The U.S. Men’s National Team is the heavy favorite to defeat Honduras in Thursday’s Concacaf Nations League semifinal, but the Americans aren’t going to be able to just roll over the Catrachos. They will need to perform, and avoid the kind of mistakes Honduras is built to jump all over.
The Hondurans have two dangerous attacking threats in Alberth Elis and Antony Lozano, who will look to put pressure on a USMNT back-line that has been shown to be vulnerable to pace on the counterattack.
The biggest question surrounding Honduras is whether the Central Americans will sit very deep, or try to open up. It would stand to reason that the Catrachos would want to keep numbers back in order guard against being ripped apart by Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna, but if the Americans find an early goal, Honduras will have no choice but to open up.
Here is the projected Honduras starting lineup:
The loss of Romell Quioto to injury leaves Honduras without another dangerous speed threat, but does open the door for Jonathan Rubio to start. Rubio is skilled on the ball, and can take defenders on, but he doesn’t have the elite speed to really burn by defenders.
Honduras could deploy a 4-3-3, with Bryan Acosta in a deeper role alongside Deybi Flores has they try to crowd the middle, but even if they succeed in limiting space for Weston McKennie and Sebastian Lletget, the question still remains how will Honduras deal with Pulisic and Reyna?
Here is a look at key matchups to watch:
Christian Pulisic vs. Kevin Alvarez
Kevin Alvarez is Honduras’ best fullback, and arguably best defender, so matching him up against Pulisic is the best the Catrachos can muster against the Chelsea winger. It doesn’t mean Pulisic can’t torch Alvarez, but Alvarez should put up a better fight than Alvarado on the left.
GIO REYNA vs. EVER ALVARADO
Reyna really could be the key to opening things up. His ability to dribble at defenders, but also combine well, will make him too much for Alvarado to deal with.
If you are Gregg Berhalter, attacking Alvarado should be a priority, which is why you could very well see Sergiño Dest at right back. Not only would he be able to feast on the space on that side of the field, a Dest start at right back would mean a start for Antonee Robinson at left back, where he could offer a better defensive obstacle for Elis.
JOHN BROOKS vs. ALBERTH ELIS
This isn’t a one-on-one matchup Brooks or Berhalter are going to want to wind up with too often, but more than Brooks needing to deal with Elis alone, the Wolfsburg defender will need to keep the defense organized and ready for the inevitable Honduras counters.
Elis has scary speed, which is why we are more likely to see Mark McKenzie get the nod next to Brooks than Matt Miazga. That being said, there is clearly a chance we could see Elis isolated on Brooks, and it will up to the defender to deal with him.
SEBASTIAN LLETGET vs. DEYBI FLORES
The goals have been rolling in for Lletget with the USMNT, and the tough-tackling Flores will be looking to try and contain him. Of course, Honduras will be aware of McKennie’s ability to float into dangerous spaces, but Lletget’s ability to create for teammates make him someone Honduras can’t afford to give time and space to.
If Honduras plays Bryan Acosta next to Flores in a dual-six setup, then it will be a bit tougher to open up the Catrachos centrally, but with the wing talent on the USMNT, the Americans should find success attacking the flanks.
MAYNOR FIGUEROA vs. JOSH SARGENT
Figueroa is 38, and hasn’t been playing regularly in MLS, but Sargent enters the match needing to show he can produce goals. Sargent will have a chance to show off his hold-up play, and Honduras could look to have the younger Marcelo Pereira battle Sargent while allowing Figueroa some freedom to put out fires.
Sargent needs a goal in this one, and he stands a good chance of capitalizing on the havoc the USMNT wingers should wreak on the Honduran fullbacks
What match-ups are you looking forward to seeing? Which matchup do you see the Americans being able to exploit the most? What matchup worries you the most?
Share your thoughts below.