1. We will play two defensive midfielders. (A+) Too easy.
1. Benny Feilhaber will enter the game around the 65th minute. I’m going to guess it’s for Jozy Altidore this time. (C-: Jozy Altidore did not start because of illness, so this one didn’t even have the chance to happen. But Benny Feilhaber did enter the game for a striker, albeit almost 20 minutes later than expected.)
2. No matter the outcome, American soccer journalists will insist that getting a result was never going to be easy because of the extreme difficulty of CONCACAF road qualifiers. (A+: This post was put together well before many soccer journalists started preemptively excusing a USA loss about a week ago. The dialogue certainly hasn’t stopped now that the game has been won. It is my opinion that it is time for these writers to say, “You know what, we didn’t give the US enough credit going into this match,” and leave it at that.)
3. I will be forced to watch the game at Nevada Smiths. I will hear at least two different people call the referee a “wankerrr” (both American). One person will try to fit “please string some passes together” into a song–he won’t be too successful. (B+: While I didn’t hear anyone call the ref a “wankerrr,” I heard a number of people accuse him of being “racist against Americans.” And I heard several others sing a song that contained the word “wank.” (Come on–that’s close enough.) It should be stated that I had a great time watching the game at Nevada Smiths, in spite of the 110-degree heat, well-over-capacity crowd, and the impossibility of getting a drink. The most memorable moment came after Conor Casey’s first goal. One fan, disgusted by Bradley’s decision to start him, declared in the pre-game, “If Conor Casey scores a goal, I will pull out my **** for everyone to see.” He assured his friends that we weren’t playing the Kansas City Wizards, so the risk was minimal, if not nonexistent. Amazingly, after the goal was scored, the man delivered on his promise. That night was an experience I will not soon forget.)
4. At least one member of the Honduran media will mistake Stu Holden for a member of O-Town. (B+: Our sources are telling us that young Stu was actually mistaken for a member of 98º. So close.)
5. Buy your tickets to South Africa! USA 2 – 1 Honduras. Despite Honduras holding the majority of possession and looking better for long stretches, the USA’s talent up front will allow them to escape with a win. The USA guarantee themselves a spot in the 2010 World Cup. El Salvador are eliminated after losing to Mexico. Costa Rica move up to third place. (A: We did qualify. We won by one goal. It was our talent up front (although not the talent I expected…) that pulled this one out. El Salvador were eliminated after losing to Mexico. Costa Rica did move up to third place from fourth. So why not an A+? First of all, my scoreline is off by one goal for each team. And secondly, I’m not so sure Honduras won the possession battle. Both teams looked fairly even for much of the match and the US dominated long stretches of the second half.)
This was a great game for the US. The most important points aside (the fact that we won and qualified for the World Cup), this was precisely the type of performance we knew the Americans were capable of putting in on the road. Was it easy? Not at all. Some big calls went against the US in very bad spots (and didn’t go for the US in more advantageous spots). Honduras played very well in front of their home crowd. (Note: This is precisely the kind of home-field advantage we expect to encounter in road qualifiers.) But the US maintained composure and put in an all-around great performance. Bob Bradley must be given credit for allowing his team to continue attacking when they took the 2-1 lead. He could have easily tried to sit on it (which I will admit was exactly what I expected him to do), but it was our continued attack that allowed us to secure the victory and maintain control during the opposition’s attempted onslaught. Even if Honduras had put in that late penalty, I would still think the US deserve immense credit for the kind of game they played.