USA vs Honduras World Cup Qualifier
Bobby Wood buoys the hopelessness of US soccer fans
A single sigh of relief followed successive sighs of pain when Bobby Wood finally, finally, finally knocked a mess of a blocked free kick past the keeper to equalize, in the 84th minute, against a dominant Honduras.
After nearly ninety minutes of sadness, hope. Wood, subbed in for Darlington Nagbe just eleven minutes before, planted himself in front of the goal to receive the ball off of the last of several deflections by who-knows-whom. Acosta’s solid free kick, saved heroically by Luis López, bounced like a pinball until Wood, waiting feet from the goal, demonstrated more composure and focus than the rest of the team had in eighty-four minutes.
Bobby Warshaw, writing for Howler, marked composure as one of the few highlights of the loss to Costa Rica. He saw, among the shock and disorganization, an important improvement in half-second decision-making.
Bobby Wood taught his team a lesson in that skill with his goal.
Amid a frantic post-free-kick fight for possession, Wood sighted the ball, placed himself in its path, controlled it with one, expert touch off of the chest and drove it past the keeper. Here was the USMNT pro when the veterans had disappeared.
Warshaw also made an interesting argument when he talked to Daryl Grove for the Total Soccer Show podcast. He thought, contrary to many others, that the Costa Rica game was a perfect opportunity to experiment, to continue the process of improvement. Bruce Arena continues to make roster and formation changes to varying levels of success. Why, though, choose to experiment during a World Cup Qualifier with a team that’s desperately hanging onto third place?
Listen to the fantastic interview for Warshaw’s full explanation, but his argument is, basically, that a home game against a good team without unreasonably high stakes (the US is, as a commentator comically put it last night, still a favorite to qualify despite winning only two of its, now, eight World Cup matches) is a great opportunity for the Process.
Yes, the Process. The Process is long and winding and dark and full of terrors. The USMNT wants to improve. They’ve hired and fired coaches and then re-hired them. They’ve regularly qualified for World Cups and invigorated their country by escaping the Group of Death in 2014. They’ve found their hero, their savior, their international star in Christian Pulisic.
Hopefully, the Process is working. But — and perhaps this is stereotypical American impatience on my part — how far along in this Process do we need to go before it provides some real, sturdy, competitive results? It will be a joyous day when the Process creates a team that doesn’t bite its nails over qualifying. That will be a US team that doesn’t adjust its gameplay to compete with its opponents, but whose opponents adjust their gameplay to compete with the US.