Gold Cup

Gold Cup preview: USA v Honduras

It’s like déjà vu all over again.

In 2013, things were looking grim for the US Men’s National Team. After a winter of discontent, culminating in losses to Honduras and Belgium, questions about Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure were being loudly asked. But then the US defeated Germany 4–3, and embarked on a 12-game winning streak, which included lifting the Gold Cup trophy with a goal difference of +15.

In 2015, the World Cup hangover lasted until well into March, but consecutive wins over Mexico, the Netherlands, Germany, and Guatemala have the US primed and ready for the competition, as the Red, White, and Blue take on Honduras on Tuesday evening.

The US roster

Klinsmann has made no secret of his desire to win this tournament, and the roster reflects that. Said Klinsmann: “Our approach for putting together the roster for this summer’s Gold Cup, which is very, very important to us, is obviously to do everything possible to win this competition. Winning it would qualify us for the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia, so putting the pieces together is very crucial.” Toward that end, the team is chock full of experienced players, including Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, and Jozy Altidore. Fabian Johnson appears set to return to playing at left back, though after injury forced Brad Davis out of the squad, Greg Garza has been called in and can either back up Johnson or start. Johnson likely provides a better attacking option, but Garza is no slouch.

Recent Mexican-American additions to the team, Ventura Alvarado and William Yarbrough, make the cut, but otherwise, there are very few surprises. Perhaps most surprising is the inclusion of players that have at one time been NT stalwarts but who have fallen a bit out of favor since the World Cup or before: Graham Zusi, Omar Gonzalez, Tim Ream, and Brad Evans. Playing as a fullback, Evans was one of the last men left off the World Cup roster, but now, playing central defense, he has returned.

And it is central defense where there is the most mystery. John Brooks, Alvarado, Ream, Gonzalez, Evans—none would be surprise starters. Brooks is perhaps the most likely, but predicting Klinsmann’s lineup choices is something of a fool’s errand.

Honduras

Honduras lost all three of its games at the World Cup, and has not seen its fortunes improve dramatically since then. Most recently, the team lost 1–0 to Brazil, in a match whose scoreline flattered the losers, bookended by draws versus Paraguay and Mexico (played in Houston).

Honduras’s record against the USA is not good, but can boast three wins and a draw in the last six games, one coming on US soil. Honduras’s main players are well known to US fans, too: Oscar Boniek Garcia and Luis Garrido both play for MLS’s Houston Dynamo, while former MLS-er Andy Najar now plays for Anderlecht. The rest primarily play in the Honduran domestic league.

Prediction

Honduras is not a walkover opponent, but playing at home in the United States, the US men will want to open the tournament with a statement of intent. Expect them to come out strong and attempt to dictate play from the get go. As always, Bradley will be the fulcrum around which the team moves, and if he is feeling it, the US has the capacity to score several goals. The key factor will be the press—will the US harass Honduras into turnovers? If so, it could be a very good day, indeed.

Defensive gel questions may result in a goal allowed, but the US should have more than enough firepower to get a result. The United States wins, 3–1.

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