Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano has been a bastion for the Catrachos
If representation in the world leagues were a criterion for winning, the Hondurans would be a strong match for the US. Unlike Jozy Altidore, Jonathan Spector, and Oguchi Onyewu, these players also get to make the starting squad. Wilson Palacios, Hendry Thomas, and Maynor Figueroa are all stalwarts for the Premiership teams and David Suazo is now back in Inter after a somewhat indifferent spell at Benfica.
The question on the road is whether Bob Bradley wants to play to win against a strong Honduran team that has been perfect at home. They have scored as many goals and conceded fewer.
Bradley himself says “the challenge to go there (Honduras) and come away with three points is one we’re embracing.”
But he seems unsure.
“Ideally we can finish up things Saturday but there are factors in all of this that are sometimes out of our control. It has been a very tight final round,” Bradley said.
Bradley could go all out and and still lose risking fatigue and injury and leaving him vulnerable against the Ticos who play on Wednesday at home for the final match. Or he could play for a draw and then go all out on Wednesday knowing he stands a better chance of a win.
He has questions at right midfield and at the left back position. The other problem areas are difficulties in keeping the ball and defensive lapses.
Deuce will be MIA with a shoulder sprain. Lets put it this way. The man is an enigma missing the mark more often than not but as soon as he is counted out he pops up with a timely goal. With him the US are effectively a 4-3-3 squad. The protean Dempsey is a important link in the overlapping and interchangeable game that the US uses with great success.
If Bradley wants to go for a win then Stuart Holden will be a strong pick. He widens the game with his speed and a strong physical center like Altidore could be the beneficiary of his set pieces and crosses.
Depending on his priorities Bradley can also turn to Benny Feilhaber for more midfield control and better ball possession if the US struggles to make an impact. Feilhaber has become the go to player in such circumstances.
As left back, Jonathan Bornstein has been soft and we saw some inept defending by him against El Salvador at Sandy. Reinaldo Rueda could potentially exploit the situation by introducing the speedy Wilson Palacios against Bornstein.
Key match ups:
Carlos Costly vs Carlos Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu
The Hondurans have Carlos Costly who loves running straight upfield and will try and overcome the central barriers of Onyewu and Bocanegra with his speed. Inter’s David Suazo should return too after a long absence and he could pair up with Costly. Reinaldo Rueda could also turn to Carlos Pavon who at the age of 35 remains incredibly productive.The US defense has had some embarrassing ball watching moments where they give way too much space which the hard running Hondurans could exploit easily.
Wilson Palacios vs Jonathan Bornstein
Jonathan Bornstein is the weak link and the Hondurans could exploit the left back position with Wilson Palacios. The Spurs man provides the heft in midfield with his indefatigability and speed. Look for a number of attacks to emanate from this flank. The US with Donovan should track back to help out Bornstein.
Landon Donovan vs Hendry Thomas
Out of the two strikers Davis has had a stronger impact with his new club Sochaux with Altidore again finding himself on the bench at Hull. Davis is so much more dangerous as he combines seamlessly with Donovan. Hendry Thomas has bolstered Roberto Martinez’s Wigan squad with his hardman tactics and he will be called in to disrupt the US passing game which means closing down Donovan.
Ricardo Clark vs Ramon Nunez
The mirror of the Donovan vs Thomas match up will be Ricardo Clark marshaling the defense to stop Ramon Nunez who is Honduras playmaker in the absence of Amado Guevara from supplying the ball upfield. Ball possession will also be pivotal and there has to be an awareness in the backfield of the dangers of cheap giveaways with Clark leading that effort.
The US will come out strong and if they can snatch a goal, it might prove consequential in a draw. Look for some good counterattacks but the Hondurans are going to control the ball and come back in the match.
My prediction: USA 1 Honduras 2