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Winners and Losers: United States vs. Honduras

By Noah Davis

No one would confuse it for The Beautiful Game, but the United States Men's National Team defeated Honduras 2-0 at Chicago's Solider Field to advance into the finals of the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup. It was an impressive result for an American squad that's playing almost entirely without its first team. On Sunday, the U.S., which beat the Catrachos for the third time since June 6th, will face the winner of the second half of the night's doubleheader, a tilt between Costa Rica and Mexico.

Winners

Stuart Holden
The Houston Dynamo midfielder, who has been the U.S.'s best player during the two-week tournament, started off the match slowly. He miss hit a couple of crosses in the opening quarter hour and should have done better with long shots in the 23rd and 27th minutes. Once he ran into the game, however, Holden demonstrated his dynamic brand of attacking football. He forced Honduran keeper Donis Escobar to make an acrobatic save on a free kick in the 43rd and then another sprawling tip on the ensuing corner. The Scotland-born 23-year-old dominated the right flank -- where he's spent much of the tournament -- and looked comfortable on the ball in the middle of the field, almost certainly a result of playing as a central midfielder for his club side. An assist on Kenny Cooper's game-icing tally was icing on Holden's semifinal cake.

Robbie Rogers
One of the few players on the Gold Cup roster with a shot to make the U.S. squad if and when it qualifies for the 2010 World Cup, Rogers has been frustratingly inconsistent so far. This trend continued against Honduras. He started out fast, running hard and pressuring the Catrachos right side into a number of mistakes. In the 10th minute, he whipped a wonderful curling cross into the box that Brian Ching headed wide. In the middle part of the first half, however, Rogers tried to be too cute at times, turning the ball over far too easily. He took a bad touch on mini-break just before halftime that forced him into a bad angle, although Clarence Goodson scored on the subsequent corner kick. Overall, Rogers' play was solid -- he could have earned a penalty kick at the beginning of second 45 minutes -- but not spectacular -- seconds later, he needed to deliver a better cross.

Chad Marshall
Is there anything he can't win in the air, both on defense and offense? With his play during the Gold Cup, the Columbus Crew's stalwart centerback has likely moved into third or fourth position on the American depth chart (depending on whether you include Carlos Bocanegra). More impressive than his aerial game, of which MLS fans are already aware, was his foot speed. He won a footrace with Carlos Costly in the 11th minute, sending a dangerous ball safely across the sideline with a sliding touch, a feat he repeated on the next posession. To cap off a solid night, he nearly scored two goals with his head. (Also, Goodson's contribution -- both on the backline and going forward -- can't be overlooked.)

Losers

Logan Pause
The position of defensive center midfielder isn't a glamorous one. When played well, he doesn't get a lot of face time. Even so, it's probably a bad sign when it takes 24 minutes to even notice a player is on the pitch. A misplayed touch by Pause almost half an hour after kickoff was the first time the Chicago Fire midfielder had an effect on the match. As the game wore on, he made a couple of nice plays to break up potential Hondurans attacks, but too often he was caught going against the grain and forced to foul. The yellow card Pause picked up was a professional tackle, but with better positioning, there's no need to drag down the offensive player. In the 57th minute, Walter Martinez drew a free kick after being taken down in a dangerous spot. Pause added little to the attack. This was a match he could stand to forget.

Heath Pearce
On day when few Americans played poorly, it's difficult to pick out three losers but Pearce made a couple mistakes that tip the scales against him. The former Hansa Rostock defender gave Honduras its first good chance when he didn't close down the attacking player quickly enough. (In Pearce's defense, there looked to be a bit of miscommunication with Marshall.) The left flanker was also beat near the end of the game, but an excellent save by Troy Perkins and a scrambling clear in front of the American net saved a tying tally. Pearce did get forward at times -- putting in a good, but not great, cross to Kenny Cooper in the dying moments. While he didn't play badly, he didn't bring much to the table either.  

Davy Arnaud
One of the surprises of the tournament continued his high work rate against Honduras, but didn't produce the results he has during the past couple of matches. While Arnaud can thrash around with the best of them and clearly disrupted the Catrachos backline at times, I question why he didn't put more pressure on Escobar, who was clearly having trouble kicking the ball due to an injury. The Kansas City Wizard forward struggled to communicate with his teammates on a couple of balls served into the box -- of course, that's their fault as much as his. He took a nice rip with his left foot in the second half, but it didn't trouble Escobar. Simply put, I've come to expect more during the Gold Cup than the workmanlike performance Arnaud delivered in Chicago.

Noah Davis covers the United States Men's National for Goal.com.

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