The USMNT avoided disaster in the most depressing way possible today against Honduras, riding a late short-range tap-in from Bobby Wood off a screaming Kellyn Acosta free kick to draw Honduras, 1-1. The score flatters the U.S., who gave their second consecutive pitiful performance and are lucky to remain mostly unscathed.
Admittedly, the conditions in Honduras were less than ideal, with the U.S. up against both a hostile crowd and oppressive heat that necessitated a first-half hydration break. But still, this was a terrible game. The U.S. looked slow, uninspired, and lacking a coherent strategy. One would think that with a cadre of talented midfielders and also a creative wizard for Borussia Dortmund, they’d use the middle of the field and try to play a bit, but they kept forcing the ball wide, where Honduras could run out on the U.S. and keep the team from really threatening at all. On the other side of the pitch, the goal they allowed was the result of another baffling defensive lapse, this time by Omar Gonzalez.
Acosta was a bright spot, and so were other relative newcomers like Christian Pulisic and Paul Arriola, but Bruce Arena’s team answered none of the questions that were raised by the Costa Rica game, a 2-0 loss at home on Friday. As currently constructed, this squad is both a non-threat on the attack and prone to tremendous mistakes on defense. CONCACAF qualifying is forgiving enough that these flaws haven’t been fatal, but a 2-3-3 record through eight games is extremely weak. Considering the U.S. was able to beat Honduras 6-0 at home back in March, it feels like the team is moving backwards right when it should be starting to peak.
USMNT optimists will say that this result was exactly what the team needed, and that’s true, at least if you ignore the eye test. Pending the Panama-Trinidad result later tonight, the U.S. currently sit in 3rd place in qualifying, the final spot that avoids a play-in round with either Syria or Australia. With an easy pair of games to close the Hex, it would take a catastrophe for the team to not at least make the play-in round. However, simply treading water in CONCACAF is nothing to be proud of, and just nine months out from the World Cup, the team look passionless and uncomfortable.