 5 Keys to Securing Jurgen Klinsmann's 1st Win
Jurgen Klinsmann has done quite a few things during his short reign as head coach of the United States men's soccer team, but one of the those things has yet to be a win. The team has a good chance to finally remedy that and bring Klinsmann his first victory this Saturday against a Honduras squad that looks to be slightly over-matched.
That said, this isn't a slam dunk for the US side for a few reasons, the main one being that their biggest star, Landon Donovan, is sitting out with a right quadriceps strain. However, even with their leader down, the United States can still pull out a win this Saturday.
How will they go about doing so? Read on to find out the five keys to a US victory.
5. Replace a Star
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As I said in the title slide, Landon Donovan has been forced to sit out of this match against Honduras. The man called up to replace him is Edson Buddle, whose international career has been marred by injuries. Hopefully this game will be the beginning of a turn around for him.
When healthy, Buddle has long been an electric goal scorer in the MLS. In fact, in 2010 he scored 17 goals in only 25 appearances for the LA Galaxy and claimed most of the major team awards, including team MVP.
He has continued that success as he's moved over to Germany, where he's already scored eight goals for FC Ingolstadt 04. This kind of success during his past two years bodes well for Buddle's international career.
It will be hard for anyone to play as well as Donovan would have, but Buddle, who is 30 years old, might be able to provide a little of that veteran leadership the team needs. Plus, if he can show off his ability to score at a high level in this game, he might have a future on Jurgen Klinsmann's international squad, which would be great news for a man who has tons of skill but hasn't been able to stay healthy.
4. Make Strong First Impressions
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Jurgen Kilnsmann is still trying to figure the exact US squad that's going to work for his style of play. That means he's giving many players a chance to make their mark during this first run of matches. This Saturday, two guys will get that chance—Oguchi Onyewu and Danny Williams.
Onyewu has already proven himself to be an asset for the United States back line, but he was hit with a big knee injury a few years ago and until recently never looked like the same player. However, last week he had a huge game for his club team, Sporting Lisbon, as he kept Lazio from scoring until late in the second half when his team was down to only 10 men.
That kind of a performance bodes well for a guy who was labeled "rusty" during the 2010 World Cup. If he can get back to form, that will greatly improve the United States' chances because of how thin their back line has been. He looks to be in top form for this match, but only time will tell if he's the answer Klinsmann is looking for.
Danny Williams is the bigger question mark entering this match. The 22-year-old midfielder from Germany will be participating his first-ever camp for the US squad and could look to have an impact on the game.
His biggest role might be in showing whether or not Klinsmann is making the right decision by selecting to see guys like Williams over top MLS defenders like Omar Gonzalez and Chad Marshall. Considering these are just friendlies, Klinsmann might be trying to look at what he has at the attacking positions before putting together his defensive backfield from the many excellent players in the MLS.
3. Hold Steady
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Injecting new blood into the team can be a good way to improve them, but if the US plans to pick up a victory, they are going to need solid performances from some of their veterans. The title of this slide might seem a little vague, but I could think of no better way to describe what goalkeeper Tim Howard needs to do.
Howard has long been one of the best goalkeepers in the world and has given the US an edge in virtually every game they've played. A young goalie, Bill Hamid, looks like he could one day take over in the box for the US, but for now, this is Tim Howard's team.
Howard needs to play with the skill and intensity we've come to expect if the US plans to win. Honduras is missing star midfielder Wilson Palacios, but they have quite a few young guys who will be looking to make a name for themselves against Howard.
Howard's veteran presence will give the US an edge like he always does, but with a questionable back line, Howard might be challenged by some of Honduras' strikers. If he can keep the opposing squad to one score or less, the United States has a great shot at winning this contest.
2. Provide a Spark
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Jurgen Klinsmann's squad has yet to really establish themselves as a squad that can put up points against anyone. In fact, through their first three games the team has only put a ball in the back of the net once. Needless to say, they need to find someone who can provide points.
Luckily, they have two guys who just might be able to do that this week. The first is Jozy Altidore.
Altidore has been on fire so far this year for AZ Alkmaar, scoring three goals in only seven appearances. This is good news considering that he was sidelined with a pulled hamstring this summer and had to miss the final rounds of the Gold Cup.
If he can continue this torrid pace into the weekend, we may get to see him score another goal or two, giving the US the shot of adrenaline they desperately need.
The other man who may be able to have an impact in the box score is Clint Dempsey. Dempsey missed the first two games of Klinsmann's reign but was finally able to play in the loss to Belgium. Although he didn't make the scorer's sheet in that game, he had quite a few chances that just missed.
Look for him to continue manufacturing chances but to finally finish at least once in this matchup.
Look for at least one of these two to get the United States started on the right foot. You have to score goals to win, and these two look like the two most likely to do so.
1. Don't Buy into the Hype
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At this point the biggest mistake the United States could make is to buy into their own hype. Almost everyone is predicting a US win, and if the players begin to believe that they're better than Honduras they won't win this game.
They haven't beaten anyone yet, and it would be a disaster if they come into this Saturday acting like they have. Making them play like underdogs would show how good of a coach Jurgen Klinsmann is. If he lets them go in thinking they've already won, then US soccer could continue to have frustrating performances for the next few months.
That said, I think Klinsmann will make sure his men have their heads on straight. I'm looking for big performances from Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore. I'll also have my eye focused on how well Edson Buddle and Oguchi Onyewu perform in hopes that they can give the team some solid depth as they move forward.
In the end, the United States should be able to win this game. I'm not predicting it to be a run-away win because the back line is questionable and they haven't proven they can score efficiently yet. However, I think they'll be able to stay ahead of an over-classed Honduras squad.
FINAL: United States 2, Honduras 1