September 5, 2017

The USA at Honduras World Cup Qualifying Preview

In serious need of a bounce back performance, the USMNT landed in San Pedro Sula, Honduras for another World Cup qualifier. There are just three games left in the Hex and every match counts even more. The United States didn’t do themselves any favors with a home loss to Costa Rica last Friday. It’s far from over for the USA though. CONCACAF qualifying is incredibly forgiving but navigating this group the hard way is creating some nervy moments. We’ll break it all down in the Semper Soccer blog’s USA at Honduras game preview.

Down But Not Out

Darlington Nagbe leads the USA at Honduras in search of a bounce-back performance.

Darlington Nagbe leads the USA at Honduras in search of a bounce-back performance.

First, the bad news. The United States defeat at the hands of Costa Rica marked the first time they’ve ever lost two home matches in the final round of World Cup qualifying. The result is a situation where they can no longer drop all three points with three games left. The good news is they still sit in third place. Tonight’s game versus Honduras is a true tie breaker with both teams having eight points through seven games. This team still controls their own destiny. Their three remaining games are all against the teams below them in the table. Now that’s not to say their run in is easy. It’s not by any stretch. World Cup qualifying is tough and they’ve backed themselves into a corner where they need results.

Desperation can be a powerful motivator in sports. If you combine a sense of urgency with the type of experience this team has, they are expected to step up and get the results they need. And they believe they can do it. Bruce Arena said he expects the team to bounce back in his post game comments from last week. Goalkeeper Tim Howard concurred, saying “We’re professional. We’re an experienced group. We’ll bounce back, forget about it and move forward.”

The captain chimed in as well. Michael Bradley stated “The group is strong. The group is ready to respond to this in a big way.”

The Matchup

Just like the USMNT must do, the Semper Soccer blog is moving on to the next game. There are no excuses. They players must perform better in order to defeat Honduras tonight. You can’t blame the stadium the game was played or the weather. These players have been through CONACAF before and they know what to expect. Now they have to step up and do it.

Last time out, with the pressure on, the Stars & Stripes banged home six goals and kept a clean sheet against Los Catrachos. Honduras earned a win Friday night with a 2-1 win over Trinidad & Tobago. That win lifted them even with the USA on eight points, however, a minus-seven goal differential means they’re in fourth. Tonight, they’ll be without the services of defender Emilio Izaguirre who picked up two yellow cards in that game.

On the other side, the United States won’t have Jozy Altidore. His yellow card against Costa Rica earned him a one-game suspension for accumulation. Surely that won’t be the only change Arena makes in tonight’s lineup. The center back pairing disappointed against Costa Rica. Not that Geoff Cameron and Tim Ream aren’t good players, but they did not play well. Their spacing was off and both were caught flat-footed multiple times.

Don’t be surprised if Arena swaps goalkeepers as well. He rotated Guzan for Howard last time around and it may be a good idea this time. Both are still decent enough options against CONCACAF teams for their experience, but Howard needs more time to recover at his age. He also didn’t play his best against Costa Rica. Most notably, his positioning was not good on the Ticos first goal after Ream did a good job catching up to his mark and forcing him wide to close down his shooting angle.

USA at Honduras Projected Lineup

We hit on a couple expected lineup changes above, but we want to point out a couple more potential options. First is the move to a 4-2-3-1 formation. Without Altidore, a single-forward formation could be in store. Bobby Wood is best suited to head up that attack, especially if he’s supplied with a dynamic attacking midfield.

The back line will certainly look different. DaMarcus Beasley wasn’t called into this team without a plan. Arena deployed him to good effect at Mexico. His experience can’t be replaced and he’s familiar with these players, stadiums and situations. We expect to see him out there tonight. Honduras also scheduled an early kickoff for a reason. They want this game played in the hottest, most humid weather possible. Players like Paul Arriola and Omar Gonzalez who have that experience like Beasley playing in those conditions are solid options as well.

The rest of the lineup we would like to see is below.

USA at Honduras Projected Lineup

USA at Honduras Projected Lineup

How To Watch

Time: 5:30 p.m. Eastern, 4:30 p.m. Central

TV: beIN Sports, Universo

Watch Parties: Find your local American Outlaws chapter and enjoy the game together.

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