Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By IVES GALARCEP
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras– You would think that having posted victories here in their past two trips would have the U.S. Men’s National Team feeling bullish about leaving the murder capital of the world with a precious three points, but the team is all too aware that the intensity of the Hexagonal Round of World Cup qualifying will make every game of the cycle extremely difficult. Particularly the road games.
While many of the U.S. squad’s players have experienced World Cup qualifying, a good number of them have not experienced the Hexagonal round, the final round of qualifying to reach the World Cup. They will face better competition and more intense conditions.
“There’s a difference for sure,” Michael Bradley said when asked to compare the HEX to the earlier rounds of qualifying. “You get to this round and everything gets cranked up a few notches. The quality of the opponents is better. The spotlight comes on brighter. The margin for error is that much smaller.
“In all ways, everything gets cranked up,” Bradley said. “That’s exciting. These are exciting games. They’re big games and there’s so much riding on each one. I think when you look at the six teams that have made it to this point, for me it’s clearly the six best teams in the region at the moment.”
The first U.S. opponent is a Honduras side that has undergone a period of transition, with long-time leaders like Amado Guevara and Carlos Pavon stepping aside for an exciting generation of young talent that includes several MLS standouts, like Oscar Boniek Garcia, Jerry Bengtson, Victor Bernardez, Mario Martinez and MLS alumnus Roger Espinoza.
“It’s a very gifted technical team, also physical,” U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “They grew over the last couple of years so they have a bit more confidence. Going to a World Cup gives you confidence. Having that learning experience, and so they’ve done well.
“It’s definitely a team to respect.”
“It’s a younger team. Some of the older guys from the last go-round have moved on,” Bradley said. “It’s a different team. It’s never easy comparing, but in some ways this is a more dangerous team.
“Some of these younger guys have really a good combination of athleticism, skill, grit, so it’ll be a difficult game for us,” Bradley said. “We know that going in so we’re not expecting anything different.”
Honduras will be leaning on many of the players who helped the Catrachos enjoy a successful run to, and through, the 2012 Olympics. That young generation has picked up the mantle from the older group that led the country to the 2010 World Cup before seeing several key veterans retire.
Those retirements have served to clear the way for new faces to impose themselves and help make this Honduras team more dangerous than past versions.
“Sometimes the older established veteran guys, it’s the wrong phrase, but they hold the team because you’re such a big, strong character that other guys don’t come out of their shell,” U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “I’ve been on teams with big characters on the team and I haven’t come out of my shell.
“But when you get a bunch of guys who can come together and express themselves and really show their true talent, that sometimes can make them very dangerous,” Howard said. “That’s what you see with this Honduras team.”
For the Americans, the challenge will be staying organized defensively and creating enough chances to challenge a Honduras defense that will be missing potential starting options Emilio Izaguirre and Andy Najar, who are both injured.
The Honduran attack will be lead by a midfield that features dangerous wingers Boniek Garcia and Martinez, as well as the in-form Espinoza, who should provide a must-watch battle with the likes of Bradley and Jones.
“It makes it really tough if you don’t get points early because you’ll fall behind, but it’ll be great to pick up points with home games waiting down the road,” Howard said. “We know it’s not going to be easy on Wednesday for a variety of reasons but we just have to play our game and be smart and play the way we know we can play and we can get out of here with the points we need.”
I have been to matches involving several non-Caribbean CONCACAF teams and the Hondurans have been far and away the least unpleasant of them. I wonder if it works against them re: the intimidation factor.
At least I think the officiating is better than it used to be. The US used to have to deal with some strange and outrageous calls in the past. The most notable in my mind happened probably back in 1997 when the US was playing in Central America, don’t even remember who. The other team got the ball down at the end line and I think it was Greg Berhalter defending who cut the guy off. The opponent took a shot and the referee called a handball and a penalty. It was clear in real time that Berhalter was holding his arms firmly to his sides and the replay showed the ball clearly hit him square in the chest. The other team converted the penalty and the US lost 1-0. It is hard to win when it is 12 versus 11.
