Jürgen Klinsmann's side remained two points clear at the top of the Hexagonal with a ruthlessly professional victory at Rio Tinto Stadium on Tuesday night.1. Consider this slog a timely reminder of the difficult road ahead: Honduras made this match difficult on the Americans. The visitors established a stout defensive shape and maintained their discipline for large stretches of the affair. This diligence frustrated the Americans for the better part of the first hour, but the home side eventually increased the tempo and sliced open the dogged rearguard for the goal required to win the game. The final result occurred through a mixture of patience and quality, two factors always required to churn out victories in the Hexagonal muck.
2. Bask in the glow of a confident striker: Jozy Altidore collected his fourth goal in four games to decide this match and prolong this profitable run of form in a U.S. shirt. The manner of the finish – a cool, tidy sweep inside the far corner from a tempting Fabian Johnson feed – oozed of a player teeming with self-belief at the moment. Klinsmann placed a priority on opening the supply lines to the prolific Eredivisie striker. Altidore's recent production vindicates Klinsmann's restored faith in his front man.
3. Appreciate the increasing importance of Graham Zusi: The improvement in Zusi's game from camp to camp and game to game continues to astound. His man-of-the-match display on this evening served as the latest in a series of performances designed to underscore his viability at the international level. His endeavor and his service tormented poor Arnold Peralta for most of the night. His movement permitted Fabian Johnson to overlap at the right times, too. Zusi's clever flick in the buildup to Altidore's winner just about summed up his contribution to the cause. At this stage, one of the midfield berths is his to lose.
4. Cede ground to Michael Bradley and pay the consequences: Honduras cobbled together a solid defensive structure, but its shape allotted plenty of space for Bradley to acquire possession without pressure and dictate the tempo of the second half. His range of passing – though the longer ball simply didn't connect on this night – opens the field and sets the cadence for the team. By permitting Bradley to collect deep in midfield, move forward unhindered and push the ball onwards without closing him down, the visitors encouraged the Americans to employ their metronome and ratchet up the tempo to a level too brisk to handle.
5. Ponder the future ramifications of the occasionally sloppy work out of the back: Only a monumental and unprecedented setback will keep the United States from reaching Brazil. The focus in the final four games – beyond securing the one victory required to reach the magical number of 16 points – will inevitably turn toward rooting out potentially fatal tendencies before the World Cup starts next year.
The one or two crippling passes out of the back per game continue to stand out as a potential trouble spot in more rigorous games. This team cannot afford to concede possession inside its own half and expect to emerge unscathed on a regular basis. Honduras could not punish a dreadful Omar Gonzalez turnover on this night, but other, better sides will press the center backs earnestly and reap the benefits. It is a conundrum Klinsmann must solve in order to ensure the positive work on the whole (89 percent pass completion rate for Matt Besler and Gonzalez on this night, according to Opta statistics) is not undermined by one critical error.
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