|The US returns to the site where they clinched a spot in the 2010 World Cup|
The US travels to San Pedro Sula, the world's most violent city and where they clinched a berth in the 2010 World Cup, looking to secure an important result on the road. With three of the first four games of the final round of World Cup Qualifying on the road, a loss may set the Americans on the back foot.
For los Catrachos, having two games at home, in San Pedro Sula, in the middle of the afternoon, is as good a draw as possible even if it's against the US and Mexico. They continue to be the third best team in CONCACAF with a group of players who know each other well and play solid, organized soccer under coach Luis Fernando Suárez.
|Official Honduras lineup confirmed earlier today|
While US Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann is known for constantly changing the lineup, Suárez is known for exactly the opposite. His consistency has allowed for this squad to become a full cohesive unit that will be tough to breakdown. However don't expect Honduras to bunker down and just counter.
With former Sporting Kansas City midfielder Roger Espinoza manning the center of midfield, Honduras are capable of holding the ball and making their opponents chase the ball. With the temperature in San Pedro Sula set to be in the upper 80s tomorrow, if they can tire the US out in the midfield then they will have the upper hand.
MLSers Oscar Boniek Garcia and Mario Martinez will play out wide. Both are players who can provide a substantial threat going forward but it is Garcia's playmaking ability that can be substantial in the Honduran attack. When Garcia and Martinez are up for it, they will switch wings and look to combine. In effect, Honduras attack with three central attacking midfielders with the second striker looking to combine as well. As for Garcia, he can cut inside and outside, provide service from out wide and beat defenders on his own. The task will be on Fabian Johnson to limit the Houston Dynamo man's influence from out wide but also keep him out wide and limit his ability to combine with other attacking players.
The forward pairing of Carlos Costly and Jerry Bengtson are as potent a strike pairing as there is in CONCACAF as both recorded a hat trick in Honduras' infamous 8-1 win against Canada in October. They are both tall, lanky forwards who will challenge for every header. This is not a good matchup for the US who only won more headers in the two games against Antigua and Barbuda during the last round of qualifying. The Honduran duo work the time tested strategy of running onto headers well and converting opportunities into goals inside the box.
Which brings up how the US will look to limit those opportunities.
The main question for the US is who will partner Geoff Cameron in the center of defense and it boils down to two players: Omar Gonzalez or Carlos Bocanegra. From a tactical standpoint, it makes perfect sense to start Gonzalez because he is the tallest player and will cut out the Honduran ability to play in the air. However Gonzalez only has three caps and none in World Cup Qualifying. All the experience in MLS and playing in MLS Cup Finals means little to nothing when playing in the hostile environment of San Pedro Sula. With Cameron also going through his first World Cup Qualifying cycle, there is not going to be much experience in the center of defense nor in any other part of that defense.
That is the main argument behind the inclusion of Carlos Bocanegra. The American captain has 110 caps and is going through his third World Cup Qualifying cycle that included a trip to San Pedro Sula in 2009. With four other players in our projected lineup having WCQ experience in Honduras, the inclusion of Bocanegra from a stability point of view makes sense.
However it makes more sense to give Gonzalez the nod over Bocanegra, because the time for weening players into the WCQ experience has passed. Gonzalez is going to have to take it all on the fly because there is precious room for error in what is the most competitive hex ever.
The other question for the US is the left side. It was discussed in our roster evaluation that the US has a few options including: Eddie Johnson, Jose Torres and Brad Davis. Torres and Johnson are the experienced options but Johnson is still new to his left wing role with the US. While he did not stand out in that role against Canada last week, he has not done anything to lose that spot. That cannot be said for Torres who is back in the mix and will always be an option for Klinsmann. Davis is a good crosser from that side but this US team prefers to play on the ground and it would be a surprise for another new face to be in the lineup for the Americans.
Jermaine Jones gets the inclusion as defensive midfielder because his grittiness is going to be needed in order to bother the skillful Honduran attack. To this day, Jones has yet to be red carded in a US uniform and has only been sent off three times since October 2010 for Schalke. Don't be surprised if he gets booked and it frustrates you but the US are going to need someone who goes in on people in order to disrupt a skillful Catracho attack. The only concern that comes with his pairing with Michael Bradley is that they both like to press forward so one of the two are going to need to stay at home.
All in all the US have the better team but it really comes down to if they can keep a cool head defensively. With an in-form Jozy Altidore and a reliable Clint Dempsey in attack, one good attacking movement may be the difference in this game.
Prediction: USA 1 Honduras 1
ONE GOAL ContributorChristian Araos (@Christian_Araos)