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World Cup Qualifying preview: USMNT v Honduras

On Friday, the Bruce Arena reunion tour really gets going as the USMNT restarts Hexagonal Qualifying for World Cup 2018 and hosts Honduras in San Jose. Sitting on zero points so far, this game is as close as it gets to must-win. Unfortunately, the US is facing a mini-injury crisis at striker.

Owies on the front line

Which striker in the US pool has been the best in the last six months? Bobby Wood. Who injured his back last week and can’t play? Bobby Wood. Who’s Bobby Wood’s back-up? Jordan Morris. Who hurt his ankle last weekend and has barely trained since then? Jordan Morris. As Matthew Doyle points out, that leaves Jozy Altidore as the US’s only healthy No. 9. Altidore is a very good first option, of course, and is in decent form of late, but we all remember the last time the US relied solely on Altidore’s hamstrings to hold, right? Never fear, though, because Wondo’s here to make amends!

There is something positive up top, though. Clint Dempsey, contrary to what Bruce Arena said in January, is back with the team. His recovery from an irregular heartbeat is unqualified good news. He’s started the season well with Seattle, though is perhaps not yet 90-minutes fit. But 60 minutes of Deuce might be just enough.

And for all the angst that the injuries to the forwards has caused, Wood’s absence may have allowed Arena to right the main wrong that commentators had with the roster the new/old coach named: Leaving out a real No. 10. Sacha Kljestan was brought in and might be the key to unlocking either Honduras tomorrow or Panama on Tuesday.


Honduras currently sits fourth in the Hex, splitting the first two matches back in September and November 1-0-1, including a loss at home to Panama. They started 2017 on a roll, winning the Copa Centroamericana without losing a match, but then lost two friendlies in February. Their last match was a 2–0 win over Nicaragua.

The US’s record versus Honduras is good, with just three losses in 23 meetings. That said, two of those losses came on US soil, so Los Catrachos know they can win here. Their squad, while made up primarily of players from the domestic Honduran league, is peppered with players from MLS, as well as Andy Najar, who plays for Anderlecht.

What to watch for

For all of that, the US should be able to win this game. Sure, there’s no Bobby Wood, but there’s Jozy and Christian Pulisic. Kljestan’s here, so is Darlington Nagbe. Kellyn Acosta is playing the best ball of his career so far. Michael Bradley is here. (When is he not?) The US is at home. They should win.

So what would a good game look like, outside of the three points? First of all: Security. The US needs to control the game. Dictating play and keeping Honduras comfortably at bay is job one. Second: Get the ball players on the ball. Pulisic is lighting up Europe with more and more regularity. Getting the Hershey, PA, man involved early and often will go a long way. He, Nagbe, Kljestan, Sebastian Lletget—they are the men who will make the US tick offensively, both in these two games and at the World Cup, should they get there. The games at the end of January camp were a bit stiff and lacking in fire, but Pulisic, for one, wasn’t there. Now that he’s here, let’s rev the engine a bit, shall we?


The engine may rev, but it’s still early days in the second Arena era, so the performance may very well err on the sturdy side: The US wins, 2–0.


  1. With Honduras’ offensive firepower and the additional mess at RB (thus possibly messing with the CB pairing of Brooks and Cameron), I can’t see us pitching a shutout. Amen on Acosta seeing time.

  2. OneManWolfpack says:

    Does Wondo have pictures on all the brass at US Soccer? I mean, that’s the only explanation as to why is still brought in, right?

  3. Bruce’s interview in Men in Blazers instilled some confidence. Is kickoff really at 1030 for this?

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