Honduras

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Shorthanded USMNT looks to build momentum against Honduras

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Avaya Stadium will have a different feel on Friday night when the U.S. Men’s National Team hosts Honduras as CONCACAF World Cup qualifying resumes.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ahead of Honduras WCQ ]

USMNT manager Bruce Arena will be coaching his first competitive match with the Stars and Stripes since the 2006 World Cup in Germany, and now it’s his job to help guide the squad back to the World Cup after stumbling early on in qualifying under previous manager Jurgen Klinsmann.

[ MORE: Wondolowski grateful for USMNT call up after Wood injury ]

The U.S. currently sits bottom in the Hexagonal with zero points through its first two matches, while Friday’s opponent — Honduras — holds three points after picking up a victory over Trinidad & Tobago on Matchday 2.

Arena will have his hands full though, not only with the U.S. opposition, but also with his lineup, which is set to see some serious changes both due to injuries and suspensions.

Jermaine Jones won’t feature for the USMNT as he serves a yellow-card suspension against Honduras, while Bobby Wood, DeAndre Yedlin, Fabian Johnson and Brad Guzan are among those left off the 26-man roster after sustaining injuries in the lead up to the match.

There is some good news for the U.S. though, as Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Geoff Cameron return to the squad after going through their own injury layoffs. Dempsey has already scored twice for the Seattle Sounders since MLS action resumed earlier in March, while Howard has also found his form through the opening three weeks for the Colorado Rapids.

Meanwhile, Honduras will look to make matters worse for the Americans as Los Catrachos attempt to beat the USMNT for the second time on U.S. soil. The only time the USMNT has lost to Honduras in the U.S. was back in September 2001 when the Americans fell 3-2 at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C.

Several familiar faces will take the field for Los Catrachos, including five MLS players and various other former MLSers. Houston Dynamo trio Boniek Garcia, Romell Quioto and Alberth Elis all figure to play a role for Honduras, while Sporting KC’s Roger Espinoza and captain Maynor Figueroa of FC Dallas will also play dangerous roles for the visitors.

One name to keep an eye on will be 24-year-old midfielder Andy Najar, who now plays for Belgian side Anderlecht after previously plying his trade in MLS with D.C. United.

USMNT: Howard always stayed optimistic he’d be healthy for WCQs

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) As his U.S. teammates trained under cloudy skies on a brisk Bay Area morning, Tim Howard sat on the sidelines and stretched out his shoulders. He balanced on his left leg and warmed up his hips.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

This is the new normal for Howard, fresh off his 38th birthday and a November surgery on his right thigh to repair the adductor muscle.

“I’m old,” chuckled Howard, the Americans’ top goalkeeper the past two World Cups. “That’s every day for me now, between now and the next three years that’s what every day looks like. It’s a process, but hopefully it’ll pay off.”

Howard is expected to start for coach Bruce Arena in Friday’s World Cup qualifier against Honduras at Avaya Stadium, home of the MLS San Jose Earthquakes, before the Americans play at Panama four days later.

“It’s good to have him back,” said defender DaMarcus Beasley. “He’s been a big part of this team for a long time now. Big games, World Cups, qualifiers. To have him back with the team and the group is a big plus for us and for everybody to see him back, especially after the injury he had at the end of last season.”

[ MORE: Arena names 24 to senior roster ahead of WCQs next week ]

Brad Guzan, who was in net for two losses in World Cup qualifying last November, was replaced last week and he and his wife welcomed a baby girl Sunday night — “9 pounds, I’m told, and 22 inches long,” Arena announced, though he didn’t know the baby’s name except that she arrived a little early.

“In these situations, I think family comes first, despite what we’d all like to think otherwise around the sporting side,” Arena said. “He needs to be with his family this week, so the decision for him to stay makes sense.”

Howard is confident kicking with his right foot again but he notes, “Thankfully I have half a decent left foot” when he needs to use it.

The U.S. is 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying for the first time, and Arena returned to coach the team 10 years after his firing when he was hired in November to replace Jurgen Klinsmann. That month, the Americans lost to Mexico 2-1 at home and 4-0 at Costa Rica.

Arena will be cautious with Howard as well as Clint Dempsey , who is back playing after dealing with an irregular heartbeat.

Leading into his first MLS season with Colorado, Howard had hoped his body would allow him to return to the Americans’ roster for qualifying, but didn’t want to put anything in stone without knowing for sure he would be healthy. Now, he never expects to be fully 100 percent.

[ MORE: U.S. U-20s learn group-stage opponents at World Cup in May ]

“I kind of felt that I’d be ready but I didn’t want to get ahead of myself. It was a long rehab,” he said. “A lot could happen between whenever that was, January, and now. We have setbacks all the time. I was on the right path, I was always going to be March 11 or there about, but I didn’t want to put a timeframe on it and have a setback, so for me it was just personal. I’m 38, I don’t think I’ll ever be 100 percent again. But I’ve played through everything in my career, so it’s not an issue for me.”

Fellow goalkeepers Nick Rimando and David Bingham worked through drills Monday with position coach Matt Reis. Arena wouldn’t say whether he had decided to promote Howard to No. 1 keeper before Guzan’s availability became a question.

“We haven’t decided our starting lineup yet. We’re playing Friday, it’s Monday,” he told The AP.

Sounders stars Dempsey and Jordan Morris didn’t train Monday, though Dempsey came to the field. Morris stayed at the team hotel Tuesday for treatment on the right ankle he injured during the first half of Seattle’s 3-1 win over the New York Red Bulls on Sunday.

