After an emotional farewell to Landon Donovan against Ecuador, Jurgen Klinsmann welcomes the return of several key MLS stalwarts for a friendly with Honduras in Boca Raton, Fla. on Tuesday night. Donovan made his 157th and final appearance for his country in a 1-1 draw with Ecuador on Friday as part of an experimental squad. Klinsmann’s party has now been broadly upgraded by the introduction of captain Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Matt Besler, Jermaine Jones, Graham Zusi and Sean Johnson, all of whom were in action for their MLS clubs over the weekend.
Meanwhile, Omar Gonzalez, along with Donovan, left to return to action with Los Angeles Galaxy. John Brooks, Luis Gil, Brad Guzan and Joe Gyau have also headed back to their club teams. Young Borussia Dortmund winger Gyau suffered a knee injury in what was his first international start last week and has returned to Germany for further treatment. The match in East Hartford, Conn. ended in disappointment for his team, too, when a late strike from Enner Valencia cancelled out Mix Diskerud’s early goal.
The U.S. now faces their last match on home soil in 2014, with just a friendly in Dublin against the Republic of Ireland next month left in an eventful year for Klinsmann’s men. It was a year highlighted, of course, by the World Cup in Brazil which ended with an agonizing extra-time loss to Belgium in the Round of 16. For Dempsey, Bradley, Besler, Jones and Zusi, Tuesday will be the first time they have pulled on their national team jersey since having their World Cup dreams squashed in Salvador. Bradley, in particular, may be keen to get out onto the field for his country, having been part of a Toronto FC team that was ruled out of contention for the MLS playoffs on Saturday following a 3-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls.
The clash in Florida will be the fourth time the two nations have met since the beginning of last year. It was a series that started with surely the lowest point in Klinsmann’s three-year reign, when his side was beaten 2-1 in San Pedro Sula to get World Cup qualifying off to the most inauspicious of starts. As well as getting a victory in the semifinals of last year’s Gold Cup, the U.S. also got revenge with a 1-0 win in Utah en route to comfortably securing a place in Brazil.
Honduras also went on to book their place in successive World Cups for the first time in the country’s history. It was a torrid time for the team once in Brazil, though, as they lost all three games by an aggregate score of 8-1. That performance led to Colombian coach Luis Fernando Suárez stepping down from his post and he has since been replaced by former Costa Rica coach Hernán Medford. His first assignment was at the Central American Cup, where Honduras only finished fifth, following defeats to El Salvador and Guatemala. The team also suffered a 2-0 loss to Mexico in a friendly last Thursday.
Prediction: The United States started brightly against Ecuador before fading after the break, but will clearly be boosted by the return of several experienced players. Goalscorer Diskerud was one of his team’s most impressive performers and it will be interesting if and where he will feature with Bradley and Jones now available. After a disappointing run in the Central American Cup, Honduras were similarly strengthened by the return of some of their more pedigreed players against Mexico. And at times they outplayed their hosts, too, before Mexico showed the sharper cutting edge. Medford’s men may struggle to improve on that result this time around.
USA 2-0 Honduras
Kickoff time: 8 p.m. EDT
TV channel: ESPN, UniMas
Live stream: Watch ESPN