Honduras

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Panama passes USMNT; World Cup scenarios

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This international break could hardly have gone worse for the United States men’s national team.

A home loss to Costa Rica was met Tuesday by an anything-but-encouraging 1-1 draw at Honduras, and CONCACAF’s other results put the U.S. outside the automatic qualifying places ahead of its final two matches of qualifying (home to Panama and away to Trinidad and Tobago).

[ USMNT: Recap | Player ratings | 3 things ]

Now a loss at home to Panama would limit the Americans hopes of qualifying for the World Cup to a playoff versus Australia or Syria at best, and that loss would need to be coupled by outdueling Honduras on points and goal differential during the final round.

Even a draw against Panama is problematic thanks to Los Canaleros moving past the USMNT on goal differential.

Costa Rica 1-1 Mexico

Los Ticos are not quite joining their visitors in the World Cup, but are a point away thanks to Marco Urena’s 83rd minute bullet equalizer. A Cristian Gamboa own goal has CRC waiting until October to punch its ticket to Russia.

Panama 3-0 Trinidad and Tobago

Gabriel Torres and Abdiel Arroyo goals joined a T&T own goal in moving Panama into third place with 10 points ahead of Los Canaleros‘ October 6 visit to Orlando.

STANDINGS

Mexico — 17 pts, +8 GD
Costa Rica — 15 pts, +7 GD
Panama — 10 pts, +2 GD (three automatic WC spots)
USMNT — 9 pts, +1 GD (playoff vs. Syria/Australia winner)
Honduras — 9 pts, -7 GD
Trinidad and Tobago — 3 pts, -11 GD

WHAT’S LEFT

The Yanks can pull two points ahead of Panama with a win in Orlando to kick off the next round of qualifying, and would be three points and a healthy amount of goal differential clear of Honduras should it win and see Costa Rica win at home vs. Honduras.

If the U.S. loses to Panama, it cannot finish in an automatic qualifying spot.

Oct. 6
USMNT vs. Panama
Costa Rica vs. Honduras
Mexico vs. Trinidad and Tobago

Oct. 10
Trinidad and Tobago vs. USMNT
Panama vs. Costa Rica
Honduras vs. Mexico

 

Mostly new back four for USMNT at Honduras (stream link, lineup)

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The United States face the promise of a bruising World Cup qualifier on Tuesday with its Russia hopes in the balance.

The faltering Yanks are in Honduras for a match with Los Catrachos at the San Pedro Sula.

[ WATCH: All three matches live streamed on Telemundo ]

Honduras enters the match on eight points, the same as the visitors, but the U.S. holds an eight-goal advantage in differential thanks to a 6-0 beatdown in San Jose earlier this year.

A win boosts the Yanks three clear of Honduras and four ahead of Panama. A draw opens the door for Los Canaleros to leap over both the U.S. and Honduras.

Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler will pair up at center back, with DaMarcus Beasley and Friday starter Graham Zusi at fullback.

Only Michael Bradley, Christian Pulisic, Darlington Nagbe, and Zusi remain in the Starting XI from Friday’s 2-0 loss to Costa Rica, as Brad Guzan, Jordan Morris, Clint Dempsey, and Kellyn Acosta complete the XI.

Watch live — USMNT visits Honduras in must-win CONCACAF WCQ

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We already know that one team from CONCACAF has booked its place in next year’s World Cup, but two more automatic qualifying spots are up for grabs.

However, that number could be down to one by the end of Tuesday. Mexico has ensured its place in the field of 32 in Russia, but Costa Rica could join El Tri on the road to the World Cup with a win at the Estadio Nacional.

[ WATCH: All three matches live streamed on Telemundo ]

All eyes will be on San Pedro Sula though, as the U.S. Men’s National Team needs a win to keep its 2018 hopes alive. Bruce Arena and Co. cannot be eliminated with a loss, but it would certainly make the task of reaching Russia much, much more difficult.

Finally, a loss for Trinidad & Tobago could theoretically spell the end of their hopes of finishing in the top three.

Here’s a look at the CONCACAF table as things stand.

  1. Mexico (QUALIFIED) — 17 points (+8 GD)
  2. Costa Rica — 14 points (+7 GD)
  3. USMNT — 8 points (+1 GD)
  4. Honduras — 8 points (-7 GD)
  5. Panama — 7 points (-1 GD)
  6. Trinidad & Tobago — 3 points (-8 GD)

[ MORE: Three major storylines for the USMNT ahead of Honduras clash ]

Below is Tuesday’s schedule for Matchday 8 of CONCACAF WCQ.

