The United States remain unbeaten after the 2014 World Cup, earning a 1-1 draw over fellow CONCACAF foes Honduras on Tuesday night at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida.
Since losing to Belgium in the World Cup round of 16, the Americans have beaten Czech Republic and drawn with Ecuador. While they're still yet to lose, the States haven't taken massive steps forward. The attack remains a work in progress, while coach Jurgen Klinsmann is trying to figure out his best defensive combination.
This match saw the return of many domestic-based USMNT stars, which allowed Klinsmann to reiterate his criticism of star players like Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley plying their trade in Major League Soccer rather than a top European league.
"There's nothing I can do about it," he said, per Ives Galarcep of Sporting News. "I made it clear with Clint's move back and (Bradley's) move back that it’s going to be very difficult for them to keep that same level that they experienced at the places where they were. It's just reality. It's just being honest."
Klinsmann added that he hoped struggling striker Jozy Altidore would figure it out at Sunderland rather than pursue a move back to the States. Altidore's failed to score for the Black Cats this season and according to WhoScored.com has only played a total of 53 minutes in the Premier League.
After the game, U.S. Soccer provided Altidore's thoughts on the game:
The only thing that can rebuild his confidence is scoring goals, and that's exactly what he did in the 10th minute against Honduras. Bradley delivered a great ball over the top of the Honduran defense, and Altidore eventually cut inside before unraveling a shot at the near post that beat goalkeeper Donis Escober.
Bradley's pass gave MLSSoccer.com's Matthew Doyle the opportunity to throw a dig at the way Toronto FC have used the American midfielder so far this season:
With the goal, Altidore moved into a tie for fifth in U.S. Soccer's record books, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Mix Diskerud was arguably the most important player in the buildup to the goal. He won the ball in midfield to begin the attack.
Bleacher Report's Jerrad Peters was very complimentary of Diskerud's performance and argued that the Rosenborg midfielder is beginning to act much like Bradley did before he moved higher up the pitch:
Many likely expected the United States to take complete control of the match after scoring the early goal. However, the longer the friendly went, the more Honduras became comfortable. The U.S. couldn't build on its lead, or even get another shot on goal for that matter.
When it came to creating anything in the final third, the Americans were woefully lacking. Honduras weren't any better, but the United States' inability to create much of anything mean that all Los Catrachos needed was one goal to level the match and put the U.S. on the back foot.
Center back Maynor Figueroa duly delivered in the 86th minute. He out-jumped Jermaine Jones and headed in a free kick from Mario Martinez.
Doyle was critical of both Jones' handling of Figueroa and goalkeeper Nick Rimando's positioning:
Juan Rodriguez nearly gave Honduras the lead in the 90th minute, but Rimando pounced on the shot and held onto the ball to prevent the rebound. The U.S. had a free kick close to goal a little before the final whistle, but Joe Corona's delivery was well off the mark.
This was the second game in a row in which the United States surrendered a late lead. Enner Valencia scored an 88th minute equalizer in a draw with the U.S. last Friday.
Particularly troubling for Klinsmann will be the performances of Bradley, who did very little outside of the assist for Altidore, and Graham Zusi, who's having a tough go of it since a disappointing World Cup. Rimando also had a few shaky moments in goal, but he seems the best option to replace Tim Howard at the moment.
A few of the positives will be Diskerud and Jones, who didn't play poorly at center back. Having a more active defender helped cover for Matt Besler, who looked extremely tired along with the others who've played an entire MLS season.
All in all, this match was a step in the right direction—albeit a small one—for the U.S.
Jozy Altidore, United States: B+
Altidore got on the score sheet, and right now, that's all you can ask of him. He's in such a funk at the moment that any goal, no matter the opponent, is a major positive development.
Outside of the goal, Altidore didn't do much, but that was largely a result of the larger deficiencies in the final third.
The biggest issue for him going forward is getting meaningful minutes with Sunderland and making the most of them.
Mix Diskerud, United States: A-
Diskerud gets docked a bit for picking up the foul that led to Honduras' goal. Other than that, however, he was very good in midfield. He did a little bit of everything, whether it was controlling possession and winning the ball in midfield or advancing higher up the pitch and helping the attack.
Galarcep highlighted a moment in the second half when Diskerud weaved through the Honduran defense:
That move was a taste of what he could do for the national team in the future.
Maynor Figueroa, Honduras: A
On defending alone, Figueroa was good enough to earn something in the "B+" to "A-" range. Scoring the equalizer pushed him firmly into "A" territory.
All of the Honduran defense did their part, but Figueroa was the standard-bearer and tone-setter for the unit. Time and again he repelled the American attack and helped to minimize Dempsey and Altidore at the top of the pitch.
The United States meet Ireland on Nov. 18 in their next fixture. The match will take place at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Honduras remain on the road for their next two friendlies. They get Japan on Nov. 13 and then play China on Nov. 17.