Got to shut down Espinoza. He is the key for them. Dont let him get into the flow of the game. Shut him down, and the rest of Honduras we should be able to roll over. 3-1 USA.
Is that play-by-play dude going to be doing the USA vs Honduras game again? I laughed my *ss off last time he did it. Yes, the American guy. HHAAA!!!
Anyone else have to pull some strings to get out of work early?
I have a meeting until 4:15, but I’ve already researched the closest sports bar and called to make sure they will get the game. I’m going to scout out the fastest way, traffic-wise, to get there during my lunch.
East Coast, by the way. I’m hoping to catch 3/4 of the game.
This game—the first of the Hex—has 1:1 written all over it. Nerves will be evident on the field.
My only two doubts are Gomez or Zusi and Williams or Edu.For some reason I also have a gut feeling EJ might start.
No way EJ starts over Jozy.
I am going to say this for the last time. Martinez is not a winger. He is a LM that rarely takes on a fullback, gets the byline, and crosses in balls. Martinez will cut inside 99.9 percent of the time trying to create, or shoot on goal. Boniek Garcia likes to come inside as well. All the USMNT has to do is clog the middle and not allow Boniek, Martinez, and Espinoza space to operate. Add to the fact that Martinez is slowww he isn’t going to beat Fabian or Chandler for pace. Boniek has decent speed, but yet again he isn’t going to beat either Fabian or Chandler for speed.
Clog the middle that should be the tactical set-up. Christmas tree formation of a 4-3-2-1 thats what I expect to see from Klinsmann tomorrow.
Something along these lines is what I expect and hope to see.
Yep thats what I suspect we will see tomorrow.
Losing Izagiure will not hurt them much.They have Maynor Fuigeroa at lb.The two solid cb’s Osman Chavez and Victor Bernardez.At rb they have Bryan Beckeles, although less proven because he plays domestically he’s prob solid.Where Najar’s injury hurts them the most is on the wing.Where he would’ve started over Martinez with Boniek playing lw.
Victor Bernardez looked a step slow in the Copa Centroamerica. He even admitted in an interview that he isn’t entirely fit after recovering from an injury in the off-season. Not good for the Quakes, but may be an advantage for USMNT.
Scratch that, on second thought Suarez would’ve prob preferred to start Najar at rb and Martinez at rw.
Najar would never have started, hasn’t played a full competitive match in a while…much less senior team wc qualifier. Honduras has depth at D, but Izaguirre is a top player, his experience will be missed. Izaguirre would likely have played left wing, with Maynor behind him.
Murder capitol per capita.
Largely a result of US Policy.
Not the place for this.
Will Najar play?
Can you read?
Thanks, I see it now. I skimmed the first time.
No, he is out with an injury. Same with the Quakes Marvin Chavez I believe.
Honduras is nothing if not smart. They will not have failed to notice the difficulty the USA has breaking down packed defenses (Canada, Panama, Jamaica) and the success the USA enjoyed when the other team carried much of the attacking play (Italy, Russia, Mexico, Argentina). After a brief flurry of attacking (<10 minutes), I expect Honduras to settle down with 9 or 10 men behind the ball. Even Arsenal has a tough time against against a packed defense, against Stoke who played with Cameron as the most forward midfielder and had 10 men behind the ball most of the time, only a late free kick prevented a 0-0 result. If Honduras goes that route, this game could be as ugly as the US-Canada game no mater who Klinsmann starts.
Who cares if it’s ugly. Points are what matter. You don’t get any style points in WC qualifying.
Honduras won’t qualify if they don’t get wins at home. I will be very surprised if they bunker down.
There really is nothing in the world like Concacaf World Cup Qualifiers on the road. Central America is so different from the Caribbean.
How so THomas?
More aggressive home crowds?
Let;s see; published location of wher ethe team is staying; crowds outside hotels all night with bullhorns; throwing of batteries and urine at players; facilities that are not like those in Western Europe; lierally seeign the ceiling to teh lockerrom bouncing from people jumping up and down; police dogs and machine guns everywhere.
