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USMNT vs. Honduras: A Look Ahead

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SALT LAKE CITY– By now, you have heard about all the Honduran injuries, and the suspensions, and how the ‘Catrachos’ will field a squad missing several players who started in February’s win vs. the U.S. Men’s National Team. While that is all true, Honduras won’t exactly be fielding a Tahiti-like squad when Tuesday night’s qualifier at Rio Tinto Stadium kicks off.

A total of at least five, and likely as many as six starters from the Honduran squad that beat the U.S. in San Pedro Sula will miss Tuesday’s match (Oscar Boniek Garcia is still a question mark). Victor Bernardez and Luis Garrido are suspended, and Maynor Figueroa is injured, meaning Honduras’ leading centerbacks and starting defensive midfielder won’t play. Then you have Jerry Bengtson’s decision to leave the team (though it’s no lock he would be playing even if he were here).

So why won’t this be a cakewalk for a U.S. team playing well and riding a four-match unbeaten run in CONCACAF qualifying? Honduras still boasts plenty of talent to make Tuesday’s match a tough one, and the Catrachos are entering the match off a win vs. Jamaica that has boosted their confidence heading into Tuesday’s match.

The U.S. will still be the favorite, and expected to make it nine points from three June qualifiers, but they will still need to deliver a strong game to knock off a patchwork Honduras side that still has plenty of firepower.

Here is a closer look at the match-up, and what you can expect to see from both teams:

Here is what the squads should look like when they take the field, including projected starters, and where on the field they should be found most often:


Some thoughts on the match-ups and lineups:

Carlo Costly has been cleared to play for Honduras, and while Honduras did play a one-forward system in his absence, the likely absence of Oscar Boniek Garcia coupled with Costly’s physical presence should lead to a Costly-Roger Rojas forward tandem.

Both Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez are familiar with Costly, and both know what a handful he can be. The real issue for them will be making sure they don’t lose track of Rojas, who will be looking to run off Costly and try and test the timing and positioning of Besler and Gonzalez.

Marvin Chavez and Mario Martinez should man the flanks, and yes, we could see a Sounder-on-Sounder match up with Martinez taking on Brad Evans. Chavez is no Boniek Garcia, but he’s still a handful and should keep Castillo (or Fabian Johnson) occupied. As for Martinez, as outstanding a game as he played against the U.S. in February, he quite frankly hasn’t come anywhere close to that level ever since. If Honduras watched the USA-Panama game, they will know that speed can trouble Evans, and Martinez has plenty of speed (but Evans is also very familiar with Martinez).

Boniek Garcia still hasn’t been ruled out, but it’s tough to see him starting after failing to train for the past week. At best he should be an option off the bench.

For my money, the match-up in central midfield is the real headliner. Whether it’s Geoff Cameron or Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley will partner with someone who will face a stiff challenge from Roger Espinoza and Wilson Palacios. Espinoza was one of the key figures in February’s win for Honduras, and his tireless work rate will be something Jones and Bradley have to deal with.

Palacios has become a bit of a forgotten man, but it wasn’t that long ago that he was a player for Tottenham and one of the best midfielders in CONCACAF. He isn’t at that level anymore, but he’s a pit bull, and seeing him do battle with Jermaine Jones will be fun to watch.

Speaking of Jones, with U.S. Soccer clearing him to play it seems highly unlikely that he would sit for this match. I’m of the opinion that we should see a bit more of the Michael Bradley-Geoff Cameron combination, but Jones is clearly Klinsmann’s top choice to start in the No. 6 role so if he’s healthy he starts. You can also rest assured Jones remembers how badly he played against Honduras in February, and he’s itching to face them again.

Fabian Johnson and Graham Zusi should be called on to provide service from the flanks, but Honduras does boast a pair of solid fullbacks who could stifle the U.S. wingers. Arnold Peralta and Emilio Izaguirre are both good, and Peralta did well to contain Eddie Johnson in February. The Izaguirre-Zusi match-up should be an entertaining one. The Celtic fullback is one of the best left backs in CONCACAF, and if Zusi has aspirations of playing in Europe, he would surely impress scouts with a strong game against Izaguirre.

Some will ask why Klinsmann wouldn’t just slide Fabian Johnson to left back, and insert Eddie Johnson on the left wing. Fabian Johnson has played strictly on the left wing in the recent run of matches and it is clear Klinsmann likes what he has seen from him there. Keeping him on the left flank not only allows him to gain more experience and familiarity with that role, it also gives Castillo a well-deserved chance to start in an important match.

So how does Honduras beat the U.S.? If Martinez gets the better of his Sounders teammate, if Costly’s physical presence creates space for Rojas to use his speed to find chances, and if Chavez can get the better of Edgar Castillo, then Honduras has a good chance. Even with that, they still need their defense to hold up, which is far from a guarantee.

Why will the U.S. win? Jozy Altidore will be too much for Honduras’ centerback to handle, and his physical presence should create some room for Clint Dempsey to operate. Bradley should have another strong match, and near the top of his list of things to do is contain Espinoza, who will be vital to Honduras’ ability to maintain possession.

