The U.S. opens their Hex campaign today against Honduras on the road to Brazil 2014. Honduras holds home field advantage and is going all out for those three-points. The government in Honduras has even named today a national holiday in the country. The USMNT veterans have only had two days to prepare together, with most players not getting to San Pedro Sula until this past Monday.
Back in 2009 in the team’s World Cup qualifying game against Honduras, Conor Casey was the star of the game. Casey’s goal helped clench the U.S. a spot at the 2010 World Cup. The last time both teams faced each was in 2011 in a friendly that ended in a 1-0 victory for the USMNT marking the first win for the team under Jurgen Klinsmann.
This time around the team will be facing an even stronger Honduran-side, but will see the team operate in a similar formation to the one two years ago. Los Catrachos have included several MLS players on their roster, which means U.S. fans will be seeing familiar faces on the other side of the field. The large influence MLS has on the Honduran-side meant that the team’s roster selections did not come as a surprise. This will also serve as an advantage in Klinsmann’s team preparation for the break down of the opponent team’s operational tactics.
“You have strikers up front in Bengtson who can always harm an opponent, and you have Espinoza in midfield who has a lot of creativity and a wonderful touch. They have a very strong defense physically so that’s why we respect them. That’s why we’ve done our homework,” Klinsmann told press on Monday.
Honduras comes into the game with a strong defensive midfield. The U.S. will have to work through the midfield to score. The earlier the USMNT scores the better chances they will have in holding the lead during the game.
The game will mark the first time in several years the stars and stripes have played a qualifying match without Landon Donovan on the squad. Although his omission did not come as a surprise to most, U.S. fans will have start getting used to not seeing Donovan in the starting XI and the Dempsey/Donovan combo. Back in December after the 2012 MLS Cup, Donovan still was not sure on whether he wanted to continue playing.
U.S. fans will have one thing to look forward to. Today’s game will mark Chandler’s return to the U.S. men’s national team and will officially cap-tie him to the U.S. An official competitive match with the USMNT will finally end all worries of the 23-year-old’s commitment to the team. Chandler will help fill the role Steve Cherundolo plays on the team, after Cherundolo’s omission from the roster because of a knee injury.
“It’s a huge opportunity for Timmy and I think he’s simply just maturing. He’s growing into his role as a fulltime professional and that’s why we were very patient with Timmy to mature,” Klinsmann said.
Klinsmann included seven MLS players from January camp to his roster for the match. Similar to Honduras, the stars and stripes go into the match with a strong defensive midfield and a solid backline. The U.S. will have to place its efforts on attacking and getting the ball to Dempsey and Gomez in the front from the outer flanks to avoid a standoff in the Honduran defensive midfield.
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)
Defenders: Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Carlos Bocanegra (Racing Santander), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Timmy Chandler (Nuremberg), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim ), Michael Parkhurst (Augsburg – 3/0)
Midfielders: Michael Bradley (Roma), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Maurice Edu (Bursaspor), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Jose Torres (Tigres), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Clint Dempsey (Tottenham Hotspur), Herculez Gomez (Santos), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders)
Goalkeepers: Donis Escobar (Olimpia), José Mendoza (Marathón), Noel Valladares (Olimpia)
Defenders: Brayan Beckeles (Olimpia), Víctor Bernárdez (San Jose Earthquakes), Osman Chávez (Wisla Krakow), Maynor Figueroa (Wigan), Juan Carlos García (Olimpia), Juan Pablo Montes (Platense), Arnold Peralta (Vida), Orlin Peralta (Vida)
Midfielders: Jorge Claros (Hibernian), Roger Espinoza (Wigan), Oscar Boniek García (Houston Dynamo), Luis Garrido (Red Star Belgrade), Alex López (Olimpia), Mario Martínez (Seattle Sounders), Aldo Oviedo (Real España)
Forwards: Christian Altamirano (Marathon), Jerry Bengtson (New England Revolution), Carlo Costly (Veria), Roger Rojas (Olimpia), Georgie Welcome (Motagua)
My starting XI: Howard, Chandler, Cameron, Bocanegra, Johnson, Edu, Bradley, Jones, Torres, Dempsey, and Gomez.
My prediction: 2 (USMNT)- 1 (Honduras)
What are your predictions?
The better question is how long do you think it will take before Jermaine Jones receives a yellow card?