The United States are looking to make it nine points out of nine as it completes its World Cup triple header with a match against Honduras in Sandy, Utah on Tuesday. It has been an encouraging spell for Jurgen Klinsmann’s side as they have followed up a 4-3 friendly victory with Germany with a 2-1 win in Jamaica before a triumphing 2-0 over Panama. The last performance in particular ranks as one of, if not the, best during Klinsmann’s reign and has put them top of the Hexagonal and in a strong position to qualify for next year’s World Cup.
“Collectively we know a lot better how we want to play,” Klinsmann said, according to the US Soccer website. “Going forward we know it’s better to have pairs on both sides and pairs up front with Clint [Dempsey] and Jozy [Altidore]. We have a very strong pair in the middle with Jermaine [Jonses] and Michael [Bradley], or if it’s Geoff Cameron or whoever steps in, they know how to play. Our back line is coming along. They are getting more confident, more fine-tuned.”
It is a far cry from how the U.S. begun the final round of Concacaf qualifying when they suffered a 2-1 defeat in Honduras courtesy of a late defensive error. But Klinsmann believes that the experience back in February, which was accompanied by a much-publicized article with unnamed player sources criticizing the coach, has spurred his side on.
“I think it was an important experience that we had in Honduras,” he explained. “In our first game we got the loss, and they had the goal of the century with the bicycle kick. That loss remains in your stomach. I still have it there and I think it’s really important to get these three points.”
A key part of the U.S.’ recent success has been the return to goal-scoring form at international level of Jozy Altidore. The AZ Alkmaar striker, who scored 23 goals in the Eredivisie this past season, had gone almost two years since scoring for his country, but has now found the back of the net in three consecutive matches.
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Two of those goals were down to crosses form Graham Zusi and the increasingly influential Sporting Kansas City midfielder will be back against Honduras after serving a suspension against Panama in Seattle. Jermaine Jones should also return to the lineup having been cleared to play following a concussion suffered 11 days ago against Jamaica. Klinsmann will be unable to call upon DaMarcus Beasley, however. The converted left-back has been impressive for the U.S. of late but is suspended having accumulated two yellow cards.
Honduras got their qualifying campaign back on track with a 2-0 victory at home to Jamaica last week to lift them back up into fourth spot in the Hexagonal, which would be good enough for a playoff spot. But they will have to break their away duck if they are to get anything from the match in Utah, with all of their seven points so far having come at home.
Luis Fernando Suarez’s side do not come into the contest in the best of circumstances with New England Revolution striker Jerry Bengston being sent home, reportedly after questioning the decision to start him on the bench against Jamaica.
Coverage details: The Concacaf World Cup qualifier will kick-off at 9 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by ESPN.