Well then, that wasn’t quite how a trip down to Honduras was supposed to go. Not for Jürgen Klinsmann and his style-heavy, 4-3-3 sides that would lead the United States to the promised land. I guess that style has its flaws, however. Maybe gritty road draws — sometimes even victories — against CONCACAF teams that seem to grow more talented with each World Cup cycle are a bygone relic of a Bob Bradley era that relied on physical fitness, a potent counterattack and a healthy and mentally present Landon Donovan. But two weeks ago today, the USMNT traveled down to San Pedro Sula, Honduras and failed to turn an early lead into even a single point.
With expectations nearing the peak of the most recent crescendo following a 2010 World Cup finishing atop their group and one of the best calendar years in USMNT history in 2012, a 2-1 loss to Los Catrachos leaves fans asking one question:
Is it time to panic yet?
To be fair, even a team that should finish no worse than second in the Hexagonal is bound to have a few slip ups. This is not the first time, nor will it be the last time, that the United States has gone on the road and dropped points during the final round of CONCACAF qualifying. Where it really stings is that the panic-inducing result came in the very first game and it came after the US began the game on the front foot.
While some casual fans may be left dumbstruck as to how a team like Honduras (Honduras!!) could possibly unseat the United States, most understand that qualifying is never that simple — unless you’re the Netherlands, than it appears to just be a formality. No, they know the history and they know that nine games are still in front of the Red, White and Blue and eight of them (trip to Mexico City aside) present a very real chance at a three-point haul.
Of course, starting off on the right foot is key, and that is where the chance has gone begging. Captain Tim Howard was less than perfect between the sticks — a recipe for disaster for this team over the past few years — while Clint Dempsey looked to fade down the stretch. Even the match’s silver lining — cap-tying the waffling Timothy Chandler — was offset by a listless performance from the Frankfurt-born right back.
The time is ripe for panic. With more than a month until the match against Costa Rica speculation and doubt will rule the limited time the team receives on the airwaves as the USMNT currently sits rooted to the bottom of the CONCACAF table, far away from Brazil. Panic may be high, but I hope it is a false panic, merely a placeholder until hope and promise take over again in late March. Because all is not lost.
Howard, Dempsey and co. went into the most dangerous city in the world and managed to walk out alive, albeit a little battered and bruised, with chances of reaching Brazil 2014 still very good.
Panic Meter: 4.0 out of 10