Honduras

HAVANA, CUBA - OCTOBER 07:  Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann of the United States looks on during the match against Cuba at Estadio Pedro Marrero on October 7, 2016 in Havana, Cuba.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Jurgen Klinsmann believes fans, media have overreacted to latest USMNT losses

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USMNT boss Jurgen Klinsmann says he was left “angry” after traumatic World Cup qualifying losses to Mexico and Costa Rica to start Hexagonal play, but he also thinks that fan and media reactions have been harsh.

Klinsmann told Erik Kirschbaum of Reuters that “It’s important to put this in the right perspective” after a late 2-1 loss to Mexico and subsequent 4-0 drubbing in Costa Rica.

“We lost the two opening games and played the two best teams right away. We have eight more games to get the points needed to qualify. We’ve always reacted strongly when things were nerve-wracking. This team is always capable of reacting. We’ll correct this with the two games in March and we’ll take one game at a time from there to get our points. I’m 1,000 percent sure we’ll qualify.”

The U.S. has games against Honduras and Panama scheduled for March. Both those teams have wins thus far, with Honduras topping Trinidad & Tobago, while Panama defeated Honduras and drew with Mexico. The U.S. is currently bottom of the table, without a point and below Trinidad & Tobago with a worse goal difference.

Despite the dire situation, Klinsmann believes that the reaction to the two early losses, which included a number of calls for his job, were too critical.

“When things go slightly wrong, there are some people who come out and are ready to chop your head off,” the German told Reuters. “In the long run, that’s going to make the development of the team difficult. It’s important to stay calm and be patient.

“There are definitely issues to be addressed but there is no reason to exaggerate them or panic,” Klinsmann added. “I’ve been doing this for 35 years and there are always many reasons why certain things happen, both positively and negatively. It’s important to have the end result in mind. And the big picture is the overall development of the team in the four-year cycle between two World Cups. You have to be ready to take some setbacks during that phase.”

Despite Klinsmann’s calm demeanor, those setbacks suffered early in the Hex are indeed serious. Last time through, with teams looking to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, the third and final automatic qualifying spot was given to Honduras with 15 points. To match that this time around, the United States has eight matches to garner the at least four wins likely needed to reach that point total. Four years before that, the third and fourth places both finished on 16 points looking towards the 2010 World Cup, with Honduras earning the final automatic berth and Costa Rica needing to advance via the intercontinental playoff.

In addition, it seems Klinsmann may be molding his words to fit the occasion. In his biography, also written by Kirschbaum, Klinsmann said, “Our players who go to England, Germany, Spain, or France get used to the pressure and are used to getting criticized if they have a bad game. They hear about it from the local people in the supermarket or in the shops or on the streets. The pressure is everywhere. They’re used to having to justify themselves for their performances all the time.”

“If an MLS player has a bad game, we want them to be accountable for that,” Klinsmann continued in his biography. “We want them to be pestered by the people in the supermarket or the baker or the butcher because that’s the way people react to the game all over the world where soccer is the number one sport.”

CONCACAF: Panama upsets Honduras, Costa Rica wins at Trinidad

Panama’s Edgar Barcenas, right, and Honduras’ Cesar Oseguera fight for the ball during a 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Friday Nov. 11, 2016. Panama won 1-0. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)
AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco
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The United States and Mexico may be the focus of American soccer, but the other four CONCACAF squads vying for a spot in the 2018 World Cup got their Hexes started on Friday, too.

[ MORE: The evolution of Pulisic ]

A pair of MLS-based goal scorers helped Costa Rica avoid an upset, while a player from Sporting San Miguelito belted in a free kick for an early upset.

Honduras 0-1 Panama

Fidel Escobar (Sporting San Miguelito) made sure the Hex didn’t go more than a half-hour without providing the potential for a big upset, and then Panama held out for a massive three points on the road. Panama’s only win of the last Hex was at home to Honduras, and they’ve started this one with a statement.

Panama hosts Mexico next, while Honduras has to get off the mat and pick up three points when Trinidad and Tobago visits on Tuesday. Two home losses — really even just a lone home point — against two non-CONCACAF powers would be a horrendous hole.

Trinidad & Tobago 0-2 Costa Rica

Would we see another upset, this time at Port of Spain? Halftime saw the highly-favored visitors looking at goose eggs on both sides of the scoreboard.

Costa Rica went 5-0 at home in the Hex last cycle, but failed to win on the road. That changes this go-round, as veterans Christian Gamboa (Celtic) and Christian Bolanos (Vancouver Whitecaps) linked up for a tap-in finish in the 65th minute. New York City FC man Ronald Matarrita made it 2-0 in stoppage time.

STREAM: CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers

HOUSTON, TX - JULY 11:  Francisco Calvo #2 of Costa Rica celebrates a goal by teammate Bryan Ruiz in the second half at BBVA Compass Stadium on July 11, 2015 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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Looking for whet your appetite for the United States’ big World Cup qualifier against Mexico tonight?

