Not every win has to be pretty and the good teams find ways to win on the days when nothing much is going right. The United States did just that tonight in Utah, defeating Honduras on a late goal from Jozy Altidore after a frustrating and poorly played match up to that point.
The first half ... well the first half was pretty much awful. The United States looked out of it with Graham Zusi and Michael Bradley looking extremely poor in the midfield. Such is the nature of the current US attack that they need those two players doing their thing and generating offense forward, getting the ball to Jozy Altidore and Eddie Johnson.
Bradley didn't appear to trust Jermaine Jones at all and thus stayed much deeper than we saw against Panama when Geoff Cameron was playing alongside him. With Bradley not pushing forward, Graham Zusi's responsibilities increased, though he didn't answer the bell in the first half. It probably didn't help he got his bell rung on a collision midway through the half.
In the opening 45 minutes against Honduras, nobody was doing anything especially well, so the US looked toothless and were easily frustrated by Los Catrachos. Klinsmann's urgent demands for his team to up their tempo and speed were largely ignored and it showed.
The United States generated the match's first real chance on goal in the 17th minute. Dempsey's ball out wide to Fabian Johnson was immediately crossed into the box by the left back where Eddie Johnson got inside his marker and directed the ball on goal. Honduras goalkeeper Noel Valladares was in the right place and made a solid save on the shot.
It took until stoppage time in the first half for another good chance to arrive, this time created by Andy Najar thanks to some derpiness from the US defense. Najar's hard show from the right was parried away by Tim Howard who had spent most of the half checking his e-mail, writing a poem or singing along with the AO songs being sung behind his goal.
Altidore had a goal correctly ruled offside in the 59th minute, timing his run a bit early on Dempsey's through ball and continuing the USA's frustration. It was a positive sign though as the movement leading up to the chance was much sharper and quicker than we'd seen up to that point.
Dempsey was denied again in the 70th minute when he connected with another Zusi cross but again headed the ball right at Valladares.
At last in the 73rd minute -- just when the feeling that this might end up as a scoreless draw was increasing -- the US scored, allowing their fans to release their built-up frustration from the lackluster performance up to that point.
Altidore provided them their moment of cathartic joy, finishing off an excellent cross from Fabian Johnson who had received the ball in space on the left side of the Honduras box after a sublime light touch by Zusi on a through ball from Dempsey.
The goal was a reward for the US finally listening to Klinsmann's pleas for tempo and quickness, something that had finally clicked in the players' heads midway through the second half.
The US now have four games left to play in World Cup qualifying and they sit atop of the CONCACAF hexagonal table with 13 points.