While Howard said the “unknown” concerned him in regards to his comeback and trying to simulate game action, he considers himself fortunate his timing and instincts are still intact at this stage of his career.

“I’m thankful that my reflexes and my reactions haven’t slowed,” he said. “So that’s been a good thing. I probably take less risks and I think that’s helpful.”

World Cup qualifiers: Injured USMNT up for fight?

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Two of the USMNT’s best players have pulled out of the squad due to injury as the Yanks face two massive World Cup qualifiers in the next eight days.

Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson were injured in Bundesliga play this weekend, a rough start to the week for Bruce Arena as he prepares for a Friday home tilt with Honduras before a March 28 match at Panama.

Johnson was almost certainly going to play left mid or left wing for Arena, while Wood had a terrific chance to play alongside Jozy Altidore in a 4-4-2.

[ MORE: Wenger reportedly wants Arsenal stay ]

Throw in DeAndre Yedlin, and Arena’s not off to a flying start.

The U.S. is dead last in World Cup qualifying after beginning life in the Hex with a 2-1 home loss to Mexico — Wood scored the goal — and a 4-0 humiliation at Costa Rica.

Honduras beat perceived group minnow Trinidad and Tobago after a 1-0 loss at Panama. They also have good road acumen, losing 1-0 at full-strength Argentina and drawing at Mexico in a September WCQ.

Anyone who’s watched early season Houston Dynamo has seen the danger that lurks with Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto in attack, not to mention Anderlecht’s Andy Najar and Tenerife’s Anthony Lozano.

So how worried should U.S. supporters be?

Probably not too much.

[ MORE: Dempsey, Morris score for Seattle ]

Honduras is a good CONCACAF side, to be sure, but the USMNT should operate beyond injury concerns when it comes to Los Catrachos.

The Yanks beat Honduras 2-1 the last time they met, a July 2015 Gold Cup match. That was a lineup that had Ventura Alvarado next to Timmy Chandler, Kyle Beckerman at holding mid, and Gyasi Zardes at left mid. Yeah, seriously. And they won.

Before that it was a 1-1 draw in Florida, and a 3-1 win in the 2014 Gold Cup semi.

Plus, the Yanks were without Geoff Cameron, Clint Dempsey, and Tim Howard in the last round of qualifiers. If that wasn’t enough for Jurgen Klinsmann to keep his job a few more months, than day-saving Arena can’t be excused for not having two wide men and a striker.

Here’s a lineup Arena can use (although his decision not to call in Timmy Chandler because of a one-match suspension is a bit baffling. Will the Bundesliga left wingback get a call for Panama?).

Howard

Zusi — Cameron — Brooks — Beasley

Bradley

Nagbe — Bedoya

Pulisic

Altidore — Dempsey

versus

Quioto — Lozano — Elis

Najar — Boniek Garcia

Espinoza

Izaguierre — Figueroa — Figueroa — Beckeles

Escober

USMNT: Arena names roster for must-win WCQ’s vs. Honduras, Panama

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Call it Mission: Very, Very Difficult — the first official international break of Bruce Arena’s second tenure as U.S. national team head coach kicks off nine very short days from now, and with it come a pair of virtual must-win 2018 World Cup qualifiers, against Honduras and Panama.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

On Wednesday, Arena announced his 23-man roster for those vitally important fixtures — in San Jose, Calif., March 24; in Panama City, Panama, March 29. Present are many of the names you’ve long grown accustom to seeing — Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, among the safely assumed — as well Clint Dempsey, who returns to the USMNT fold after sitting out the final few months of 2016 due to an irregular heartbeat.

Arena elected to leave out both Sacha Kljestan and Benny Feilhaber, arguably the best creative midfield options in the entire USMNT player pool.

[ MORE: Tim Howard is back, and looking very, very good ]

Following a 2-1 defeat to Mexico (home) and a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Costa Rica (away) — results that ultimately cost Jurgen Klinsmann his job — the USMNT sits on zero points from their first two games of the Hexagonal round of qualifying. Based on history, the Yanks will likely need to collect 14 or 15 points from their final eight games in order to qualify directly (top three) to next summer’s tournament in Russia, or reach the inter-confederation playoff (fourth) against the fifth-place nation from Asia.

[ MORE: Bobby Wood bagged a (huge) late winner for Hamburg on the weekend ]

FULL 24-MAN ROSTER

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Middlesbrough), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Michael Orozco (Tijuana), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (L.A. Galaxy), Fabian Johnson (Burussia Monchengladbach), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Bobby Wood (Hamburg)

VIDEO: Tim Howard is back from injury, and ready to start for USMNT

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Tim Howard is back from a groin injury that ended his 2016 season prematurely last November, and with just 13 days before the U.S. national team hosts Honduras in a de facto must-win 2018 World Cup qualifier in San Jose, Calif., the 38-year-old looks ready to resume his role as USMNT no. 1.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

Through 23 minutes of his 2017 debut for the Colorado Rapids on Saturday, Howard showed he’s still as sharp as ever, denying Bradley Wright-Phillips on two occasions the New York Red Bulls striker found himself one-on-one with the American goalkeeper. Tell me if the below miracles look at all familiar…

With Brad Guzan relegated to Cup ‘keeper’s duties at Middlesbrough for the majority of the 2016-17 Premier League season — he’ll join MLS expansion side Atlanta United in the summer — Howard has every chance in the world to impress Bruce Arena this week and next.

Howard’s so en fuego that only his teammates can score against him right now, apparently. That’s Eric Miller, Rapids right back, poking the ball past Howard in the first half’s waning moments, and the Rapids trail 1-0 at halftime.

UPDATE: He’s at it again. Poor BWP…