Look for Besler and Gonzalez to play an outstanding match similar to their performance in Azteca, look for the U.S. to win the battle in central midfield, and look for Dempsey to get back to his goal-scoring ways. We’ll go with a 2-0 U.S. victory, on goals from Dempsey and Altidore.


How do you see the match going? Think Honduras can pull the upset, or think the U.S. is just playing too well right now?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I would actually go with this 11


    F. Johnson—Gonzo—-Besler———Castillo—–



    —————–Altidore———–E. Johnson————

    what do you guys think?

  2. This is unrelated but were scheduled to play Costa Rica In July and Sept. One of them is a friendly right? Seems weird to schedule a friendly against a concacaf opponent during wcq.

  3. Skysports saying Lichaj will sign with Nottingham Forest. he agreed to a two-year deal and it’s pending a medical.

  4. Ives — come on man, for a fomer newspaper guy — missing the five w’s in the lead paragraph. . . inexcusable. Would someone care to enlighten as to the kick-off time and potential media outlets where one might witness said event? We got the who, what, where and maybe a little bit of the when (Tuesday night), but no deets on actual kick-off or TV coverage.

  5. Espinoza should have arrows coming from every direction. I have never seen a player cover more ground. He seems to be more attack-minded on his national team then he ever is for his club team(s)

  6. Bradley-Jones vs. Espinoza-Palacios. Whoever wins that, wins the game. US has a lot more talent around that but if Bradley and Jones are getting bossed, might not matter.

    I have the feeling it’s going to be tighter than most people think.

    • I agree. Espinoza is so much more fun to watch now that he isn’t destroying my beloved Timbers. Well, he is fun to watch when he isn’t playing USMNT I should say. I feel like an idiot, I keep forgetting about Palacios, he has definitely turned in some fine performances for Honduras against us.Will be a great match up.

  7. Interesting but useless chart. Can we get Michael Bradley a few more arrows? According to that chart the guy is a univesal force of nature, able to be at all places at once.

  8. This should be good. I see Honduras on their heels. It seems like there’s a bad vibe on the Honduras team. I think we see someone knew score like Zusi or even a defender on a set piece as well as Jozy with an assist or goal. He remains on a tear.

  9. Bradley is the man, Jones is the bouncer, Altidore is the prom queen (only because of his half squat.. : p), and Deuce is “The Face”… Lets Go You Yanks!!!

  10. Still find it funny there is so much Castillo hate out there. He has 9 caps. 9. Of those caps he’s started 5, none of which have been a WCQ. While he hasn’t been exceptional, his form has improved immensely in the past year and honestly is has a skill set very similar to DMB. They’re even built the same. His showing vs. Germany while hard to watch, is hardly relevant to how he can play with the first team. I’m truly hoping he gets to start to get a chance to silence the critics who have only had a meager sample size to draw from. Then again there are still Jozy trolls even with his recent run of form……

  11. Everyone step into their personal Way Back Machine to the year 2011, and read who are projected defensive starters are in the Hex. Wuahahaha!

    • Well, I had a suspicion about Gonzo. I’ve been on the ‘we need new defenders’ line for a while. 2011 was when we squandered a two-goal lead to Mexico in the Gold Cup finals. I didn’t see Besler coming (especially with Cameron there), and certainly could have lost big money on Evans. In fact, I would have been a sucker for the bet that FJ was on the field but not playing among the back four.

    • I can’t tell if you meant this the way it came across or not? Castro has some great bars. Hope this wasn’t a gay-bash.

      • Oh, he meant it.

        Ives, this KIldman character has been insufferable. He’s added nothing to the discourse, has been antagonizing other readers, and now is making homophobic remarks. Ban him, please.

      • Yes, but does he get pinned back a little more by the fact that JJ makes more runs forward?

        I think he does.

    • Haha, I was thinking the exact same thing.

      But I think CJinSGV is right. I want to see Cameron start, not because he’s better than Jones, but because he might be the partner that fully unleashes the beast that is Bradley.

  12. Probably not going to happen, but I would prefer to see FJ moved back, and Zusi inserted at left mid. reasoning: I really want to see Zusi’s service from the left to see if he’s a viable option there if Donovan gets back in form. That being said, I know WCQ’s really aren’t the time to experiment. So I’ll excuse it this way. We need FJ’s defense, because that will be Honduras’ most dangerous attacker, and EJ looked good on the right. done.

    • Interesting point about EJ, Zusi and Donovan. I absolutely loved the first goal against Panama. It convinced me all over again that the US does transition (counterattacking) soccer better than they do anything else on offense. That goal was extremely difficult to stop at any level once Bradley was released by the Cameron pass and Dempsey executed the scissor run. The importance of EJ on the flank needs to be mentioned because his speed made it difficult for the Panamanian defenders to cover all the options.

      Fabian Johnson’s pass was very early and exquisitely shaped. The whole move was so good that Panama was never closer than 5 yards from stopping it. Granted there are teams who would have come closer stopping it, but it would still ask serious questions of the best teams in the world.