This is a fallacy that needs to stop-playing in San Pedro Sula is no harder and possibly easier than playing in Quito, Tehran, Riyadah, Cairo, La Paz, Sarajevo, Moscow.
Read Filip Bondy’s book about the 2010 WC, he notes that the environment in Honduras is relatively easy because the stadium does not trap noise well.
Moreover, despite the so-called travails of playing in CONCACAF, I guarantee you every single European, African and South American team would jump at the chance to have to qualify through CONCACAF where 4/6 probably will make the World Cup and only 2 teams have averaged a Round of 16 place at the world cup the past 3 times. Maybe the Asian teams too.
I’m not saying it is easy, far from it, but this notion that it is somehow harder to qualify in CONCACAF where the forgiving format and weak competition more than compensate for the away environments is just wrong.
I’m not saying it’s harder to qualify, I know the format and relatively low number of quality teams makes it easier than almost any federation.
I’m saying the vast difference between a Central America qualifier and a Caribbean qualifier are unique to this federation.
And okay, the stadium doesn’t trap noise well, but it does trap the players on the field as they are surrounded by barbed wire fences. Their bus drops them off INSIDE the stadium, directly next to the door to their locker room which has old moldy showers, a few chairs, and a trough to piss in. There is no roof on the locker room, no air conditioning, so you can hear, smell, and feel the crowd going nuts above you.
And that’s the safest part of the trip. The state department has official posted inside the MEDIA’s hotel, let alone the armed guards and motorcades that travel with the team everywhere.
Oh ya, and it’s in the MURDER CAPITAL of the WORLD.
Funny to see this listed as a falacy given that I have lived in a handful of the places you listed there. So I will take my personal notes at the same value as a book. Sarajevo as an example, sure if you are another team from the Balkans it will be particulalry intimidating (especially if Serbia), but it has not rivaled what exists in Central America for Los Yanquis (basketball is even worse, and you don’t have road fans for that reason). Similarly with Quito. Facilities are also an interesting comparison. Having lived in those places, I have not heard nearly the stories (that includes chatting to players) taht compaerd to what I have heard for US team members in CONCACAF.
I expect a gang raping 4-0 Honduras. In all seriousness it will be a rough game. The heat may play a factor.
0-0 or 1-1 w/ HON scoring first most likely if they bunker.
if they decide to come at us it’s gonna be a blowout. 3 or 4 nothing, USA win
For all the new USMNT from Germany and other countries and for those new players who have not gone through a Central American qualifying round, all I have to say is. “Welcome to the Cauldron” that is WC qualifying in Central America. It has to be experienced to be believed.
Few on this board remember that we are playing a team that WENT TO WAR over qualifying with El Salvador: in 1969
With all the political unrest that goes on in the so called “banana republics” it is futbol that is a relief for those on both sides of the political spectrum, and truly brings the country together.
Even though the relationship between the US and other CA countries have improved over the years and the fact that Honduras has the US (and Bornstein) to thank for the WC appearance, the fans down there just love to stick it to the “Yanquis”
Should be a good game.
Don’t belive everything you read in wikipedia, Honduras did not go to war for a futbol game, And Yes we are all grateful to Bornstein and the US team that help us go to the 2010 worlcup. However tomorrow we will be cheering for the white and blue shirt.
I hope we have a nice, clean and beautiful match.
Clean match in CONCACAF? Wouldn’t be shocked to see this confederation under suspicion of match fixing.
+1, A ESCOTO. That is what it is all about, the beautiful game, and that’s what I want to see with respect on both sides. Cannot wait!
You really think that guys who have played in away matches in front of 80,000+ crowds in the Bundesliga are going to be intimidated by the crowd tomorrow? I doubt it.
