By ADAM SERRANO
When the U.S. men's national team takes on Honduras at Home Depot Center on Saturday night, there will be plenty of Honduran fans in attendance and the player they are most likely to cheer the loudest for won't be wearing a Honduran uniform.
That player is Jonathan Bornstein.
The U.S. national team defender has become a hero to Hondurans since his last-second equalizing goal in the U.S. team's 2-2 tie vs. Costa Rica helped give Honduras its first World Cup berth in 27 years.
Bornstein's goal has become the stuff of legends in Honduras, earning Bornstein newspaper headlines such as "Bornstein, Honduras te ama" (Bornstein, Honduras loves you) in one local newspaper and a personal invitation from Honduran President Roberto Michelleti to vacation in Honduras' Bahia Islands.
"I'm expecting a real positive reaction (on Saturday), but when we step on the field, it'll be the United States vs. Honduras and I'm not expecting any leeway there," said Bornstein. "However, maybe after the game or before the game, the fans have been very appreciative and I'm expecting them to stay the same way."
Bornstein receives regular reminders on Facebook of just how much Hondurans adore him, with daily friend requests and messages from people looking to share their appreciation. Bornstein's impressive reception in the Honduran community has also become a running joke for members of the U.S. team.
"Rumor has it, they may want (Bornstein) to play half of the game for Honduras," joked American midfielder Robbie Rogers.
Despite the adoration that he receives from Honduran fans, Bornstein and the rest of the United States squad understand the threat of a Honduran squad that played them very tough in four matches in 2009. Honduras will be fielding a primarily domestic squad with players looking to help their chances of making the Honduran World Cup team.
"Their guys are really playing at a high level and obviously when they come to their national team, they raise that level," said Bornstein. "We've played them plenty of times and we know what they're about and you have to expect the best from them, they're a real quality side."
Although Bornstein is focused on helping the United States win its first match of the year, he has not forgotten Michelleti's generous offer.
"I've obviously got to vacation somewhere and Honduras could be a definite possibility," said Bornstein. "I'll just keep (the option) open and hopefully it stays open."