      Donovan did the same against Spain and Brazil in the Confederations Cup. If US moves in the direction of the transition game players like Zusi become less important. Now the US has more ways to play than then did before Klinsman. For once there are tactical options available to change the game, rather than relying on substitutions.

  13. “Keeping [FJ] on the left flank not only allows him to gain more experience and familiarity with that role, it also gives Castillo a well-deserved chance to start in an important match.”

    I’m sorry, Ives. “well-deserved”? I’m usually agreeable with your positions, but I don’t buy this one.

    For me, Castillo has been decent going forward, but rather scary defending. Both my ulcer and I would much prefer seeing FJ slide back and EJ inserted.

    • You may not be aware of this, but his nightmare against Germany, came the day after he got off an intercontinental flight from South America. He had, by all accounts, a wonderful season in the Mexican League. He looked bad, I agree. But I think after the work he has put in the last two years to improve his game, he does deserve this shot. He is dynamic on the ball, and is usually solid defensively. I hope he proves a lot of people wrong tomorrow night.

      • I’m aware that Castillo stinks, period. He has stunk when he has had rest in the past. I repeat, he stinks!!!

      • Watch out – you might get someone on here calling you a racist! That’s what happened before, anyways.

        I share your antipathy re: Castillo, though, but I’m not sure about moving Fabian back to LB. He really has gotten better each game he plays on the wing, and I suppose we could replace him with EJ… but I’m still not convinced EJ has a starting role on this team. I like him as the pacey substitute in the 75th minute, but I just don’t think he has the attacking chops to fit in with where we’re trying to go.

        Maybe it’s just danged if you do, danged if you don’t.

      • If we are talking about deserving to start I think its Eddie Johnson. He’s been playing well for us and had another good outing last week. He’s earned another start in my book. If its Castillo we go with its not because he has really earned it per say. More that we want to get more looks at Fabian Johnson on the left wing and check out how Castillo would do with quality playing time.

        The whole “earned” and “well deserved” debate is starting to split hairs when you get into semantics like that though. We’re not going to see any major surprises tonight, and I’m very confident in any of the options that have been discussed.

      • No I don’t think he is. He played for Honduras in the Olympics. It seems like this team could really use someone as dynamic as him. Not sure if he has been getting playing time at Anderlecht

      • No, he intends to play for Honduras, but he’s only like 19 or 20. While he shows some promise, he isn’t exactly lighting the football world on fire. Honduras isn’t Spain, but they aren’t that desperate for capable and more experienced players.

    • Traitor Najar plays for Honduras but isn’t good enough to get in the team so he rides the pine, just like he does at Anderlecht. Just as well. Last time he played a meaningful game I believe he got sent off for throwing the ball at the ref.

    • I’m pretty sure I saw him in the Honduras Costa Rica match last week. He came in as a second half sub. That would make him cap-tied if he wasn’t already.

  14. That drawing has me worried that Gonzo and Besler wont be moving much. I know it’s Honduras at home, but they still need to move, Ives.

  15. Just a heads up Ives: Costly’s name is Carlo, with “s” omitted, as my Catracho friends used to point out to me 🙂

  16. what is really interesting about this game is that it is played in Utah. The elevation of Utah is going to play a key role in the game. The USA have a huge advantage. If they don’t come up on top, it will be a sad day

  17. I honestly don’t care what the score is so long as we keep seeing a high percentage of completed passes and simple, possession style soccer and keep playing effective bend but don’t break defense. That said, if we can keep scoring the kinds of high class goals that we’ve been treated to this past month I will not complain, either.

    Personally, I would sit Jones still. I know he’s been cleared, but it’s not necessary to risk it. To me it looked like he lost consciousness. If that was truly the case that’s not something to be treated lightly.

  18. I am surprised that Castillo is being penciled in at LB in the minds of so many. I would prefer to see F Johnson back there, with E Johnson at LM.

    I am also surprised that I haven’t seen anyone note that this is the first time since the last Gold Cup that the 1st team has been together for a month. I attribute this as the main reason why our form has picked up so much recently. When our team gets to play together for a while rather than fly in 2 days before the WCQ, our results will be much better. But on the other hand, you can expect a dip in form the next time this team comes together. All the more reason to hope for 3 points tomorrow.

    • I’d play F. Johnson at LB. The jury is still out on Evans, but at least take away the Honduran option to attack down both flanks. Then Zusi can be more defensive-minded, the DMs know which side needs more support, etc.

      • I agree with you and think the main weakness will be both outside defenders. So either FJ plays back on the left or Cameron on the right. Then use one of the DM to help out if you don’t play BOTH FJ and Cameron for the outside defensive positions. I am assuming JJ is going to play as a CB.

    • Martinez has no speed. He’s got a wicked left foot once every ten matches. Evans should shut him down pretty easily with his workrate.

      • Agree – I have watched every Sounders game for the last couple years and I have never thought of Martinez as a speedy player. I would actually be surprised if he could beat Evans in a footrace.

  19. “Honduras won’t exactly be fielding a Tahiti-like squad when Tuesday night’s qualifier at Rio Tinto Stadium kicks off.”

    What a brutal match that was today.


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