Not necessarily intimidated, but it is a completley different scene. I ahve attended matches in germany and in latin America and there is defintiely a differnet edge. Besides, crowd numbers alone do not make venues intimidating (80,000 in Budesliga, only one team is averagint that many, much more likely to be playing in front of a little more than half that). bags of urine and batteries are common place at our patches in CONCACAF. You don’t see that in the Bundesliga.
I doubt that in the Bundesliga they have fans throwing batteries and bags of urine at them. This is not an uncommon occurrence in Central America.
Have you ever to been to Honduras? Despite the drug cartels recently invading, they are pretty peaceful. As someone else mentioned, they didn’t go to war over a game…a game between two countries happen to occur right before the conflict.
Also, the stadium has a track…so fans are not that close to field…so probably the stadium in Central America with least amount of “hostility” as press likes to say.
Also – I’m sure Honduras is no different than qualifying in places like Eastern Europe…
I am thankful that JK has found a fount of soccer players with Afro-American origin to play soccer with us new players. he has changed the texture of American soccer with the black American four.
I am thankful that these young players have seen to help our arc towards World Cup contenders.
“Us new players”? I’m glad the national team reflects the ethnic diversity of the coutry as it should. We have a decent team, which is great.
Jozy? Gooch? Edu? Findley? Wynne? Beasley? Johnson? Buddle? Cobi Jones? Where have you been?
My head thinks: Well the US did tie Canada (granted both teams were not full strength), but if the teams scale up similarly (as in the relative skill level between the lower level teams is equal to the higher level teams), then the U.S. defense decides this game. Canada got at least a consolation goal, so the question is if the defense is good enough to hold back a Honduras team that destroyed Canada 8-1. I do not feel confident in that, so I think 3 – 1 honduras.
My heart screams: USA USA USA, us wins 2 – 1. United states grit and determination show them through and the thoughts of lack luster after lack luster in the past mean absolutely nothing. Everyone shows what it means to play for the united states, playing with control, playing with heart and playing with urgency.
Honduras squad is weaker than in recent years. They have no consistent goal scorers. Bengston, Welcome and Costly are all decent strikers that have ability to hold possession but aren’t able to take it to goal consistently. They no longer have a Suazo or Pavon to disrupt backline…as shown by the fact that they could only score one goal against Belize. Midfield is dynamic and creative but young and without much leadership…especially without Palacios (out of form) and Guevara (retired). Espinoza is the engine but leadership is absent. Backline is very solid and experienced, but Izaguirre’s injury is a massive blow for a team without much depth. I expect US to win 2-0. Panama and CR will battle for last spot in WC. my 2 cents.
Never underestimate a Latin American team at home in a game such as this.
On the other hand the pressure is on them to win while the US will be happy to tie.
Have to win your home games in CONCACAF
I know the afternoon start is a disadvantage with the heat, but I wonder if all the European-based players are staying on European time with the short turnaround and a kickoff time that is 9 p.m. in England, 10 p.m. on the Continent.
Maybe Klinsman actually said Dempsey hasn’t been bullish enough.
that is awesome
That first sentence/paragraph is easily the funniest thing to ever be written on this site.
A thanks I glossed over that sentence at first. After i reread I agree with you that it is probably the funniest line I have seen on this site. If I was a player I would let them win. Soccer isn’t worth your life.
What is funny about murder?
they be feeling the bullish…
It said something else before and there were a lot of comments before mine pointing it out. The article has been edited.
I can feel it!
Me too. Now, I am trying to figure out how I’m going to see it. Selling the TV rights to BeIN Sport was ill advised. Lotsa folks will not have Tv access to this game
Yeah everyone I know had to look up a couple bars around town to see who carried the channel. At least we can watch all the mexico games right?
Anyone know of a good place to watch the game in Houston?
Find a facebook or twitter page for American Outlaws Houston (or whatever your city might be) and even if you aren’t a member, they should have information on what bar they will be in watching the game. Also, you can check out US Soccer’s official soccer bars, most of them should have BeIn at this point.
Lucky’s Pub next to BBVA Compass Stadium.
Isnt it on Comcast?