After their less than convincing progress through the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying schedule so far, the United States begin the final round Hexagonal with a tricky trip to Honduras.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s side suffered poor away results in the last phase, with a defeat against Jamaica and a draw against Guatemala, and know that they will have to up their game in the Hexagonal. While qualification for Mexico and the U.S. is often seen as a mere formality, Klinsmann has said that he is taking nothing for granted.
“There is no easy way, not for Mexico, not for the United States, not for anybody,” he said, according to the US Soccer website. “You have to get your points, you have to win your games and you have to get the job done.
“You have to go into every game with the expectation that it’s going to be difficult, that it will challenge you to the limits. That’s our approach: take it seriously every time you go out onto the field, very seriously, and be very awake and then we’ll see how it runs out through those 10 games.”
Certainly a trip to San Pedro Sula promises to be a stern test for the U.S. In Honduras's last qualifier at the Estadio Olimpico, they demolished Canada, 8-1. The atmosphere is sure to be intense with the Honduran government declaring a national holiday so fans can take in the action.
Klinsmann is well aware of the challenge his players will face.
“Every continent has its tricky parts and difficult environments and San Pedro Sula definitely has its own difficult environment, but those are challenges that players need,” he explained. “They need to go through those games, they need to prove themselves and they need to find ways, on the field, to get the job done.”
Klinsmann will still be without Landon Donovan as the forward continues to mull over his future, but there is more positive news with German-born Timothy Chandler ready to cap-tie himself for the United States.
Some faces have remained from the strictly U.S.-based January camp, with defenders Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler rewarded for their strong showings.
Honduras coach Luis Suarez has already named his lineup, which features former Sporting Kansas City midfielder Roger Espinoza, who has made a good start to life at English Premier League side Wigan.
D: Peralta, Bernandez, Figueroa, Garcia
M: Garcia, Espinoza, Garrido, Martinez
F: Bengston, Costly
D: Chandler, Cameron, Bocanegra, F. Johnson
M: Zusi, Bradley, Williams, Jones
Prediction: The U.S. struggled on the road in the semi-final round and still look to be trying to find a cohesive strategy under Klinsmann. But if Honduras come at the U.S., it could suit the visitors as they still look far more comfortable as the counter-attacking underdog.
It promises to be an intimidating atmosphere, though, and if the U.S. can emerge with a draw it will be a good result.
Honduras 1-1 USA
Where to watch: The World Cup qualifier will kick-off from the Estadio Olimpico in San Pedro Sula at 4 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport. A live stream, which you view at your own discretion, will be available here.