It took a total of four friendlies, but Jurgen Klinsmann finally got his first win as head coach of the United States Men's National Team with a 1-0 victory over Honduras on a soggy night at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida in front of over 21,000 in attendance.
Clint Dempsey's left-footed strike in the 36th minute of play would end up being enough for the United States, although chances would be aplenty throughout the match for both squads.
The rain was pouring down as play began, and you could easily see the effects, as play was initially sloppy. Once both team regained their bearings play opened up, and the chances started piling up for both teams.
In the 12th minute of play U.S. forward Brek Shea headed a Bocanegra cross that was just wide right of Honduran goalkeeper Donis Escobar.
Honduran forward Jerry Bengston would end up giving the United States back line fits all match long, as he continually made nice runs that allowed his teammates to feed him the ball by going over the top of the U.S. defense. In the 19th minute of play Bengston was able to break away from the U.S back line, and would have given Honduras a 1-0 lead if not for a great save from United States goalkeeper, Tim Howard.
The 21st minute saw Shea once again almost find the back of the net when Timmy Chandler crossed the ball into the box, and Shea fired a laser that barely missed over the top of the crossbar.
Chandler continually worked the ball up the left side of the pitch, and was able to cross the ball into dangerous positions at various points throughout the match. It was an impressive showing for Chandler, which hopefully means that perhaps Klinsmann has found someone to man the left side of the United States' defense.
Both teams had squandered numerous chances when Shea made a low cross into the box from the right side of the field. He was able to pick out Clint Dempsey, who was able to re-position himself so he could find enough space to fire a shot past Escobar. At the 36th minute of the match, the United States had taken the lead.
It was only a minute later when the U.S. defense was broken down from yet another pass over the top, this time to Carlo Costly who's shot went just wide left of tying the match at one apiece.
It was around this point in the game when head referee Courtney Campbell went on a yellow card frenzy. Ultimately, Campbell would hand out eight yellow cards. In a fourteen minute period of the match alone (from the 32nd minute to the 46th) Campbell gave four yellow cards.
None the less, after Cherundolo, Altidore, Bocanegra, and Oscar Garcia were booked in that span, the first half ended with the United States in an unfamiliar position in the Klinsmann era; having the lead.
The second half began, and only three minutes in we saw Honduras and Sporting Kansas City midfielder tackled by Kyle Beckerman. Realize that I'm using the word "tackled" very loosely, as Espinoza continually embellished contact the entire night until he was substituted in the 75th minute.
I love Roger Espinoza, but I simply can't stand the way that he is always more than willing to fall down at the first sign of contact from the opposing team. As the match went on, the act became quite irritating. Why a player like Roger, who actually had a good game for the most part, feels the need to essentially cheat to try and get calls, is beyond me. I suppose some would say embellishing contact isn't cheating, but to me it is. It's dishonest. I counted no less than eight flops by Espinoza throughout the course of the game.
Alright, I'm done complaining about Roger.
In the 52nd minute Bengston once again had a great oppurtunity to score from the left side of goal, but this time Bengston fired his shot right at Howard.
A minute later Jozy Altidore set Shea up with a nice pass that left Shea with no one to beat but the goalkeeper. As Shea prepared to fire a shot that would have surely put the United States up 2-0, he lost his footing, no doubt from the extremely wet conditions, and the U.S. had once again missed a golden opportunity to pad their lead.
The 60th minute saw Bengston once again threatening, this time from a Julio Cesar de Leon pass that Bengston slightly mistimed as he attempted to head the ball into the goal, but it was just enough for him to whiff on a chance that would have leveled the match.
Needless to say, when Bengston was substituted in the 65th minute, I was more than relieved.
Mere moments later the U.S. had another great chance when Dempsey fired a shot that Escobar was able to deflect, but the ball fell to U.S. defender Oguchi Onyewu, who found himself with a clear shot on goal. He got way too far under the ball on his attempt, and it sailed over the top of goal.
The tail end of the game would see Howard make a couple more impressive saves, one on a Mario Martinez shot in the 73rd minute, and yet another on a free kick just two minutes later.
The 82nd minute saw Klinsmann substitute Jozy Altidore with Juan Agudelo, which all but killed any chance of Sporting Kansas City striker Teal Bunbury from making an appearance in the match. I'm crossing my fingers that Klinsmann will give Teal a shot to play this coming Tuesday, when the United States hosts Ecuador.
It appeared that Dempsey had once again found the back of the net in the 84th minute, when he headed the ball past Esobar from a Jonathan Spector cross, but the goal was called back when Dempsey was called for a foul for apparently climbing over the back of the Honduran defender.
At the end , Dempsey's one goal would be enough to earn Klinsmann his first win as coach of the United States, a 1-0 victory over Honduras. It was a good showing from the USMNT, although they did squander a number of great chances.
This coming Tuesday will be another opportunity for Klinsmann and the team to build on last night's victory.
Players who improved their USMNT stock
Brek Shea, Clint Dempsey, Tim Chandler, Danny Williams, Tim Howard
Player who hurt his USMNT stock
Not that he's in any danger of losing his starting job, but Bocanegra didn't have a good game. Some questionable passing, and the defense's inability to contain Bengston ultimately fall on the team captain's shoulders.
Man of the Match- For me, it's Howard. He made a handful of clutch saves, and was able to deal with Bengston on multiple occasions. Bailed out the U.S. defense big time.
Lineups: (via MLSsoccer.com)
United States: Tim Howard; Steve Cherundolo, Michael Orozco Fiscal (Oguchi Onyewu, 46), Carlos Bocanegra (capt.), Tim Chandler (Jonathan Spector, 76); Kyle Beckerman; Danny Williams (DaMarcus Beasley, 65), Maurice Edu (Michael Bradley, 65), Brek Shea; Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore (1Juan Agudelo, 83)
Substitues not used: Bill Hamid, Jeff Larentowicz
Honduras: Donis Escobar; Mauricio Sabillón, Osman Chávez, Johnny Leverón, Maynor Figueroa (capt.); Óscar Boniek García (Marvin Chávez, 77), Alfredo Mejía, Roger Espinoza (Jorge Claros, 74), Julio César de León (Mario Martínez, 69); Jerry Bengtson (Roger Rojas, 65), Carlo Costly
Substitutes not used: Donaldo Morales, Erick Norales, Bryan Beckeles