Get a look at the opposition for the Yanks’ future Hex games starting at 3:35 p.m. EDT, as Panama, Honduras, Trinidad and Tobago, and Costa Rica take the field in the hopes of a run to Russia 2018.

[ MORE: USMNT-Mexico preview ]

It begins with Panama hosting Honduras, with the home side hoping to improve on a 2014 qualifying run that included just one win in the Hex.

Then the only team of the Hex who wasn’t there in 2014 qualifying, Trinidad and Tobago, will entertain world No. 18 Costa Rica.

Panama vs. Honduras — 3:35 p.m. EDT — STREAM HERE (Spanish)

Trinidad and Tobago vs. Costa Rica — 6 p.m. EDT — STREAM HERE (Spanish)

CONCACAF World Cup qualifying preview: Beyond USMNT-Mexico

BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - AUGUST 13: ELIS Alberth of Honduras celebrates a scored goal against Republic of Korea during a match between Republic of Korea and Honduras as part of Men`s Football - Olympics at Mineirao Stadium on August 13, 2016 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. (Photo by Pedro Vilela/Getty Images)
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Outside of the United States’ rivalry match with Mexico — just about everything you need to know for that is here — CONCACAF’s other Hex contestants debut on Friday as well.

[ CONMEBOL: Argentina in trouble ]

Panama opens up its Hex at home with a visit from Honduras. Panama’s six MLS players star with longtime LA Galaxy keeper Jaime Penedo and captain Felipe Baloy. Contrast that veteran squad with what’s across the field: a Honduran corps that mixes veteran savvy in the form of Boniek Garcia, Maynor Figueroa, and Roger Espinoza with electric young Olympic stars Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto. That one kicks early, at 3:35 p.m. EDT.

Costa Rica is on the road before its Tuesday home match with the U.S., and its destination for Friday’s opener is Trinidad and TobagoLos Ticos still rank ahead of the United States in FIFA rankings at 18th, and new coach Oscar Ramirez has a Hex-experiences squad including Keylor Navas, Bryan Ruiz, Michael Umana, Celso Borges, and Joel Campbell amongst others. Kickoff from Costa Rica is scheduled for 6 p.m. EDT.

T&T takes the place of Jamaica, and will hope for a better fate than the Reggae Boyz of 2014. Jamaica scooped up just five draws in finishing six points shy of the interconfederation playoff spot.

Mexico out to end Columbus curse in World Cup qualifying

GLENDALE, AZ - JUNE 05:  Rafael Marquez #4 of Mexico celebrates teammates after scoring a goal in the second half during the 2016 Copa America Centenario Group C match against Uruguay at University of Phoenix Stadium on June 5, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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In a remarkable coincidence, the United States has beaten Mexico 2-0 in all four of their World Cup qualifiers in Columbus, Ohio.

In 2001, 2005, 2009, and 2013.

On Friday, they meet in the same place, in another qualifier, and it will be chilly again.

[ MORE: USMNT the favorite? ]

Enough is enough, say Mexico.

“It is a spectacular opportunity to end this statistic (in Columbus),” coach Juan Carlos Osorio said.

MEXICO GATHERS ALLOF ITS WEAPONS

For the qualifiers in the U.S. and Panama, Osorio sought out experienced players, including 14 who play abroad.

Notable, was the recall of Carlos Vela from Spain’s Real Sociedad. He hasn’t played for Mexico since 2015. Also back were brothers Jonathan and Giovani dos Santos, who did not play in the Copa America in June.

Veteran Rafael Marquez tasted several defeats in Columbus, but had a good feeling this time. “This is a different time, with different players that will leave the past behind,” Marquez said.

[ MORE: How will USMNT line up? ]

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann has drawn on 15 players from the 2014 World Cup. But Clint Dempsey was not available because of cardiac arrhythmia.

“This match against Mexico is filled with emotions,” said U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard, who has blanked Mexico twice in Columbus.

HONDURAS AND YOUNG BLOOD

Honduras is seeking its third consecutive trip to a World Cup, and coach Jorge Luis Pinto has picked youngsters who played at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and reached the semifinals.

Honduras plays visiting Panama on Friday, and two home players to watch are midfielder Romel Quioto and striker Alberth Elis.

[ MORE: PST selects its MLS Defender of the Year ]

“Coach Pinto’s experience will be key for our future,” Elis said.

In 2013 qualifying, Panama beat Honduras 2-0 and drew away 2-2.

COSTA RICA EXCITED FOR KEYLOR NAVAS

Costa Rica’s morale has been boosted by the availability of goalkeeper Keylor Navas for the qualifiers at Trinidad and Tobago on Friday and against the U.S. on Tuesday.

Injuries and club commitments have kept Navas, the Real Madrid `keeper, from previous rounds of the qualifiers.

“It is always tough to return after injury, but now I am painless and happy,” Navas said as he was welcomed by fans at Costa Rica airport.

In the second rotation of World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday, Honduras hosts Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica welcomes the United States, and Panama plays against Mexico.