The scenario for U.S. official qualification on Tuesday is fairly simple. Jurgen Klinsmann’s team must beat Mexico and then have Honduras win or draw at home against Panama.
So, what are the odds?
Let’s go with a tentative “good, but not quite great.”
The tougher part is winning against Mexico in a game with quickly shifting variables. Two days ago, we would have looked at the history in this rivalry, factored in the current and disparate states of these two border rivals and declared it a potential romp and stomp. “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! …”
Now … maybe not so much.
Michael Bradley has been the most important U.S. man throughout qualifying, a fact driven home with brutal clarity during Friday’s Costa Rica clunker. How that ankle responds over the next 48 hours will say so much about the U.S. chances of controlling the midfield.
And the missing U.S. men, Matt Besler, Jozy Altidore and Geoff Cameron, all suspended due to yellow card accumulation, significantly reduce Klinsmann’s personnel and tactical options. Besler is probably the most critical absence; he and Omar Gonzalez have been Klinsmann’s preferred center back pairing for the last five qualifiers, a stretch that began with that breakthrough 0-0 draw in Mexico City last March.
The equally significant moving part will be on the Mexican side; hard to say how the big coaching change will affect El Tri. Will the prevailing attitude in the Mexican camp be more about “fresh start,” or will the development further unhinge a side that has lost its way at the worst possible time?
This is a good piece from Kyle McCarthy on all that ails Mexico, on the scene Friday in Mexico City and the fan rebuke that hung in the air like so much gunky smog in and around the famous Azteca venue.
The other half of the qualification equation mentioned above is the easier part to predict. Honduras was a good team coming into final stage CONCACAF qualifying, and this is certainly a side ablaze with confidence now, increasingly well positioned for a second consecutive World Cup appearance. That’s a heady achievement for the small Central American land.
Meanwhile, Panama just hasn’t been what we thought it would be in final stage qualifying, perhaps with a bit of first-timers disease in this final stage World Cup qualifying business. Last night’s failure to pick up all three points at home against down and out Jamaica is the latest evidence.
So Honduras chances of collecting a point (in a draw, or all three points in victory) when the teams meet Tuesday in Tegucigalpa are excellent.