Honduras vs. USMNT — 5:36 p.m. ET
Costa Rica vs. Mexico — 10:05 p.m. ET
Panama vs. Trinidad & Tobago — 10:05 p.m. ET

Arena thinks US immigration debate fires up opposing players

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SAN Pedro SULA, Honduras (AP) American coach Bruce Arena thinks the divisive debate over immigration policy in the United States is firing up opposing players and fans.

[ MORE: Three key storylines for USMNT heading into Honduras match ]

“Our immigration policies are impacting people in Central America, right, and there’s probably a little bit of anger over that,” Arena said ahead of Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier at Honduras. “And then your national sport gets a chance to play the U.S. I’m sure it becomes very meaningful.”

Arena also criticized the U.S. Soccer Federation’s decision to play last week’s World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. While ticket priority was given to season-ticket holders of the New York Red Bulls and people affiliated with the USSF, supporters of the visitors were a sizeable portion of the sellout crowd of 26,500.

Costa Rica won 2-0, giving the U.S. two home qualifying losses in a World Cup cycle for the first time since 1957.

“It was already decided, but I don’t think we should play in a venue that’s comfortable for the visiting team,” said Arena, who replaced Jurgen Klinsmann in November. “I don’t think it made a difference in the game.”

The U.S. had lost just one home qualifier in 50 matches since 1985 before a 2-1 defeat against Mexico in November at Columbus, Ohio. Last week’s game was the first World Cup qualifier in the New York metropolitan area.

“We don’t get any luxuries of going on the road and everything is nice and comfortable and we’ve got a good fan base coming out to the game and all of that,” he said Monday. “Obviously our country is unique to other countries. We’re a melting pot and all the countries in CONCACAF, many of their countrymen make it to the United States in one capacity or other and they’ll come out and support their team. So we have to be shrewd in the venues that we select to play different countries.”

[ MORE: U.S. faces must-win trip to Honduras in World Cup qualifying ]

The last U.S. home qualifier in the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region is Oct. 6 against Panama in Orlando, Florida.

“I haven’t looked into that. Am I going to find out that there’s a big Panamanian population in Orlando?” Arena said. “I would sense that Orlando is going to be very much pro-American.”

USMNT faces must-win trip to Honduras as World Cup qualification hangs in balance

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The United States’ loss to Costa Rica was a wake-up call, one that has raised yellow flags all around the U.S. soccer community, but not one that has doomed their 2018 World Cup hopes. Yet.

No, that loss has not deterred the hopes of the United States, but with Bruce Arena and the United States level on points with Honudras and just three games to go, this game in San Pedro Sula on Tuesday evening is now a must-win.

According to ESPN stat expert Paul Carr, the qualification chances for the United States still currently sit at 80%, but a loss to Honduras would plummet those chances to under 50/50, near 43%. Plain and simple, the US must win. Should they fail, not only would they be at best even with Honduras still, but Panama – currently just a point back – would likely be ahead, with a home date against Trinidad & Tobago on the docket.

[ MORE: UEFA qualification sees blowouts dot the map ]

They must get a result, and they must do it without their third all-time leading scorer Jozy Altidore, who is suspended for yellow card accumulation after his caution in the Costa Rica loss. Altidore left U.S. camp, returning to Toronto FC and leaving Clint Dempsey, Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Chris Wondolowski the remaining strikers for Arena to pick from.

Arena must also address the numerous problems from the failure at Red Bull Arena, which include both tactical repairs and underperforming players. The most glaring issue was the spacing between center backs Tim Ream and Geoff Cameron, the latter of whom had a disastrous game, wandering aimlessly and giving the ball away profusely. Also an issue was the midfield, which was porous manned only by Michael Bradley and the offensively-minded Darlington Nagbe. Fabian Johnson was nearly invisible on the wing, moved up from his usual national team spot along the back line. Finally, Christian Pulisic was ineffective out wide, hacked repeatedly as many CONCACAF opponents have decided to do.

Meanwhile, Honduras is where they are thanks to a road victory over T&T last time out, with a quick 2-goal start and a solid finish. Midfielder Alexander Lopez was fantastic in central midfield, passing with a 95% accuracy including a trio of key passes and scoring a goal. They attacked with success down the right flank through Alfredo Mejia and Alberth Elis, the latter of whom also scored. Jorge Villafana will need to have a better game, after being substituted off after an hour with the U.S. struggling.

The heat and humidity in Honduras is also a factor in determining Arena’s lineup. On Monday, highs in San Pedro Sula reached 91 degrees with 82% humidity. The forecast for Tuesday is more of the same. Arena told reporters on Monday that domestic players could play a larger role since their fitness is at a heightened level being further into their season.

All these issues need to be navigated or corrected – and quickly – or else Arena’s job as stopgap manager will have fallen flat on its face.